Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between the understandability of an accounting textbooks written in English and the language learning motivation of international students. Previous research assumed that native speakers of a language and second-language speakers would understand a given accounting text similarly and little attempt has been made to ascertain any individual differences in users��� capacity to read and understand a foreign language. Design/methodology/approach: The 107 participants in this study comprised of full-time English as a Second Language postgraduate commerce students studying at a major Australian university. The authors used two-part questionnaire to examine the motivation of participants and the understandability of an accounting textbook using the Cloze test. Findings: The results suggest that most international students have difficulty in understanding the textbook narratives used in this study. Furthermore, the results show that students��� motivation to learn a foreign language impacts on the understandability of an accounting textbook. Practical implications: This study will help the educators, textbook publishers and students to understand the needs of ESL students. It is expected to provide guidance for authors and instructors to enhance the effectiveness of the accounting courses. Originality/value: The accounting literature shows that there have been efforts by accounting researchers to measure the understandability of accounting texts or narratives. This research provided valuable insights of the learning challenges of international students and valuable recommendations to educators and publishers to enhance the delivery.