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Accountants as translators


I had a guest speaker at one of my lectures recently. The talk was about accounting software, but during her presentation the speaker mentioned that accountants should be translators for their clients – especially to new small business clients who may not have much knowledge of accounting terms. This made me think about the role a good accountant should work link a language translator with clients. One of the key functions of accounting is to communicate information. But what happens when the language used to communicate is too complex to be understood without translation? Personally, I can speak both English and German quite well. While learning and using German I know that some things just don’t readily translate. On top of this, my German is not fully fluent, so I sometimes need to ask the speaker to slow down or use simpler words. Now think about what a small business owner or up-and-coming entrepreneur knows about the language of accounting. Let’s assume nothing, but they know things like how much money comes from sales, they have a pile of receipts in a drawer somewhere, they have an office computer, owe some suppliers and have invested a lump-sum in the business. To accountants these are:

Business owner’s term Accountant’s term
Money from sales Turnover/Revenue
Receipts in a drawer Expenditure
Computer in office Non-current (fixed) asset
Money owed to suppliers Liability -trade payables
Lump sum put in business Capital/Equity

So some advice to the accountant’s out there – be a translator if you need to be. Translate your jargon into understandable language for the business owner – especially new business ventures. Over time, both accountant and business owner will start to understand each others language.

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About martinjquinn

I am an accounting academic, accountant and author based near Dublin, Ireland.

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