Lost in Translation: How English Proficiency Enhances Product Designers' Communication and Collaboration
April 17, 2023
5 min read
For designers whose native language is not English, working and collaborating in an industry that largely uses English as its primary means of communication can be challenging.
While many designers focus on perfecting their design-related skills, they often overlook the importance of language proficiency. In this article I want to talk about the significance of English skills in the design industry and provide practical improvement tips.
Why is English so important?
First off, let's dive into the advantages of being a UX Designer proficient in English, even if it's not your native language:
Articulating design decisions: To effectively present your design solutions to clients, stakeholders, or team members, you need to clearly articulate your decisions and thought process. Being proficient in English will help you convey your ideas and rationale confidently and persuasively.
Collaboration with peers: UX design is a collaborative field that often involves working with cross-functional teams. English is a common lingua franca in the industry, so having strong English skills will enable you to communicate with team members, coordinate efforts, and avoid misunderstandings.
Perceived value: English proficiency can increase your perceived value as a designer. This is particularly beneficial for freelancers, as it might allow them to charge higher rates for their services.
Now let's see how we can improve our English skills as Designers, aside from the beaten track of taking an English course.
One of the most underrated methods of learning English is undoubtedly writing. Not only does it help with language acquisition, but it also assists in developing presentation skills, articulating your Design decisions, and explaining complex processes in simple terms.
Personally, I found it beneficial to write about a topic at least once per week, in the form of Medium articles or reflection pieces for work. While it may seem simple, it can be quite challenging but ultimately rewarding.
By writing and concentrating on word choice, you can explore alternatives rather than relying on familiar words or expressions. When learning English, we often gravitate towards certain terms that may sometimes feel forced or repetitive. Allowing yourself to write on a topic, at your own pace and in a safe space, will encourage you to explore expressions and language that wouldn't typically be your first choice.
To accelerate the learning process, I recommend using tools such as Grammarly or Hemingway, or even AI-powered writing assistants, as long as you pay attention to improvement suggestions and enhance your writing skills. These tools not only help with spelling mistakes and adjusting the tone of your writing but also assist in learning synonyms. They will expedite your workflow and provide valuable writing resources at your fingertips.
Explaining Concept to Others
One of the most effective ways to improve your English communication skills and test your understanding of a topic is by explaining concepts to others. This can involve discussing your work or sharing insights on industry-specific subjects with colleagues, friends, or family members. The key is to ensure that the conversation takes place in English.
Here are some of the key advantages:
Enhancing English speaking and vocabulary skills: By explaining complex ideas in English, you will develop a stronger command of the language and expand your vocabulary, particularly in your professional field.
Mastering the art of "selling" your work: As you practice articulating your design concepts and solutions, you will become better at presenting your work persuasively and effectively, which is essential in the Design industry.
Boosting confidence in English communication: Regularly discussing complex topics in English helps you build confidence in your language abilities. As you become more comfortable in expressing yourself, you will also improve your overall communication skills, which are critical in any professional setting.
Receiving valuable feedback: Explaining concepts in English to others can provide an opportunity for constructive feedback on your language skills. This input can help you identify areas where you may need to improve and refine your communication abilities further.
Leveraging Online Resources
Finally, leveraging online resources is a popular and effective option for improving your English skills. These can help you significantly enhance your comprehension and vocabulary, making communication in a non-native language much smoother. Here are some approaches to consider:
Following creators on YouTube or listen to podcasts related to the Design industry. This can help you pick up industry-specific terminology and improve your pronunciation.
Engage with native English speakers on LinkedIn, including peers and leaders in your field. Regularly provide meaningful comments on their posts to practice your English writing skills and learn new words.
Stay updated with industry news and trends by following relevant blogs, websites, and social media accounts. This will improve your English skills and help you stay informed and expand your knowledge in your field.
In conclusion, English proficiency is a vital skill for designers, especially those whose native language is not English. The ability to articulate design decisions, collaborate effectively with peers, and command a higher perceived value are just a few of the advantages that come with English proficiency. As we've explored, there are several practical ways to enhance your English skills, beyond just taking a course.
Create a habit of writing and self-reflection that will not only improve language acquisition but also develop presentation skills and explain complex processes. Practice explaining concepts to others in English to boost your speaking, vocabulary, and confidence in communication. Lastly, leverage online resources such as YouTube, podcasts, LinkedIn, and industry news to immerse yourself in the language, improve pronunciation, and stay updated on trends.
By integrating these strategies into your language learning routine, you will see significant progress in your English proficiency, enabling you to communicate and collaborate more effectively within the design industry. Ultimately, this will lead to greater success in your professional efforts and open up new opportunities for personal and career growth.