© 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited. Purpose: This study aims to investigate two issues inherent in accounting judgements: the directional influence of uncertainty expressions and how they might positively or negatively affect accounting judgements and the foreign-language effect (FLE), which refers to the reduction of judgement bias that occurs when an accounting judgement is made in one’s foreign language. This study examines both issues in the context of accounting judgements made in Chinese and English languages. Design/methodology/approach: This study conducted two experiments. The first experiment applied a 2 × 2 between-subject research design, and the second experiment adopted a 2 × 2 within-subject approach. Findings: The overall results revealed that directionality biases existed in the exercise of accounting judgement in subjects’ native and foreign languages. However, when the language was switched from the subjects’ native tongue to a foreign language, overall directionality biases are reduced. Research limitations/implications: This study suggests that the use of native and non-native languages can have unintended consequences on accounting judgements. However, because of the limitations of using students as proxies for professionals and applying self-assessed language scales, the literature would benefit from future research that extends the subject profile to professional accountants and that assesses language skills more objectively. Originality/value: This study contributes to the literature on cross-lingual accounting, both theoretically and methodologically. It also extends the FLE theory to an accounting context, providing insights on how language is involved in judgements concerning uncertainty expressions.