Skip to main content Professional Scrum Certification Assessments – Tips for Non-native English Speakers

November 27, 2019

Having had an opportunity to teach Professional Scrum classes in many countries, I noticed that there are some language pitfalls and traps. The situation concerns non-native English speakers and our assessments. While taking the assessments, people can sometimes be confused with words, browsing dictionaries, looking for meanings. There is no spare time for this activity! Our assessments are timeboxed, time goes by so fast! The use of Google translate, however, works pretty well. There is a great blog Uta Kapp wrote about using helpful Google translation. You may read more here.

Still, in some languages, there are different words, where meanings should remain the same. But it is not always the case…

Quite often people can observe that one word in English has at least two meanings in their native language. And the opposite. For example, in some Slavic languages, translation for the English words “responsible” and “accountable” there is only one word in one-to-one direct translation (PL -odpowiedzialny, SK – zodpovedný, SLO – odgovoren, UA – відповідальний, RU – Ответственность). The same situation may happen in Finnish, French (responsable), Swedish (ansvarig).

When it comes to Germanic languages (German, Dutch) they are similar to English to some extent. However, I recommend to check the list below.

As this article intends to be practical, let’s move to examples of some of these words that have 2 meanings in English and double meanings in other languages that may save your time during some assessments.

  • Responsible vs. accountable - In a significant number of languages, there is only one word for these two in English. As a result, some problems with the correct understanding of their meaning may occur. Responsible means taking action personally to complete what is in someone's duties. This is a kind of obligation. Accountable means making sure that something is being done (by someone else). This is answerability for the consequences of delegation.
  • Forecast vs. prediction - Forecast in many languages is strictly related to weather forecasting. In English, in the work environment, we can forecast something by answering the question: what is the likelihood? Predict is stronger, connected with estimating the outcomes of unseen data.
  • Commitment has two meanings. - This fact may confuse non-English native speakers. First: commitment is an obligation. Second: commitment is a dedication, engagement.
  • Forecast vs. commitment - Commitment understood as an obligation. Make a commitment = be obliged. Forecast means likelihood.
  • Must, should, could, might, mustn’t, have to - Be aware of the differences. Read the question again.
  • Framework vs. methodology - Methodology is prescriptive (practices, tools, procedures, processes, documentation, etc.) while a framework is structured with some space for adding relevant practices, tools, etc.
  • Ordering and prioritizingYou can order your Product Backlog Items and take into account priority as a result of estimating value, risk, etc.
  • Complicated vs complex – my recent discovery is that in some languages (for example Slavic ones), the word complicated looks more difficult. I checked “complicated” in dictionaries as well. The dictionary translation usually says that complex = complicated. That is not helpful at all. Complex means having multiple components, factors. Complicated refers to difficulty. In the English language, complex is stronger than complicated.
  • Attend vs. participate - When you attend you are just watching, listening, paying attention. When you participate you are involved, taking part in something.
  • Output vs. outcome - Again, in many languages, these words are translated into one word (usually result). While training people, I observed that only native English speakers understood immediately and perfectly the context. Even for advanced English speakers, these two sowed some doubts and confusion. Output is the result of a system or service and answers to “what”. Those are measures that reflect things that were produced. Outcome is related to meanings and answers to “why”, it is based on outputs. Those are measures that reflect the change to customers or users (also behavior).

Be familiar with words like the ones presented below (especially when you are trained in your native language, having also materials in your language):

  • Increment
  • Impediment
  • Throughput
  • Phrasal verbs
  • Leading and lagging measures
  • Lead time, cycle time

Other tips:

  • Read English resources before the exam; I suggest Resources
  • Think Professional Scrum
  • Employ empiricism as your natural way of solving complex problems
  • Practice using Open Assessments
  • Have your favourite dictionary ready to use (just in case)
  • Use Google translate
  • Write down all the difficult words for you

Do you have any tips to share? I encourage you to share your thoughts in comments.

The article was initially published in a shorter version here.

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