Are languages important for accountants?

Turris Babel from Athanasius Kircher

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you are a native English speaker like me, then to some extent you’re probably like me and not all that great at foreign languages. I do speak pretty good German, but that’s it. I’d bet many of you reading this you are not native English speakers probably speak 2 or 3 languages quite well. So how important is it for accountants to speak a foreign language?

Some of you might say accountants already speak a foreign language – debit, credit, journal and so on.  However, remember that accounting is a social practice. We need to talk to people and if we can speak in their native language, that will improve our ability to get things across. A second (or third) language for an accountant is probably a must if you work in a multi-national.  To quote a recent piece from CPA Ireland’s newsletter (Dec 21st, 2012)

” The August Morgan McKinley Employment Monitor highlighted that employers are looking for part qualified and qualified accountants with a second European language, so knowing a language such as French, German or Spanish could increase your employability dramatically. The most recent report for October showed that the majority of hiring continues to be among multilingual professionals in the accountancy sector”

So why not learn or perfect that second language. Do a business specific course if you already know the language.  As an accountant, you might be surprised by much you already know. For example, I was teaching in Spain last year and while flicking through a local newspaper I came across this term:

Beneficios antes de intereses, impuestos, depreciaciones y amortizaciones

It didn’t take me very long to figure out this was EBITDA.  I speak no Spanish by the way. Don’t you just love the word “impuestos” – it really capture how tax is”imposed” on us. Have a read of the article in Scientifc American below – apparently we are even sharper with our reasoning in foreign languages.



About martinjquinn

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

One response to “Are languages important for accountants?”

  1. Mark P. Holtzman says :

    Reblogged this on Accountinator and commented:
    My friend Martin nails again. Accountants report and communicate financial information. More often than not, these communications involve numbers. But they also demand expert verbal skills.

    Anyone going into accounting these days should work on acquiring impeccable skills in their native language, both in writing and speaking. They should also master a second, or even a third, language.

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