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Do you speak another language?

One of the very best things I’ve ever done, besides marry Francisco, was learn Spanish.

It’s been incredible for my career and it’s been indispensable in my personal life.

But I’m not talking about Spanish (or French or German or Mandarin or….) when I ask whether you speak another language. I’m talking about the language of other professionals outside your own discipline.

Earlier today, I was on a conference call with more than a dozen staff members of a tourism board’s* public relations and marketing firms; the goal was to streamline efforts and ensure that everyone was aware of each team’s projects. I was probably the only person on the call who doesn’t come from the world of PR and marketing. Though I considered myself to be someone who’s quite comfortable with PR and marketing folks, I quickly realized that people from these fields speak differently–really differently–from writers.

“We have to find our sexy look,” said one person on the call, much to my amusement. Writers say things like, “We have to find our hook” or “We have to find our angle” or “What’s the story?” PR people, apparently, say things like “We have to find our sexy look.” It took me a couple seconds to realize what she was talking about– we have to find the event/experience/idea that will make us stand out, make us different. I wanted to say, “Sexy look? Are you serious?” Instead, I thought about what our sexy look might be.

There were lots of other words used on the call that were fairly foreign to me. I understood what they meant in the context, but they’re words I don’t use in my own daily work and words that would sound strange coming out of my mouth. They aren’t words I want to use, but they’re words that are worth learning– they’ll make for a more effective collaboration.

Now, excuse me while I go back to brainstorming about our verticals.

If you’re collaborating with professionals from other fields, what challenges and opportunities have you encountered? 

*I’ve been working as a manager of a writer- and photographer-in-residence project for the Belize Tourism Board since April.


3 responses »

  1. Haha “finding your sexy look” is something I’d imagine would happen in front of a mirror in the privacy of your own home.

    But seriously, speaking in someone else’s language just makes communication easier- and people are more likely to trust you and respect your ideas if they don’t have to “translate” them in their terms.

  2. In my former life as a business analyst, my role centered around my ability to speak the language of technical folks, who needed very literal explanations with no room for interpretation and the business folks, who might speak about their processes in terms that meant one thing to them but something completely different to their technical counterparts.

    I had to understand what both sides meant and learn how to tweak the language for effective communication and ultimately, to move the project(s) forward successfully.

    As you mentioned, it creates synergy – and makes life easier – in professional and personal relationships when we take the time to learn someone else’s language.

    ps. If you find a sexy look that would be good for my skin tone and body type, let me know. 🙂

  3. Word. Delving deeper into the world of advertising has been (great?/detrimental?/enlightening?) for my vocabulary. 🙂


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