ThinkLish Learning

Having problems discussing finance subjects in English?


You’re not alone. Three things happen with words when they’re used in discussion – in finance or any subject – that can cause difficulties for non-native speakers. These include: blended words, finance-specific words, context.

Problem 1: Blended Words: When used in conversation, words are often joined together making it difficult to understand what is said? How do you solve this?

Language is like music. If you take a song and break it down into parts, you’ll catch the lyrics in the melody much more easily. Try doing this with a conversation.  Here is a YouTube video of a conversation between two financial business people in English. slow down the video and listen to the words. Once you hear the words slowly – you’ll hear the stress/emphasis on key words. As you do this, you’ll notice a “pattern” in the conversation – with key words acting like lyrics in a melody. Try this with a few videos, see if you can catch the meaning of the conversation after breaking down the key words. Don’t worry if you don’t catch every word – you just want the main idea of what is being discussed.

Problem 2: Finance-specific Words: This can be tricky. Because there is a wide variety of sectors in finance, like asset management, venture capital, foreign exchange, etc. And each has vocabulary specific to its area. But there are also more general words you should know, to be able to understand financial discussions more easily. Some good examples of common finance-specific words can be found in: Investopedia, Fundera, and Harvard Business School . Click on the links to see some examples.

But how do you catch the words in conversation?  Below is a list of 10 common finance words (from the Harvard Business School list above) with a phonetic breakdown of the pronunciation (in an American English accent). If you can catch the sound of the words in a conversation, it’ll be much easier for you to follow any discussion about finance.

Pronunciation Key:

underlined CAPITALS = raise stress/intonation on that part of the word

italics = shorten/reduce the sound

regular font = speak normally

  1. Amortization:              Amur-tie-ZAY-shin
  2. Asset Allocation:        Aa-sit  aa-liKAY-shin
  3. Capital Market:          KAa-pittl MARkit
  4. Income Statement:   INkum STEYt-mint
  5. Compound Interest: KOHMPAUND IN-trest
  6. Depreciation:              diPREE-shi-AY-shin
  7. EBITDA:                        EHbit-DEE-EY
  8. Equity:                           EH-kwitee
  9. Liabilities:                    LIE-ah-bili-TEEZ
  10. Liquidity:.                      li-KWI-di-TEE

Problem 3: ContextFor this issue, there is not much you can prepare for. Other than understanding the financial topic or subject being discussed. If you are in the conversation, your partners will assume you know the discussion topic.

However, if you are in a discussion with more than one person, the other speakers may have a relationship or understanding of events / topics that you are not familiar with. This makes getting a clear picture of the discussion difficult. So, What can you do? Your first step is to try to catch key words and blended words (as noted above), to recognize the financial words being discussed.

Your next step is to ask questions. Clarify topics or phrases that come up in your conversation. Don’t be afraid to pause the conversation with a quick, short clarification phrase. “I didn’t catch that” or “what was that?” or, if possible, “do you mean…?(and restate what you heard)” If you’re part of a discussion, it’s up to you get yourself involved in the topic so you can follow the conversation.

Need practice clarifying and confirming and  answering financial questions? Take look at our ThinkLish course for financial professionals: Answering Financial Questions from Clients. We’ll give you plenty of opportunities to role-play discussions so you can confidently manage financial discussions for work.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *