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English for IT specialist. Why it is necessary and how to boost it

English proficiency in IT is considered not only a benefit but a necessity. It opens the doors to international businesses and lets you to improve your skills by climbing professional levels. When someone ask if you need to know English for IT, the answer is yes, it is necessary. The specialist may be considered for promotion, depending on the skill level. English is used everywhere:

  • In a job interview
  • Coding
  • Learning new libraries, tools and frameworks
  • During meets
  • Business English for Negotiations
  • When planning sprints
  • On mitaps and hackathons
  • In communication in the business community.
  • During consultations with vendors, service providers and technical support

English for IT professionals is business English, including many technical terms used in everyday work by technical specialists: programmers, system engineers, testers, etc.

What level of English is needed for an IT specialist. General requirements

In what situations English can be required for IT specialists? First of all, at the interview, the potential employer or HR will appreciate the ability to speak, understand what the interviewer asks about, and listen to a self-presentation, in which you need to describe your goals and opportunities as experience and skills.

One of the important requirements is knowledge of specific terms – technical English. While working on a project, you should be able to:

  • Explain and describe processes
  • Request and be prepared to provide assistance
  • Understand the problem and propose solutions.

It is important to respect the chain of command and to express disagreement with tactfully, such as asking additional questions.

Code work is usually done in a team, so it is important to provide a feedback. There has to be some vocabulary. English for the IT profession includes the ability to express their ideas when communicating with customers, that is, to use English, understandable for them, and not overcrowded with specific terms. Here you can use the capacity to describe causes and effects with safe and understandable reasoning. In addition, a significant part of the IT specialist’s work is devoted to the research and study of new products, updates, frameworks, and libraries. Most of it is available in English.

IT specialists often point out that English is easier for programmers to improve. They are free to communicate with colleagues while working on the project, but the usual communication outside the office is difficult for them. If the goal is to find a job in a foreign company with relocation in Europe or USA, then English will be needed for everyday communication.

Level of English language for internship in an IT company

What does it take to become a Trainee? Is it possible to go into IT without knowing English?

Trainee is an intern. This is the first step for a beginner who wants to get more practice after training.

In some cases, you can start a career as a Trainee without a deep knowledge of English. Especially in areas where information is available in the first language. Or when it is possible to communicate with colleagues in messaging. You can use online translators for it, in the beginning. Either way, you will have to meet constantly with English during the internship. It will allow developing your knowledge in practice. English Level A2 (Elementary) will be enough for Trainee. According to the Pan-European Language Competence Scale (CEFR), this is the level of language proficiency, where your vocabulary has at least 2000 words, which allows you to communicate in everyday life. Trainee must be able to read professional texts and maintain technical documentation.

How the level of the English language impacts the programmer’s career.

Learning and improving the English language is required for a career boost. There may still be nuances. For example, if the jobseeker has excellent professional skills, he can be hired even if he does not have sufficient knowledge of the language. But further study would still be required.

Required English skills usually begin at level B1. If the work involves not only hard skills but also negotiations and communication with customers, the level should be B2 and above. This will enable you to improve your software skills, take the lead in negotiations, and communicate freely on different subjects.

Which level of English is preferred for various positions?

Junior — level В1 (Threshold or intermediate). It allows you to express and justify your opinion, outline the current process, and read technical information and instructions.

Middle — В2 (Advantage or upper intermediate). With this level you can easily understand difficult texts, communicate at a professional level, present not only the essence of the problem but also justify its solutions, and write competent technical comments and reports. English for the IT sphere will integrate into the team of international professionals and will give good chances for career growth.

Senior  — С1/С2. The Senior position usually has quite high requirements for English, which include technical and business language proficiency of at least C1 (Effective operational proficiency or advanced). It is an advanced level, when the number of words reaches 4500, and allows the specialist to understand complex technical texts, understand nuances and catch to figurative meanings of the speaker’s speech. Level C2 (mastery or proficiency) is knowledge of the language as a second native. Mastery of language in perfection, ability to maintain formal and informal communication, and writing complex texts in different styles.

Thus, business English for an IT career is necessary and helps to improve your level. Career development up to the top management level can be expected by improving professional skills and technical language skills.

5 reasons to learn English to work in Information Technology.

  • Communication with colleagues in a foreign company, negotiations, writing business emails, attending conferences, and passing training webinars.
  • A high English level will make your application much better for the employer.
  • Fast learning by understanding professional literature and documentation, which is mostly written in English. This is an advantage over other candidates for the position.
  • Free learning of new programming languages by understanding technical terms and industry vocabulary.
  • The opportunity to confirm your hard skills on specialized certification in world companies with obtaining certificates.

Depending on the possibilities, you may choose to learn English at home, hire an IT English tutor or take an English language course. In any case, 90% of language learning is self-employed.

Literature for boosting English language level. NLT team recommend

Which books you should read with your level of English? We have collected useful and accessible literature for all levels, from Elementary to Advanced.

  • English for IT Level 1 (Maja Olejniczak)
  • English for IT Level 2 (David Hill, Karenne Sylvester)
  • Oxford English for Computing (Keith Boeckner, P. Charles Brown)
  • Oxford English for Information Technology (Eric Glendinning, John McEwan)
  • Book series Market Leader (Longman Publisher)
  • Book series Double Dealing (Summertown Publishing Ltd)

Besides the specialized literature, watching series in English will help. Not every textbook has words that native speakers use for communication. Watching the series is a good way to take note of a few useful expressions and boost the spoken language. We recommend watching TV series with subtitles! Subtitles will help to understand the quick speech of the characters, to see how to write certain words, and will train correctly to build sentences.

Top 5 series for learning English:

  • Friends
  • The Office
  • Big Bang Theory 
  • Peaky Blinders
  • Scrubs 

English tests online

Picked up some quick and free tests to determine your English level: