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Getting the Lingo Down

September 20, 2019 Jim Warner
Female tourist at the ruins of Strome Castle on the shores of Loch Carron in the Wester Ross region of Scotland.

Recently I was in Edinburgh, Scotland, for work and found myself with an open day in my schedule. Not one to miss an opportunity, I opted to take a tour of the Highlands. I wanted to see the rolling heather and fog-shrouded lochs since all I knew of Scotland came from repeated viewings of Braveheart.

Get far enough out into the Highlands, and you begin to see road signs written in two languages: English and Gaelic. Our tour guide, whose thick Glaswegian accent was challenging enough for me, offered tips to speaking with the locals at lunch.

“Get the Cullen skink to warm your belly, and just smile, nod, and say ‘aye’ when they ask you anything else. I’ve been driving this tour up here four days a week for the last eight years, and I can’t even understand their bloody brogue. That soup is too thick for me.”

Being nestled in a tourist hovel, ripe with Nessie magnets and scarves of various tartans for sale, none of the conversation there was going to get particularly life-threatening or dangerous. That is unless you have concerns about what exactly is in Cullen skink. There were a few anxious moments trying to ask for a “regular” coffee. I ended up with something that looked more like espresso than an American cup of joe, with way more caffeine than a two-hour bus ride necessitated.

Jittery with cream chowder sloshing around in my belly, perhaps I should have just opted for tea. Had I known to ask for “drip” coffee probably my chances of what I wanted and what I got would have been more in line, but so goes the travails of traveling abroad.

Immersing yourself in a culture often means learning to pick up the lingo as you go. You become a linguistic detective, working the context by which conversation constructs itself around unfamiliar words and phrases to glean meaning. If you’re curious and inquisitive, perhaps you outright ask for explanation and context. Most folks can see the traveler in you and will take the time to unpack meaning, but how does this translate to the office itself?

Think back to your first day at your office. You were (hopefully) prompt, polite, and prepared to make the best impression possible. Were there moments where you felt like your teammates were speaking a whole different language? Was there a sea of abbreviations and office terms you navigated which felt wholly foreign to you? How did you acquire that meaning? Was it time? Conversation? What about those policies and procedures? How long did it take to understand what terms/phrases stood for?

Sometimes even within an organization, words and meanings can get misconstrued. What about explaining process, policy, and rhetoric across organizations? How do we lessen the learning curve for future teammates or potential business partners?

Common ground starts with common lingo, and when it comes to the world of project management, one of the most tangible benefits to becoming a PMP® (Project Management Professional) is demonstrating that you can speak the language. Clear lines of communication begin with clarity of expression. If you can engage potential teammates or partners in lingua franca of PMP®, you immediately build not only a rapport but an understanding. A cursory glance at the Project Management Institute’s (PMI®) lexicon of terms gives us a glossary of 200 professional words and phrases. Having a working knowledge of these terms is just the foundation for understanding PMP®.

Speaking the language of PMP® unlocks the true potential project management can have on your business’ executive leadership as well as your bottom line. Getting your certificate in Project Management has never been easier with courses like the UofL Executive Education PMP®. Learn from experienced professionals and trainers with real-world experience in learning, applying, and maximizing professionals for project management. Jumpstart your experience through a convenient 2-Day Fundamentals Boot Camp. Delivered by the University of Louisville’s Executive Education Program on December 5th and 6th, there is perhaps no better time to get the lingo down and become PMP® fluent.


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