Top 5 Tips to Help You Master Technical English as an EngineerApr 17, 2022
When it comes to learning a new language, English is often touted as one of the most confusing and least straightforward languages to comprehend. This is particularly true for those learning how to leverage the English language in a professional setting, as technical terms across industries tend to vary dramatically.
When it comes to the construction industry, this is especially true, making it difficult to feel confident in your vocabulary and technical English abilities in regard to job site safety, measurements, techniques, and equipment. But as a professional, you already know how important it is to communicate clearly with your co-workers, and that’s why I’ve put together my top tips for helping you master technical English with an engineering focus.
Master cultural differences
It’s crucial to recognize the cultural differences between English and almost every other language. Whether you’re from Europe, South America, Asia, or anywhere else, there are a number of elements of the English language and workplace environment that might be shocking or difficult to master. A few examples include the emphasis on individuality across the English language, which can show up in conversation as directness, and can often feel jolting to those who are new to the language.
Additionally, American cultures unfortunately tend to prioritize work over rest, which can come through in conversation and discussions about scheduling, timelines, and more. Being aware of these cultural differences can help you feel prepared as you enter conversations about various topics in the workplace, and will enable you to feel comfortable approaching discussions that involve elements of cultural differences that your English-speaking colleagues may not even be aware of.
Focus on key vocabulary
This tip works in two ways; the first is by helping you feel prepared and confident as you enter a work environment that relies on a language you did not grow up using. The second is that it will mean the difference between successful and unsuccessful communication at work, and there’s nothing I want more than to see you succeed!
By identifying relevant vocabulary words and centering your language practice around that group of words, you can create confidence in your abilities to communicate while simultaneously mastering key terms that will be used throughout day-to-day conversation. This is a win-win because confidence is key when it comes to learning, practising, and utilizing a new language.
In order to create your own list of key vocab words, you’ll want to do some research (or check in with a diligent technical language coach–that’s me) to identify phrases and terms that align with your job responsibilities and are relevant to your industry. My free PDF cheat sheet is a great place to start, and will give you an idea of my recommended approach to mastering Business English communication. Once you’ve created a masterlist for yourself, you’ll want to prioritize this in your practice in order to familiarize yourself with the terms that will appear most commonly in communication at work.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
This applies in two major ways. Firstly, it’s important to remember that most people have patience and understanding when it comes to people brave enough to learn new languages and apply them at work. Don’t be afraid to let your colleagues know when you’re struggling to find the right word, finding it difficult to keep up with a conversation, or confused about what was decided. Asking for help is a great way to continue building your own skills and might allow native English speakers to adjust their communication style in order to help you thrive.
Secondly, asking for help might look a lot like working with a professional language coach to speed up the learning process and help you master Business or Technical English even faster. As a former engineer and current language expert, I strive to support my clients as they work towards a functional understanding and mastery of TE in order to thrive, specifically in the workplace.
I know just how difficult it can be to put language skills to use in a professional business setting and have worked hard to create plans and solutions that work for any schedule across all skill levels. Investing in a coach to strengthen your language journey and help you reach your goals is one of the most effective ways to ask for help as you work towards mastering English, and I’d be honoured to help you succeed!
Watch content that helps you learn
For many people learning the English language, a popular method of practice is to watch reality TV, sometimes called ‘trash TV.’ This is helpful to learners because it gives you a good idea of how English sounds (and looks) in casual, everyday conversation including relationships, friendships, etc.
But as professionals seeking to master TE for use in the workplace, trash TV might not be the best place to find inspiration or understanding of how English should be utilized, as it isn’t likely to be professional, technical, or even appropriate. Instead of relying on reality TV, seek out media that aligns with your role or goals.
For example, this list of 15 Best TV Shows for Engineers includes titles like How It’s Made, Mythbusters, Sherlock, Mega Factories, and more. By watching shows like this, you can get a better idea of what conversation sounds like between professionals when discussing things like construction, results, data, and engineering. While not all shows offer a perfectly accurate representation of Technical English when used in engineering roles, it will provide you with some entertainment while strengthening your ability to keep up with conversations, pick up on cultural signals or clues, and master technical terms along the way.
Leverage resources to solidify your skills
While I’d love to personally help everybody looking to strengthen their Technical English abilities, I know not everyone has space in their schedule to allow for one-on-one coaching or learning programs (and as much as I’d love to, there aren’t enough hours in the day to be able to support the thousands of people choosing to pursue mastery of the English language each day). That being said, I’ve worked hard to offer dozens of ways to approach your journey towards being a Technical English speaker, all of which can be found on my website.
Whether you’re looking for one-on-one coaching programs, a regular newsletter delivered to your email inbox and packed with tips to help you succeed, courses, or comprehensive blog posts covering a wide range of topics, you can find it all online, where I look forward to virtually meeting you and helping you thrive however I can.