Knowing the Words Is Half the Battle

Knowing the Words Is Half the Battle

Jonas Downey on Signal v. Noise:

So it’s not enough to have exposure to the outer surface of a domain. If you want to level up your understanding, you have to be willing to feel ignorant for a while and study it in depth, until you find your sea legs and pick up a handful of those all-important words. There’s no magic to it. This willingness, and a lot of practice, is all that separates the experts from the beginners.

Once you’ve learned a bit of lingo, you’ll find that the words help you ask questions. The questions help you learn how things interact. When you know how things interact, you can start understanding the system as a whole. And pretty soon, you’re an expert too.

This is the single place where I find myself frustrated when trying to learn something new. I fall into a world of new vocabulary (or known words used differently), and I get lost in the translation. Then I’m not even sure how to ask questions to clarify my understanding simply because I don’t have the words to form those questions.

This is important to know when communicating things too. It’s important to be aware when we’re using jargon or specialized words so that we can clarify what we mean. A simple example of this is when scientists talk about theories. When a scientist refers to a theory, that theory has a whole lot more weight and research behind it than when you or I have a theory about why the light isn’t working in the kitchen.


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