What is English For IT and who needs to learn it?
If you are a non-native English speaker who works in tech or would like to break into tech, you definitely need to improve your English to nail a better job. Of course, this is in case you have not done that yet.
I built English For IT to help tech professionals achieve their English language goals and prepare for a job at an international company. Let me tell you what I had in mind when creating English For IT.
Interesting fact: IT vs tech. What’s the difference? When you are a software engineer coming from a non-English speaking country, you work in IT. That’s why I called my edtech company which I started in Ukraine “English For IT”. I used the lingo that was clear to the community. However, when you are a software engineer in the English-speaking country, then you say you work in tech. IT is just a part of tech which deals with network management, application configurations, troubleshooting, tech support. That’s why native speakers can ask the following question 👇 and understand the irony behind it:
Who needs English For Tech and why?
So, I called the company English For IT but the flagship course got the name “English For Tech”. And this is why: English For Tech is the kind of English spoken in tech teams and companies all around the world. In other words, it’s a combination of language skills, norms and practices used by not only software engineers, but also managers, recruiters, consultants, HR personnel, stakeholders, and freelancers. In a technology-driven world, English for tech is the new “business English” that forms a part of our daily work life. And it’s not just about tech terms it’s about communication between all the stakeholders in general.
Answering the question “Who needs English For Tech and why?” — every professional working in the tech industry (tech and non-tech jobs) who wants to be part of an international team, work with foreign customers and world-known projects, earn a higher salary.
How do we teach English For Tech?
At English For IT, we focus on teaching the 5 core skills: vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, speaking, and writing, with extra focus on soft skills.
Vocabulary — the most obvious skill to focus on. It’s the special terms, expressions, jargon, and slang that tech professionals use in documentation, project specifications, and day-to-day communication.
Knowing tech terminology is half the challenge. The other half is knowing how to explain those terms in simple words to people from other areas (project management, design, marketing, etc.) in order to coordinate team efforts. To do that, you need to be able to connect your ideas in a logical and clear way. This is where grammar comes in.
Grammar — this is the foundation of any language. Curiously enough, many tech professionals actually enjoy learning grammar and consider it important.
I say “curiously enough” because English learners usually dread grammar as something difficult and boring. This is probably due to their experience of learning grammar in school (let’s face it, school methods of teaching foreign languages are rarely fun).
Thankfully, using modern practice-based methods of teaching grammar, we are able to turn it from something tedious into something you can and want to use in your daily life. One of our favorite ways to teach grammar is the use case approach. Which means that we zero in on a particular situation and break down the grammar you would need to navigate that situation successfully.
For example, here are some grammar topics you will need to know if:
You want to describe a product:
Present Simple — to describe basic functionality and facts.
- It monitors employee activity. (What does it monitor?)
- It is easy to use. (Is it easy to use?)
- It is available in three colours. (Is it available in other colours?)
- It comes with a two-year guarantee. (Does it come with a guarantee?)
- This device is manufactured in India. (Where is this device manufactured?)
- It is designed for competent users. (Who is it designed for?)
- It can be used for internal communication. (What can it be used for?)
- It is equipped with a signature recognition software. (What is it equipped with?)
Comparatives and Superlatives
- The new version is more reliable than the old one. (Is the new version more reliable than the old one?)
- It’s smaller than a laptop. (Is it smaller than a laptop?)
- It’s not as expensive as a PC. (Is it cheaper than a PC?)
- It’s the cheapest product on the market.
You want to describe a process:
- The system was reinstalled . (Why was the system reinstalled?)
- Three bugs have been fixed. (When were they fixed?)
- The payment was processed. (When was it processed?)
- The letter will be sent to all the employees. (Why will it be sent?)
You want to give instructions in manuals:
- Plug in your computer and all peripherals.
- Turn on the surge protector.
- Press the power button on your computer or CPU
You want to solve a problem or give a piece of advice:
- Have you tried turning it off and on again?
- Have you checked your home button settings?
- What were you doing when the error occurred?
- Did you verify software compatibility?
- You should download a data recovery software to help you.
- You should back up all your data.
Why don’t you…?
