Updated: Nov 13
In this blog post, I'm going to talk about three common ways you can advance your English for architecture at work. After speaking to many architects and landscape architects, these are the top three things they do to keep making progress with their English and to feel confident with what they do at work.
1 They keep a notebook or keep notes on their phone and make short term goals or set priorities.
2 They have a mentor & they seek out training opportunities or look for ways to keep studying and learning.
3 They find ways to be exposed to the language away from work such as listening to podcasts or watching videos about architecture and design.
1. Keep a notebook or notes on your phone and make short term goals.
Keeping a notebook seems like a simple task, but many of my students report that keeping one helps. In your journal, write down the things you notice, including words, phrases and even what your colleagues do and say. The more notes you take, the more you'll understand language typical for the profession and your observations of language usage within your office. They say the best way to learn is to observe and mimic the world around you. The more you write down and observe, the more you're going to take from it.
It's also important to remember to give yourself time and be kind to yourself. Putting too much pressure on yourself can harm your long term motivation. Research shows that giving yourself short challenges for 30 days can help you keep a short term focus to meet a long term goal that can adapt and change as you re-evaluate your goals every 30 days. Matt Cutts discusses the advantage of taking on a 30-day challenge in his popular TEDTalk.
Pick something you could do as a 30-day challenge. For example, you could write in your notebook for 30 days, learn a new phrasal verb or idiom each day, or ask one question every day at work. The challenge can be anything as long as you consistently do it every day, and it's helping your long term goals.
I've recently been working with an app developer, and I'll soon be releasing a simple vocabulary app. In the simple smartphone app, you'll receive examples of vocabulary specific to the architecture profession and as a user, you can also add your own vocabulary or notes. To find out when it is released and videos on how to use it, you'll need to sign up to my Vocabulary builder email.
2. Find a mentor or if you’re working find out what training options are available for you.
With a mentor or colleague share examples from the notes you take. This person could be a fellow student, colleague, a native English speaker or an English teacher who is going to adapt your lessons to your needs.
What's most important is you need to be able to talk about the things you've noted in your notebook as this is one way to build your confidence and to get to the bottom of your frustrations. They could offer you some precious insights and advice. My students certainly appreciate the work they do with me because I have experience in the industry while also spending time working with students and professionals on their communication skills.
Your mentor could also be other fellow international students. Ask them what they do to overcome particular frustrations and what they have tried. What worked/what didn't work. A community like
The Architect Project, as part of My First Architecture Job, is the perfect opportunity to learn from each other and other professionals.
Many of my students' frustrations relate to cultural differences or not understanding business etiquette. If this is the case for you and you’re already working - ask your employers what internal or external training opportunities are available to you. I always think it's better to go to your employer with some options so first identify your frustrations and find training options that will help you overcome these challenges and present these options to your employer.
3. Find ways to be exposed to the language you use for work away from work
Increasing your exposure to professional and technical English for architects is the most crucial aspect of your journey because you can build listening comprehension, vocabulary and become more aware of pronunciation.
When my students commit to increasing their exposure to professional language, this is when I see the biggest jump in confidence and their vocabulary grows in a big way. It's also the point that people seem to procrastinate over the most because they believe they don't have the time to commit. Many people decide that if they don't see results straight away, they will give up. However, if you commit yourself daily (even just 10 mins a day), you will notice a difference. It will save you time in the long run because with an expanded vocabulary; you'll spend less time doing tasks that are currently taking you longer than you'd like.
Exposure to language means: Reading - design articles and industry magazine & making a note of new vocabulary in your notebook.
Listening - to relevant industry podcasts or audiobooks. I have created an extensive list of good podcasts on my website, which all talk about relevant topics that will help you to build your technical vocabulary.
Watching - YouTube channels and industry recordings. Kevin and Andrew Maynard from ArchiMarathon have recently published a fantastic list of useful YouTube channels, and I'm a big fan of one of their suggestion - 30x40 Design Workshop. On this channel, you'll find lots of sketching tips, but also he occasionally films client presentation meetings and videos with technical drawing tips.
I hope you find these tips useful and if you have any other examples to share, then I'd be happy to hear from you.