Can’t understand a word your co-workers are saying? With these five strategies, you’ll be speaking their language in no time.

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Whether you’re interviewing for a job or onboarding at a company as a contractor, it’s a savvy move to bone up on your “bizspeak,” the specific business jargon of your industry or company. You need to talk their talk, which, let’s be honest, can often sound like a foreign language, especially in the tech field.

I know from first-hand experience. I accepted a part-time contract position supporting an internal communications team at a large tech company. Translation: I was writing a department newsletter. During the early days, I thought I was in outer space, what with all the acronyms and unfamiliar terms whizzing through the hallways. I was flying blind.

Don’t let this happen to you. Instead, let’s do a deep dive on communicating effectively with your colleagues. Think of these tips as your bizspeak best practices.

Seek out a translator. Many companies offer onboarding resources that can help you learn the lingo. For example, Microsoft offers a glossary on their internal-facing site so newbies can quickly skill up.

Poke around on your company’s site. Absorb as much as you can — the company’s mission statement, PowerPoint decks, and videos of company-wide meetings can help you assimilate into the company culture.

Get your hands on an org chart. During my consulting gig, my department had its own vernacular and acronyms, much of it surrounding its leadership team (or LT). Even though my team was trying to go paperless, I printed out a department org chart and then went further, studying the entire company’s organization. Understanding how the company is structured will provide clues and context during conversations and presentations.

Ask questions. The sooner the better. Training is often nonexistent for contractors and the best way to get up to speed is to ask questions from the get-go, when you have the attention and patience of your manager and team members. They mean well, but longtime employees don’t even realize that what they’re saying sounds like Klingon to the rest of us.

Jump into the mix. Go to company mixers, happy hours and industry networking events. If you’re not confident of your new language skills, listen. Like a foreign language, immersion is advisable. You’ll get crisp around your messaging in no time.

Never be afraid to ask for clarification. Your manager and co-workers are there to help you. After all, the quicker you’re up to speed, the quicker they can turn their attention to the million other things they have to complete before MYR (i.e., midyear review).

Jennifer Worick is a veteran freelancer/contractor, publishing consultant and New York Times bestselling author. Email her at