Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Financial English videos

This week I've been spending a lot of time watching and analysing suitable videos for Financial English, so I thought I'd share a couple of clips with you, and pass on my ideas for very simple lessons.

The reason I've suddenly taken an interest in Financial English is that I write activities every month for
Professional English Online, Cambridge University Press's site for teachers of Business English and ESP. This month I felt it was time to bite the bullet of Financial English, an area that I'd managed to avoid up to now. I chose to do a video lesson because, again, this is something I'd avoided. Also, the videos on YouTube are so good as introductions to the subject of Financial English.

So here are a couple of great tutorials:
  • Untangling Credit Default Swaps: One of a series of tutorials from Paddy Hirsch, Senior Editor at Marketplace, illustrating various complex financial concepts using metaphors, diagrams and simple examples. All of his tutorials are excellent, but this is the one that helped me most.
  • Collateralized Debt Obligations: another clear and simple illustration of a complex topic, this time from the Khan Academy. The Khan academy seems to be a great source of knowledge on a wide range of subjects - check out all their videos on YouTube.
  • The Crisis of Credit Visualized: my personal favourite, and the one I chose for the activity on Professional English Online (mainly because the visuals are so much cooler).
There are also some nice comedy sketches about the financial crisis, including plenty from John Bird and John Fortune (such as this one - perfect apart from some mild swearing towards the end). The financial sketch that really made me laugh was this one from Little Britain - although it's probably not ideal for your financial whiz-kids.

So, coming back to the tutorials, how can you use them in class? Well, it's all a question of aims - a subject I'll go into much more deeply in a later post. To me, there are up to four valid aims here,
  1. to provide listening practice and/or teach listening skills;
  2. to introduce/teach/practise some financial terminology;
  3. to improve your and your students' understanding of difficult concepts;
  4. to teach some techniques and/or functional language that can be transferred to real life speaking situations.

So, taking the first aim first, students will get something out of just watching a clip. But they don't really need to pay you for that privelege! Your job is to manage the process so they get more out of it than they would without your help. That means breaking it into manageable chunks (probably no more than 2 minutes each), and providing questions that will support them rather than trick/test them. A nice technique here is true/false statements or yes/no questions, where you focus the student's attention on a particular fragment of the video and they only have to understand generally what's going on in order to answer your question, and they only have to write one letter (T/F or Y/N) while they're listening. At the end of the section, they discuss their answers with a partner (make sure they see this as speaking practice rather than just a list of true-false-false-true) and finally go through them with the class. If your questions are well designed, your students should now have a very good idea of what the whole section was about - and they'll have the impression that they understood much more than they perhaps really did. Very good for confidence. As I say, use your questions to teach rather than trick.

What about listening skills (as opposed to just practice)? The obvious one here is the skill of prediction - knowing what you're going to hear before you listen. Here again, the questions will be a great help: students discuss what they expect the answers to be, and then watch the clip to check. Also, get them to predict at the end of each section what will happen next.

Coming on to my second aim, financial terminology, this will make the student feel they've got something meaty out of the lesson. Rather than just "We watched a video - it was quite interesting", they'll tell their friends "We learnt some new words". (Well, perhaps they won't really tell their friends ... but these are finance people, don't forget). The best thing to do here is a gapfill: transcribe a handful of sentences from each section of the video and gap the target vocab. Put all the gapped words in a box below the sentences, and get students first to predict and then to watch the video a second time to check their answers. That second viewing is really important, by the way, because that's when they'll feel that they understand everything, and they'll feel great about it.

My third aim, understanding difficult concepts, isn't really an aim ... let's call it a secondary aim. I think students will appreciate learning something new about their own subjects, or perhaps they'll like showing off that they already knew it. But you, as a teacher, can really benefit from the kind of close analysis that comes from creating a lesson from a video clip.

My finaly aim is about techniques and functional language. Some good techniques incuded in the videos above are: using diagrams, using metaphors, using simplistic examples, etc. The language technique best illustrated by these clips is that of discourse markers to signal and manage an explanation, things like:

  • In other words ...
  • So, as you can see,
  • But have a look at what's happened over here.
  • Rhetorical questions: But what happens if we ...?
  • Clefting: What I'm going to talk about next is ...; What happens is that ...

So there we have it. I'll end with a brief summary of how to manage a sample 1-2 minute extract from a video:

  1. Students predict answers to T/F statements in pairs. Support them with vocabulary from the statements. Brief feedback in class.
  2. First viewing to check.
  3. Students discuss (and I mean discuss) in pairs. Feed back in class. Focus on the content and students' reaction to it - not just the language.
  4. Students attempt gapfill in pairs.
  5. Second viewing to check.
  6. Students discuss in pairs. Feed back in class.
  7. Predict with the class what will happen next.

That's enough for now. Good luck.


PS Please let me know if you use any of these ideas in class, or if you can recommend any of your own Financial English videos. I'll post a link to my activity on Professional English Online when it appears there.


  1. Welcome to the Blogosphere, Jeremy!

    Glad to have you here... now, you're on LinkedIn and Facebook, now blogging... next step Twitter!


  2. Thanks Karenne. You know it's all thanks to you that I've stumbled into the blogosphere.

  3. Hi Friends, Glad i found this Blog and i saw Financial English Videos. Well i was Looking for English Lessons hope i would found it soon.

  4. Hi Anjali
    Glad to have you here. If you want to try the lesson I created for these videos, follow this link:

  5. Thank You for sharing this Link.

  6. I have individual classes with a Financial Director of a $480 mln company in Poland. English is her third language and she started learning as an adult. I would love to incorporate some of the type of materials listed above, but I feel that the pace of the monologues are far too rapid. Could you suggest any suitable materials for a intermediate to upper intermediate level student. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.