How Landscape Architects who Speak English as a Second Language can Improve Their Vocabulary

Learning a new language can be challenging, but when you're curious, dedicated and passionate about the impact learning can have on your confidence, then the benefits outweigh the challenges.


In landscape architecture practice, there are always so many things to learn and on top of that, you need to be able to communicate with clients, other team members and consultants. Often my clients feel that they find it harder for the vocabulary to come more naturally than their native English speaking colleagues. It can have an impact on their confidence as well as how much they enjoy their work. It's easy to become overwhelmed by the large vocabulary gap you might feel you have, but it doesn't have to seem like the intimidating task you think it is.

There are many ways you can do this, including:

  1. Watching videos on YouTube or inspiring TedTalks about relevant topics

  2. Reading articles, industry websites, blogs and websites from manufacturers and material suppliers who often make explainer videos discussing their products

One of the best ways to learn about what you really need is to look up local material supplier websites. One of my clients recently wanted to know all the names of the possible plants they could put into a design and different species of timber they could specify for a pergola design. So they were googling different timber types and plants for different situations. The problem with that is local supply. What happens if these materials and plants are not even available when it comes to executing the project. So they vocabulary learning needs to be more focused.

However, the mistake I see many making is they forget the most important step - to spend time discussing the videos, articles, and materials to feel more confident expressing their ideas, opinions, and values. When you find all the names of things or read about relevant articles, there needs to be a closing gap to make the general vocabulary fit your situation.


It's easy to focus a lot of your time learning the vocabulary passively through reading and listening. Still, if you don't do anything with it, it is more challenging to retain the information. You need to explain why this material choice is better, why it will save the client money or why it's more durable.

Something I like to focus on with my clients is provoking conversations and asking questions that will push them just enough out of their comfort zone so they see and realise they do have the vocabulary but what's holding them back from making progress towards confidence is they don't necessarily practise it in the right context. They only scratch the surface (their learning isn't deep enough, and they wait until high-pressure client or consultant meetings to answer questions they have never had the opportunity to answer.

That's why I always say even when you watch and do the quiz in a video like the one you see below, you also need to think critically about what you will take from this video.

What do certain words mean to you and your work?

How would you apply what you have learnt?

What do you know now that you didn't know before?

What do you take away as the most important aspect of the video, and how does it apply to your job?

Tara Cull

If you've felt like your vocabulary gap is holding you back from making the impact you want in your career, then come and schedule a call with me today. We'll discuss where you're at, what you would love to do, and how you can get there without focusing so much on grammar and conversations that won't help you in your job. Schedule a call with me today.

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