Scrum.org’s assessments – tips for non-native English speakers

Having had an opportunity to teach people certified Scrum.org 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 are confused with words, browsing dictionaries, looking for meaning. There is no spare time for this activity! Our Scrum.org assessments are timeboxed, time goes by so fast!

In some languages, there are different words, meaning 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.

As this article intends to be practical, let’s move to examples that may save your time during some Scrum.org 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 again the question.
  • Framework vs. methodology. Methodology is prescriptive (practices, tools, procedures, processes, documentation, etc.) while framework is structured with some space for adding relevant practices, tools, etc.
  • Ordering vs. prioritizing. You 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. Scrum.org Resources. Avoid Forums. Everyone can write there about their thoughts.
  • Think Professional Scrum.
  • Employ empiricism as your natural way of solving complex problems.
  • Practice Open Assessments.
  • Have your favourite dictionary ready to use (just in case).
  • Write down all the difficult words for you.

What else would you like to mention? I encourage you to share your thoughts in comments.

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