Importance of English in Global Finance
English for better or worse is the language of business worldwide. British colonialism established English as the language of officialdom, governance and finance. And it has remained that way since. Once viewed as the language of the world’s trading elite, it is now a must for anyone working in finance at any level. Despite the pre-eminence of Mandarin Chinese, English remains top of the league in finance not least because it is the native language in more than 60 countries. Though perhaps more importantly, it is an official language in so many others. This makes it the common language shared by many countries and therefore the vast majority of global financial transactions. For example, if a transnational deal originates from France, the chances are it will be done in English. In terms of employment opportunities in finance, studies have shown that people in countries where English proficiency is high are at a significant advantage over those from countries with low levels of English. Financial governing bodies such as the IAS (International Accounting Standards) and IFRS (International Financial Reporting) record their international standards in English.
Business is conducted with a level of formality in English which is expected. “Yours Sincerely” and “To whom it may concern” is the language of formal English. But what about words specific to finance? An American and a Spaniard would mean different things by the word “billion”. And very often, when two languages have the same word, it used quite differently. The adjective “Commercial” has a similar meaning in Spanish, but it is used in a far more specific sense. These misunderstandings can have a hugely detrimental effect on financial transactions and translations. Also maybe you need to improve your general finance-related vocabulary.
The Culture of Finance in English
English is not only about communication and understanding, the language often reflects the culture, and is part of it. Like most things, financial transactions are done differently in different cultures. If you work in finance, you need to learn the language and culture in the English-speaking world around negotiation, trade, persuasion and presentation. Maybe you need practice giving financial presentations and how to explain statistics. At times, as well as differences in terminology, there can be differences in the meaning of numbers. For example, 1,500 means one thousand, five hundred in English speaking countries, but in certain European countries, this would mean 1.5.
Working in the UK Finance sector
With Brexit looming, initial prospects for the UK Finance sector look bleak. However there’s one certainty – in post a post Brexit economy the ability to speak English as well as your native language will be highly valuable to UK based firms. According to a survey by CBI, the most sought after languages in UK businesses are French, German and Spanish although post Brexit all non-English languages from the EU will be a bonus to finance companies. That means your current native language could be highly valued if your English is up to the standard expected, giving you an edge over your UK competition who only speaks English.
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