Why Precision In Training Language Matters

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Who uses training language? Teachers and instructors definitely use training language, but so do students. Those who teach or instruct are conducting a transfer of knowledge to their students. Generally this involves some training language whether they know it or not. Students ask questions, help each other, and take notes throughout classes. All of these exchanges on training subject matter will use training language to some degree.

Precision

Precision might not be the first word that comes to mind when you think about communication, but it accurately describes how anyone should converse in a learning environment. As you probably know, precision and accuracy refer to two separate concepts. Accuracy refers to your ability to hit, or closeness to the target. Precision on the other hand refers to how reliably you hit the same spot. You can be precise while not accurate. If I group all my shots far off the target I was not accurate, but I was precise. Accuracy and precision are different concepts, but having precision makes finding accuracy a lot easier.

Learning new concepts is much like marksmanship. In marksmanship we measure our success based on our group size and closeness to the target. When we have a precise group, we can adjust the sights to get accuracy. In our training on the other hand, it is a little harder to adjust. How does a student go from doing something precisely wrong to performance that is both precise and accurate? This is where precision in training language gives us an advantage. Precise language means we are better able to understand exactly what the student is talking about. When you understand where the students mind is going, it is much easier to correct them.

Inherent Meaning and Connotation

Another reason precise training language matters is that in most subjects words are carefully selected for their underlying connotation. Different words with the same meaning can carry different connotations, and ultimately the words we choose can help or hurt what we are trying to teach.

To use a simple marksmanship example, we can talk about slings. When you use a sling to improve your shooting with a rifle you can make the sling “tight” or you can make it “snug.” Both words convey the same basic meaning, but snug implies something different than tight. When someone hears that their sling should be “tight,” they are more likely to take this to an extreme that contorts their position and defeats the purpose of the lesson. “Snug” has a slightly different connotation that often results in more accurate employment of the sling. In this way, choosing one word over the other can make a big difference in the message conveyed.

Training is a complex world where many concepts overlap, and sometimes even contradict each other. When everyone uses precise and consistent language to describe things it helps prevent confusion.

Ease of Communication

If you look at flying, you will notice that a standard language is used: English. Standardization simplifies communication. Imagine putting 20 pilots and air traffic controllers into a room. If they all speak different languages you might get them to understand each other eventually, but it definitely slows down the process.

A similar concept applies in training. If you take only students who already speak English, and have them all use different terminology (training language) for everything, you will certainly slow down the flow of ideas. Where the flow hasn’t slowed, you’ll probably find assumptions and inaccuracies. You see this all the time in many martial arts systems where commands and techniques are always referred to in the language of the system’s origin. In my karate class for example, I always use the Japanese commands and terminology because it is the universal language of the system I teach.

Training language without precision on all sides of the discussion loses its value very quickly. If we aren’t going to refer to things by certain names, and use those names all of the time, we might as well not use names for anything. Precision in training language, on the other hand, accelerates learning. For those that instruct, remember that the words you use matter. Likewise, students should pay careful attention to the language used when receiving instruction, and make sure to implement the same terminology in your discussions with peers.

How do you use training language?

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