Accounting | The Profession

‘It’s essential to have a common accounting language’

FCPA Louis Ménard has been working for decades to harmonize the terminology used in accounting and financial management

A Facebook IconFacebook A Twitter IconTwitter A Linkedin IconLinkedin An Email IconEmail

A photo of a businessman is shownLouis Ménard, FCPA, was recently inducted into the Accounting Hall of Fame in recognition of his considerable contributions to the profession (Image supplied)

Louis Ménard, FCPA, spent his career as a professor in the Department of Accounting Sciences of the School of Management Sciences at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM).

For nearly three decades, he has used his unique expertise in accounting and financial terminology research to produce, as main author, three editions of the Dictionnaire de la comptabilité et de la gestion financière, an accounting and financial management dictionary that has become an invaluable reference work for the profession. Throughout the French-speaking accounting world, the publication is simply referred to as “le Ménard.”

Recently, Ménard was inducted into the Accounting Hall of Fame in recognition of his considerable contributions to the profession. We asked him to tell us more about his passion for accounting and the importance of shared language.

CPA Canada: Dictionary authors are rarely CPAs. How did you get started in this field?
Louis Ménard (LM): My interest in using the right word actually goes back a long way—especially since it has always bothered me when experts use jargon or technical language when talking to non-specialists. Of course, it’s fine when they use it among themselves.

Before I began my 30-year career at UQAM, I worked for four years at Commission des valeurs mobilières du Québec (now the Autorité des marchés financiers). Right from the time I started there, working toward improving the quality of financial reporting in the French language became my mission, because free-flowing information is vital to financial markets. Organizations must communicate clearly, with a focus on quality and consistency.

CPA Canada: Could you tell us more about the Accounting and Financial Management Dictionary and how it came to be?
LM: It’s not the only dictionary of its type on the market but, without wanting to brag, I can say it’s the most comprehensive.

It was first published nearly 30 years ago as the result of a joint effort led by a legacy body of CPA Canada (the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants), in collaboration with the Institut des Réviseurs d’Entreprises (Belgium), the Ordre des Experts-Comptables and the Compagnie Nationale des Commissaires aux Comptes (France).

In all, I have been responsible for three editions (1994, 2004 and 2011) and three updates (2006, 2014 and 2020). The latest edition, which is available online, includes nearly 9,000 main entries, with 21,400 French terms and 16,600 English terms.

CPA Canada: There are fewer French speakers in Canada than there are in other countries such as France. Did this pose a problem when deciding where to produce the dictionary?
LM: I was surprised at first when our French co-authors, who come from a country with 65 million people, agreed to have the Dictionnaire produced here, but they showed humility and respect and recognized our high level of expertise in the area—something I am still grateful for today.

We all agreed—Canadians, French and Belgians—that we needed to harmonize the language used in accounting, financial management and related disciplines. It wasn’t just a matter of speaking the same language, but of adopting a common language in annual reports, for example, as we do for standards.

CPA Canada: What has changed from one edition to the next?
LM: There have been different waves. At one point, there were all the terms related to globalization that needed to be added, then IT, statistics, cryptocurrencies and so on.

The latest edition also incorporates new terminology used in various standards, such as the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) of the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), in Accounting Standards for Private Enterprises (ASPE) and other Canadian standards, as well as the Canadian Auditing Standards (CAS) and Canadian Standard on Quality Control (CSQC) and the equivalent international standards of the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB).

In addition, practices have changed. We have included those that are commonly used, but also those that have been subject to criticism or found to be flawed. We didn’t do that in the first editions. My collaborators and I wanted the dictionary to be useful, so that a person looking for an answer would find it.

Just take the word dépense in French, for example (“expense” or “expenditure” in English). Everyone knows that a dépense is an outflow of money. Yet, in accounting, the word has long been used to include costs that are not outflows of money, such as amortization or bad debts. So, we replaced dépense with charge.

CPA Canada: How have your research methods evolved?
LM: Initially, our work involved an exhaustive search of academic and terminology books, English-French and American dictionaries, legislation, business books, academic or professional journals, databases and so on.

Then the internet came along, which made research easier since you can search for any expression and immediately see how often it is used. You then decide on which is the best usage for the book, keeping in mind that there is no point in trying to invent new words when there are already several existing ones that are correct.

CPA Canada: You also had a part in another well-known dictionary. Can you tell us a little about it?
LM: You are referring to the Dictionary of Derivatives and Other Financial Instruments (2009), which I co-directed and drafted. The idea for this dictionary came from the Autorité des marchés financiers (financial markets authority) and was published by the Ordre des CPA du Québec—it is available free of charge on their website. Although it includes only 700 entries, it deals with a specialized field that is rich in new terminology for which it was necessary to find the right expressions in French.

CPA Canada: Your appointment to the Accounting Hall of Fame is the culmination of a long academic career. How do you see it?
LM: I feel fortunate to have received this honour, but I have always worked as part of a team. My colleagues and I started in this area back in the 1980s and 1990s to ensure that students had access to more French-language resources for advanced accounting courses and it was not easy. At the time, many students had to read U.S. books or adaptations produced in English Canada, even though few of them mastered the language. I felt it was important for them to have access to the same resources as their English-speaking colleagues, especially when it came to preparing for the Common Final Exam (CFE).

Now, when I look at the continued success of the Dictionnaire, it definitely indicates that the need for high-quality and consistent terminology in accounting and finance is still very much there.


See which other CPAs were inducted into the Canadian Accounting Hall of Fame in 2022. Test your knowledge of famous Canadian accountants and learn about the International Sustainability Standards Board’s efforts to create a common language for sustainability reporting.