Dictionary of Banking & Finance Dictionary of Economics

Title: Dictionary of Banking & Finance (third edition)
Dictionary of Economics (first edition)
Author: Compiled by Peter Collin
Publisher: Bloomsbury Reference
Consists of: Dictionaries
Summary: An excellent pair of resources for teachers, which can also be utilized by students whose level is upper intermediate or above.
Reviewed by: Paula Swenson
Review date: November 2003

My usually serious business students shook their heads in bewilderment at my glee to be reviewing two new dictionaries, of all things! However, upon getting their hands on these two reference works, they also became enthusiastic. In my opinion, overall, these reference works will appeal more to teachers than students. Having been written primarily to explain complex terms and jargon from the world of Finance and Economics to the layperson, many students would end up using these references with an ESL dictionary in their other hand. That said, I think they are an invaluable resource for students in higher level Business English classes and anyone lacking a strong Business/Finance background, who is thrown into teaching Business English or ESP.

Of the two works, I would recommend the Dictionary of Banking and Finance if I had to choose only one. First of all, it weighs in at 9,000+ terms for the same cost as the Dictionary of Economics with its 3,000+ terms. More importantly, it gives phonetic transcriptions of the pronunciations, identifies parts of speech, makes use of quotes from authentic texts to illustrate the definitions and usage in context, and covers language likely to be used in Financial publications like The Wall Street Journal or The Economist.

From simple but important things, such as distinguishing between a charge card and a credit card, to defining slang terms like chickenfeed and fat cat, these Peter Collin dictionaries do a good job of demystifying a jargon-laden sector of English. I appreciate the fact that this British publication more than makes a nod to differences in American usage. I feel this is important in a time when so much of the business sector is dominated by American interests, and so much of the most broadly disseminated reporting (CNN, The Wall Street Journal) uses American terminology.

This becomes particularly important for entries like green card: noun 1. a special British insurance certificate to prove a car is insured for travel abroad 2. an identity card and work permit for a person going to live in the USA -- obviously two very different meanings which might not both be known to a teacher. In fact, a teacher not from the UK or US might not be familiar with either term.

Some entries, such as person-to-person call and factory worker, puzzled my students, who were unclear what the connection was to Banking & Finance. However, all of these entries certainly relate in some way to doing Business, and are useful and appropriate in my opinion.

Another valuable plus is the inclusion of phrasal verbs, especially those with a different or special meaning in the Financial world (e.g. put down: to make a deposit, put out: send something out for other people to work on). For teachers not fluent in "Bizspeak" these uses could cause bafflement, and none of us like that sinking feeling that comes when we know we really can't explain something satisfactorily. This naturally applies to complex financial terms as well, things like 'real-time gross settlement system' or 'demurrage' -- and to those pesky abbreviations liberally sprinkled throughout financial texts (FASIT: Financial Asset Securitisation Investment Trust or ECGD: Export Credit Guarantee Department). Especially when teaching English to top executives, whose command of the topic far outweighs your own, a reference such as this one can be a lifesaver.

As for the Dictionary of Economics, I feel it would prove an excellent resource for anyone dealing with Economics texts or working with students/clients whose field is Economics. This brand new work includes entries devoted to Economic Theories, short biographies of prominent economists, and aspects of business law. In some ways it feels more like a mini-encyclopedia than a dictionary, and is certainly more rarefied than its elder sibling, the Dictionary of Banking & Finance.

The Dictionary of Economics is not all high level econo-speak. It does include terms like creative accounting and second-hand, but these more mundane terms are all included in the Dictionary of Banking & Finance as well. One major drawback for EFL students is the lack of any pronunciation guide in the Dictionary of Economics, although the back cover promises "phonetic pronunciation for all major entries". Parts of speech are clearly indicated in both volumes.

All in all, I can highly recommend the Dictionary of Banking & Finance as a good addition to your ESL reference shelf, especially if you teach English in a Business context. The Dictionary of Economics seems less broadly useful, and you may want to wait for the second edition unless you are teaching English to foreign Economics majors.

TEFL.net ESL Reviews & ArticlesPaula Swenson has taught English, including Business English, in Poland and Germany, and is currently teaching students from around the world at Language Studies International in San Diego, California. She has a BA in Communications, TEFL/TESL Certification from the International College of Applied Linguistics, and the FCTBE from London Chamber of Commerce and Industry Examinations Board.