Build Your Business English Skills

(and More through Reading Annual Reports)

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It seems multi-tasking is the flash word of the digital age. With a plethora of technology around us, gadgets and gizmos allow us to do many things at once. With hand-held mobile devices we can be listening to music, while text messaging a friend. All the while, we’re watching a digital monitor at an airport to catch that flight to wherever we’re going.

It’s possible to multi-task, in a sense, as you read. To build your English language skills, a method exists whereby you can build your vocabulary and your business acumen at the same time. You can accomplish this through the reading of corporate annual reports. Reading various companies’ annual report means garnering knowledge in different disciplines and learning English at the same time.

But, what exactly is an annual report? It’s a report to the stockholders, and other interested parties, of a company. It includes a corporation’s annual, audited balance sheet and related statements of earnings, stockholders or owners’ equity and cash flows, as well as other financial and business information. In essence, it’s a document, which summarizes the results of operations and the financial status of a company for the previous year. In addition, it outlines the company’s plans for the future.

Corporate annual reports are interesting on many levels. Reading them is a great tool for building your English language skills. With an enterprise’s annual report, you gain an understanding of how businesses think as they strive to grow their business. You also gain an understanding of business terminology. On top of that, you learn about new advances in research, technology, product development, and more. An annual report really is a comprehensive and well-rounded view of a corporation.

Of course reports vary in design, layout, and structure. However, when you open one up you typically find a personal letter from the company’s President or CEO (Chief Executive Officer). This letter will present an overview of the report and this person’s thoughts on the past year. It will also give some thoughts on what the future holds for an enterprise. Reading this opening letter puts you in the mindset of a corporate executive and opens up a new vista of business words for you to begin to learn.

An annual report will also have a profile of the company. This is where they describe who, what, where they are and why they exist. The profile is a concise description of what the company is all about – a snapshot so-to-speak to give you solid background information on the enterprise. After the profile there may be a few paragraphs on the company’s corporate mission or strategy.

When you read the above-mentioned sections, you learn about the company, their industry, and the business sector in which they operate. You may be reading an annual report on a huge food conglomerate that produces products that you find on your local supermarket shelves. Through reading, you learn about the business sector that they are part of – Consumer Goods. You also learn about the industry that they are part of within that sector – Processed and Packaged Goods. Again, you will learn new English words through this reading. You will pick up the nuances of the language used in that particular sector and industry. It’s a great way to learn new words and phrases that you may not normally learn in everyday reading.

Next, an annual report will present those detailed financial statements. There will also be notes associated with the different financial statements. Reading these, you learn the language of business, the accounting numbers. While you may not want to bog yourself down with these numbers, a brief scan of them and the associated notes will teach you much.

The financial statements will teach you basic accounting terminology. You will learn the words that make up a balance sheet, income statement, and more. Reading the notes to these statements will explain further what they are about , and teach you new English words and phrases that business constantly use. This can serve you well in future career positions in the business world, whether managerial positions, clerical, production, retail, service, or otherwise.

The contents of an annual report will also include information on any legal proceedings taken by the enterprise, or against the enterprise, as this is a requirement of reporting. Here, you can pick up English law terminology, which further expands your portfolio of new words and phrases. In an annual report, you can learn general business words, industry-specific words, and legal terms, all in one document.

One section of an annual report that is rich with words is the section entitled “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.” Here you get an in-depth look at how the company sees their business, their financial health, their market, their competition, and much more. This is a section that let’s you see how a corporation thinks and how they view the challenge of striving to operate a profitable enterprise.

So, where can you find annual reports to read?  Naturally, if you own shares in a company they will send you one. If you don’t own shares in a particular enterprise, request a copy of their annual report in hard-copy form. You can do this through their website or through calling or e-mailing them. They will send a glossy tome out in the mail to you.

Alternatively, you can go online and download PDF versions of a company’s annual report if they make this available. In addition, you can search the web for portals that provide annual reports on a host of companies. Here are three places you can check out:

There you have it, a wealth of information on how corporations operate; and the “words” that are a part of those operations. All of this bundled up in a well-presented annual report available for public viewing. Choose reports on companies you enjoy doing business with, to understand them better. You truly can build your English skills and business knowledge together, through a thorough reading of reports from different business sectors.