Saturday, 1 October 2011

Book Review: 'Financial English with financial glossary' - Ian MacKenzie

Financial English
with financial glossary & possibly spiders (2nd edition)
Ian MacKenzie
Heinle Cengage Learning2012
ISBN 9781111832643

Publisher's Website
From the blurb: "Financial English is a language practice book for anyone learning about or working in finance. It is designed for students preparing for careers in business and finance as well as for people already working who wish to improve their English in this specialised field. It is suitable for learners at Intermediate level and above."
Look out - if the mergers and takeovers don't get you, the leveraged buyouts surely will.

Financial English from Heinle Cengage, with or without a financial glossary, was never going to be a sexy English language book, so let's get that idea out of our heads straight away.

Unfortunately, the cobweb-shrouded world of figures and financial data doesn't lend itself to such frivolity as coloured diagrams, daisy-fresh layouts and fun role-plays on every other page.

The book is green. Well, I mean the print is, which is one positive step away from boring old black I guess. And I realise suddenly I've done Heinle a terrible disservice: they have tried to make it sexy: there are cartoons! OK, they're not side-splitting (insurance company manager to secretary: "This letter is brief, clear and concise - do it again!" :-) but the gesture is appreciated.

The guts of this book, though, is serious graft as we chug through the labyrinth of money market terminology,  via a series of pretty hefty texts followed by vocabulary analysis and straightforward comprehension exercises.

I must say, there's no actual language teaching here as such. The passages seem to assume almost complete mastery of the forms of English, concentrating exclusively on language as it relates to finance. The publishers consider this book suitable for intermediate level learners and up. Well maybe, but as often happens we come up against the classic ESP problem: are we teaching them finance or English? Should an English teacher or a market trader be giving English lessons based on this book? And if it's to be used for home study, will the students manage, and will they actually do all of the exercises?

These questions constantly bother me every time a highly specialised book like this lands on my doormat.

Actually I haven't got a doormat, I've got a strange French letterbox which sits in a hole in the fence allowing the postman to insert the object in question into a hole in one side and me to extract it from the other. Only the internal access is extremely hampered by an enormous spider-infested tree-thing which seems to have claimed said letterbox as its own. The result is that to obtain my mail I have to practically become one with the arachnabush, no doubt picking up a few thousand spider's eggs on the way which then come back to scare the living daylights out of the entire family as we sleepily perform our daily ablutions.

I'm sorry, where was I? Oh yes, Financial English (not forgetting the glossary). And it was just starting to get interesting.

Anyway, I've promised myself to write far shorter reviews in future so that I can get more of them out there, so I'll more or less wrap up here, I think you probably get the idea.

As the publishers say, it's a language practice book, not a course book, and as such it contains a large amount of relevant material for its intended audience: those preparing for careers in business and finance or those needing to brush up or Anglicise their lexical knowledge base.

The book would make a good back up for a more interactive course or for homework exercises and supplementary reading, but as the sole support it would be a little... dry. You'd need a dynamite teacher to make this stuff come alive, I'd say.

I noticed there's a unit on the sub-prime crisis, by the way, with a whole bunch of juicily gloomy expressions to gnaw on like credit crunch, housing bubble, collaterized debt obligations, mortgaged-backed securities, toxic debt, trash cash and the like. Shudder. Scarier than spiders for many.

Oh, and did I mention that there's a financial glossary? Twenty four pages of closely woven text for some seriously fun inter-crisis reading.

I'm not knocking the book, mind you. It's going straight onto my language school's shelves and will be a useful resource for my poor teachers who tear their hair out trying to find suitable material to satisfy their demanding (and serious) Parisian banking and insurance students. I'm sure it'll stimulate some discussion. Especially explaining the squashed spiders - I'd like to be fly on the wall in that lesson.


Sab Will is, or has been, a freelance teacher, teacher trainer, director of studies, ELT writer, fanatical blogger, Facebook freak and website weirdo. He is also a well-known street photographer, abstract artist, poet and Paris city chronicler. The 'well-known' bit only applies to those who know him well, however.
Hotch Potch English: 'The ELT Resources Review Blog' ~ Book Review: 'Financial English with financial glossary'
© 2011 Sab Will / Hotch Potch English

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