- Why don’t you try turning it off and on again?
- Why don’t you run some tests to make sure everything is stable?
You want to talk about expected results and behaviors:
- The link should work now
- If you click on the icon, it should bring up the menu
Be supposed to
- We’re supposed to meet with them tomorrow at 10 am
- I’m supposed to finish this task by the end of the week
It has to be said that even if your grammar is perfect (which is hard because articles is a pain in the English grammar), you might still run into communication problems and misunderstandings. If that’s the case, the most likely culprit is your pronunciation.
Pronunciation — an underrated language skill. It’s important to focus on building correct pronunciation at an early stage of learning English, and it’s just as important to prioritize pronunciation if you’re an advanced English speaker. Proper pronunciation and intonation will help you:
- Sound more confident
- Capture and retain people’s attention
- Build trust (people are more likely to trust you if you speak in a confident, clear, and esy-to-understand manner)
- Avoid misunderstandings
- Make your communication more productive (you will reduce time spent on clarifying and reiterating your points)
Here are a few commonly mispronounced tech words:
Tech /tɛk/ — “ch” is read as “k”.
Entrepreneur /ˌɒntrəprəˈnəː/ — the first “e” is pronounced like “o” in the word “top”.
API — /eɪ pɪ: aɪ/ — all three letters are pronounced separately, and not as one word.
Report /rɪˈpɔːt/ — the stress falls on the “o”.
Browser /ˈbraʊzə/ — note that the “o” in this word makes the same sound as “ou” in “loud”.
Machine /məˈʃiːn/ — the stress falls on the “chi”.
Software /ˈsɒf(t)wɛː/ — note that the stress falls on the “soft” part.
Automate /ˈɔːtəmeɪt/ — the letter combination “au” is normally pronounced as a wide “o”.
Architecture /ˈɑːkɪtɛktʃə/ — that’s a tricky one. We often recommend to our students that they use the pronounce feature on google.com to practice fairly complex words like this one.
Adobe /əˈdəʊbi/ — there are many tech companies out there and many of them get mispronounced. Adobe being one such case in point.
Listen to my podcast and check the correct pronunciation of these 10 tech terms.
Top 3 tips on how to improve your English pronunciation:
- Get curious — do not be lazy, google and check yourself if you are unsure how to pronounce a certain word. I recommend just using google, it gives you an opportunity to listen to both the British and American version.
2. Open your ears — start noticing things around you. Notice how native speakers pronounce words, notice the intonation they use when saying sentences, notice their manner of speaking.
3. Practice — only if you practice, will you improve your pronunciation. When you watch a video or listen to a podcast, repeat interesting words, say them out loud. Record yourself and then listen to notice any mistakes or simple enjoy your voice in English if everything was perefct :)
Now, that we have worked on your vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation, it’s time to tie it all together by practicing speaking.
Speaking — that’s a language skill so many people are confused about. Let me explain. For many people, including tech professionals, the ultimate English learning goal is to “begin to speak English”. But that’s not the mindset you want to have if you want to make progress in your English. Breaking down the speaking barrier is a matter of trial and error. No matter what your language level is (even is you started learning English a month ago) — you can and should practice speaking. Don’t wait until you’re ready to “begin to speak English” because this way, you never will be.
Here are a few important tips on improving speaking fluency that we like to share with our students:
- It’s ok to feel uncomfortable, you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone.
- When you’ve just learned new vocabulary or grammar, try to put it into practice at the next available opportunity — just use that knowledge next time you speak English!
- More is more — when you speak English in classroom, say more than you normally would. This is your opportunity to make mistakes, get them corrected, and avoid making these mistakes in the real world.
How do we get our students speaking? Well, we all like a chance to speak our mind, share opinions and learn about one another, so we like to use discussion-based activities such as this one:
Most importantly, practice IRL=in real life. Try LunchClub to network with native speakers in English. The reason why I love LunchClub is because it is not another language learning app that asks you to hit the buttons while doing pre-designed tests. It is an application that connects your to real people who are not English teachers so when you chat with them you get IRL and not classroom practice. Try LunchClub with my code to jump the waitlist.
