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Tips for ESL Students on Increasing their Vocabulary by Learning Business Terms

Celia Webb discusses the benefits of increased vocab acquisition in Business English.

Learning English terms for matters of finance and business is an important part of being a successful business person in the English-speaking world. Most common business actions require reading contracts, invoices, purchase orders, and other financial and legal documents. You will also want to be able to conduct negotiations and perform the common courtesies expected in the business world. In order to successfully transact your business, you must know the language of business.

The first challenge is the number of words related to business and financial matters, not counting all the acronyms like FDIC and APR. The English language contains hundreds of word and phrases related to financial matters. The next challenge is that many of these words describe sophisticated concepts which are difficult to explain and are not widely understood in the first place (for example, how many of us can rattle off an explanation for capitalization?).

Developing your vocabulary of financial terms is critical to your financial management and business success. Here are ways to increase your financial vocabulary.

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Use news stories as a starting point for exploring new vocabulary. Pick a word from the news story and research the word in the dictionary or on the internet. Write the word down in your “financial terms” notebook with its definition. An alternative to a notebook is a system of index cards which are then sorted alphabetically and kept in a small file box.

Read a good book

Financial situations are so fundamental to the daily life of human beings that many books deal with or have an undercurrent of economic themes. Rags to riches, the struggle of the poor, the standard of living enjoyed by the characters, are all themes which often appear in books. Along with the themes comes the vocabulary used to describe what is happening to the characters. As you encounter unfamiliar words, jot them down on an index card along with their definition. If you organize the words alphabetically, you will find them easier to look up when you next run across them. Choose a card each day to carry in your purse or briefcase. Pull out the card whenever you are waiting in line and study it. Books which contain glossaries are helpful since you do not need to carry a dictionary as well. Some publishers also offer vocabulary worksheets, puzzles, and games to help people work with new words. Check the publisher’s website for support materials.

Tool kit

Search the internet using keywords like “financial terms games”, and “business terms” to find all sorts of resources to help you add to your financial vocabulary. There are games, puzzles, word searches, newsletters, tips, and other readily available tools for explaining financial terms and concepts.

Practice time

Practice saying the word often. Say it to yourself several times by sounding out the word. Listen to it being pronounced by English speakers either on the TV or radio. Search the internet using keywords like “English listening online” and “English listening” to find free resources for practicing English listening skills. Many sites offer downloadable MP3 files which you can play numerous times until you feel comfortable with the word’s sound. If you search on “English speaking” or English speaking online”, you will find resources for practicing your pronunciation skills. If you know an English speaker who is willing to practice with you, ask to meet on a regular basis. Or form an English club to give you plenty of opportunities to practice.

The impact of money on our lives is obvious because of the large number of words in the English vocabulary which describe and denote different aspects of money and business. By learning financial terms and their meanings, you provide the groundwork for a successful career in business.

About the Author

Celia Webb, President of Pilinut Press, Inc., publishers of advanced readers for children and ESL students. Check out Pilinut Press for more vocabulary tips, word searches, and other vocabulary activity sheets.

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