Should a great English proficiency required to invest in US stocks?

English proficiency

Is English proficiency a barrier? Many investors in Taiwan stocks are very interested in investing in US stocks, but they are worried about their English ability; this article is my personal opinion.

English read, write, listen and speak

English reading ability is of course important

If I am here to comfort you that your English ability has no effect on US stock investment, then I am deceiving myself and I believe no one will agree with me. However, this does not mean that people who need to be fluent in English listening, speaking, reading and writing to be eligible to invest in US stocks.

Generally speaking, people with a high school education or above in Taiwan (that is, most people) have the most basic English ability. If they are college graduates, they should be able to read articles in English (because the financial reports of US stocks and almost all financial websites that are worth reading are in English. The only difference is the speed of reading; that’s enough.

Need English writing sometimes

Most people will doubt that people who invest in U.S. stocks in my so-called need to be able to write in English. If you open a commission through a Taiwanese securities firm, even the securities firm will be all in Chinese or explain it for you. Even if you open an online account with an American securities firm, you only need to fill in the form when you open the account, call them if necessary, and they all speak Chinese; or ask a friend for help. Not used anymore. But this is not the case:

  • Even if open account through US online brokerage, there are many personal privacy or financial secrets during the account opening process, most people are reluctant to let others know and write for them.
  • If you are a long-term investor in U.S. stocks, you need to fill out the W8 form regularly every two years to declare that you are not a U.S. taxpayer. Of course I know that there has been a Chinese version in recent years, and you can also tick it online, but most of the first time it is written in English, and it is still in English.
  • As an investor in US stocks, you will receive a tax form sent to you by your brokerage every year to declare and fill in. (Note: I am not an expert in accounting or taxation. Please consult an American accountant and taxation expert in this field.)
  • The most important thing is that you will receive legal documents about the litigation materials of the company you invested in from time to time in the future, and the form needs to be handwritten by you–this part is absolutely inevitable and must be handwritten.

The ability to speak English is not necessary

Basically, retail investors do not need to have the ability to speak in English. The customer service phone numbers of well-known online brokers in the United States can speak Chinese. After all, English is not the native language of Taiwanese, and Taiwanese are generally weak in listening and speaking. This is due to the living environment.

But the language can be improved through hard work and practice. Of course, if you are very fluent in English listening, speaking, reading and writing, that would be great. However, it is not that I pour cold water on you. Fluency in English, listening, speaking, reading and writing will not bring you much investment advantage, otherwise every American will make bug money from stock market.

Not proficient in English? Buy blue chip stocks first

For ordinary people, retail investors like you and me, the US stocks listed companies that will invest in are large stocks or famous blue chip stocks that most Taiwanese have heard of; for example, Starbucks (ticker: SBUX) . Otherwise, it is the stocks within your own ability circle. For example, if you work in a hospital, you suit to buy Intuitive Surgical (ticker: ISRG). Well, news for these famous companies will display in your local newspapers every day. It’s impossible to miss it.

But US stock information is in English

You can’t avoid English financial media

If you never read local newspaper or financial media, if this is true, I really advise you to stay away from the stock market to be safer. Everyone has a certain degree of understanding of the business of these famous companies. If you invest in a company that is not commonly seen in local newspapers or media, but within your professional capabilities, you should also have a certain understanding of it, and you should also be able to read the company’s English news, otherwise it won’t be counted as your circle of competence.

If your investment is not within these scopes described here, and you do not read English financial report of this company, then I sincerely advise you not to take any risks. Please buy a company that you can understand, or you should read its news and financial reports to reduce risk; otherwise, sooner or later you will encounter a time when you cannot make investment judgments on this company and regret it.

US stocks news are all in English

Unfortunately, all the first-hand information about US stocks that is worth studying carefully is in English. Therefore, if your English ability is very good, you will definitely take advantage of it when you start. However, as long as the average person is willing to work hard (the same is true for investing in stocks), you can read more and listen more, and you will find that your English ability has improved over a period of time.

For example, first read the quarterly reports (10-Q) and annual reports (10-K) of the three companies you hold (more than three companies, for newcomers to the US stock market, they will definitely exceed your load), and daily news of these three companies on important English financial websites (usually around 10).

After a period of time, waiting for you to understand the U.S. stock market and know that you need to read the relevant information, you will have greater confidence and certainty that you can grasp the financial information in English, and you no longer need to rely solely on the information of the local media, you can start to choose stocks that not display in local media; because at this time you already have the ability to obtain the most original English information sources.

Recommended practice

Technology can improve English proficiency

Secondly, if English is not your native language, I suggest that you can install the latest version of Google’s (ticker:s: GOOGL and GOOG) Chrome browser on your computer at the beginning. When reading an English website, as long as you select the entire paragraph in English, it will immediately be able to display your language; I estimate that 80-90% of translations are correct.

Moreover, Chrome has just released a new feature that can instantly add English subtitles to English-speaking videos and streaming sounds played on the Internet if you open with Chrome browser. When you watch any online American drama, you can have English subtitle displayed immediately. You can click to listen to the quarterly earning release phone calls meeting of US listed companies, and have simultaneous interpretation!

  • As English is not mother tongue, if you are not used to some English accents, for those of us who are not native English speakers, at least you can read it in English, you can go to Chrome browser, then: Settings–>Advanced–>Accessibility Settings–> Instant subtitles, that’s it.
  • The 10-K annual reports are all in English. If you have a headache for English, you are advised to (1) install Google’s translator plug-in on the Chrome browser. (2) Open the PDF file of this annual report with the Chrome browser, and then use Google’s translator on the Chrome browser to directly translate it into Chinese. It has an accuracy rate of more than 85%, which is very useful for those who are Chinese as their native language and want to browse quickly. Quickly browse to the part you are interested in, just switch back to English and reload the page with one click.
English proficiency
credit: edusoftlearning

US stock information sites

Finally, you can refer to the following websites, some important US stock websites compiled by me, to obtain the US stock information you need:


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