But let’s not forget another important productive skill.
Writing — the good news is that if you can speak good English, you can probably write well too. These days, with tools like Grammarly available for free, spelling is not something you need to worry about too much. When it comes to practicing writing, we find it most effective to focus on specific cases such as writing website or social copy, creating a presentation, writing emails and messages to a client, etc. That’s why our approach to teaching writing is highly customizable and focused on the needs of a specific student.
However, here are some things we commonly focus on:
- Formality: which tone of voice to use — formal, informal or semi-formal and why
- Politeness: how to seem polite and friendly over email or text
- Storytelling: how to write in an engaging, effective, attention-grabbing way
On top of all the skills I just listed, we also place a big importance on teaching soft skills (also known as “people skills”) which are so crucial to project managers, account managers, HR managers, executives, and yes, even software engineers!
After all, to be able to communicate with a US-based client or colleague, knowing the difference between past simple and present perfect would not be enough. You also need to master the art of small talk, understand business communication culture which might be different in different parts of the world, and make a polite and positive impression regardless who you are communicating with.
To recap, soft skills are the communication skills that help you conduct negotiations, earn people’s trust, build successful long-term relationships, network, manage a team and so much more.
We usually start teaching soft skills by introducing our students to useful phrases and expressions that they can use in their everyday speech. Over time, these phrases become part of their regular vocabulary which really helps them blend in and understand the English-speaking business communication culture better.
To give you an example: if we teach a software developer to say “I’m not sure about that” instead of “you are wrong”, this might just prevent that developer from losing their job! That’s not even a joke, we’ve seen these things happen.
Here are a few more useful phrases for specific cases that we like to practice with our students.
- He’s been cut off (Dealing with technical problems)
- There’s an echo (Dealing with technical problems)
- That’s better. It’s fine now. (Dealing with technical problems)
- Let’s start. Let’s begin. Let’s get the ball rolling (Leading the call)
- Over to you, Bill. Go ahead Sanjit. (Managing who speaks)
- I want to summarise … (Outlining what you are going to say)
- I am writing to let you know that ...
- Thank you for your e-mail of 29 February regarding …
- Please see the statement attached.
- I am afraid I cannot open the file you have sent me.
- I look forward to hearing from you.
- How are you? Did you have a good weekend?
- It’s so hot today, isn’t it?/ It’s so cold today, isn’t it? — Yes, very hot/cold for this time of the year. What are you doing at the weekend?
- Have you been working here long?
- I just love the chocolate eclair they make in the canteen. Have you tried it?
- Good morning and welcome to [name of company] (Welcoming)
- My name is Mark Watson and I am responsible for … (Introducing yourself)
- In today’s presentation I’m hoping to cover three points: firstly, … , after that we will look at … , and finally I’ll … (Introducing the presentation)
- Let’s start/begin by looking at … (Starting a presentation)
- So, that concludes [title of the section] … (Closing a section)
- Thank you for your attention. (Finishing and thanking)
- Can you explain that in more detail? (Asking for more info)
- Personally, I think we should… (Agreeing/Disagreeing)
- I take your point… (Emphasizing)
- So why don’t we…? (Making suggestions)
- I don’t think we’ve met. I’m … (Starting the convo)
- I work as an IT consultant (Introducing yourself)
- What do you think about..? (Making convo)
- Really? How interesting (Showing interest)
- Have you met John? (Introducing others)
- Let’s keep in touch (Leaving convo)
I hope I was able to give you a decent overview of the philosophy and methods that English For IT uses to teach English for tech. Now, let’s recap.
English For IT is a comprehensive practice of the core 6 language areas (vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, speaking, writing, and soft skills). The materials and cases used in our programs are taken from modern, authentic tech resources. Although our programs are catering to people in tech first and foremost, we teach English skills that will be useful to any modern day professional.
Learn with the best, learn with English For IT!
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Useful resources:
English For IT fundamentals (if you are new to English For IT, start with this one.Then move to this one 👇)
English For IT Listening & Speaking (after take this one 👇)
English For IT Communication (this is a must if you work with an international team and clients)