It is okay to ask questions!
You aren’t expected to have all of the answers or know the ‘lingo’ before you start your project, but you have to become familiar with it as your project progresses. Like anything, the more knowledgeable you are, the more successful your project will be. You don’t know what a soffit is? Interrupt your architect if he or she starts using fancy archi-words that make no sense to you (the one I hate the most is fenestration, which is a fancy word for windows, because my professors forced us to use this archi-speak in school). If you hesitate interrupting, the group will move on to the next subject before you realize that you not only don’t know what a soffit is, but you’ve missed the whole second half of the conversation trying to figure it out.
The same goes for drawings! Plans, sections, interior elevations and details are hard to read if you aren’t used to looking at them. They are flat, black and white, boring looking drawings with usually WAY too much information on them. However, these confusing pieces of paper are essentially your contract with your contractor, and it is impossible for your architect to guess what portion of the information you are absorbing and not absorbing. I am sure you are wondering, “Isn’t it the architect’s job to make sure all of the million things that I asked for are in the drawings?” Sure, in an ideal world, nothing would get missed or overlooked. However, that isn’t the information I’m most concerned about. I’m more concerned about the 3 million details that you DIDN’T ask for, or discuss, that are an inevitable part of a typical construction set (actually called ‘contract documents’… and for good reason), as it is literally impossible to walk someone through every-single-detail if you have a normal person’s budget for architectural services. What I recommend is that you take the time to look at every drawing, and if you don’t know what something is, then ASK. A successful conversation would sound something like this:
You: I don’t know what this means. Can you explain it to me?
Architect: Sure, that is the typical flashing on the fenestration.
You: What? Can you explain that in English?
Architect: Yes, that is what keeps the water from leaking in your windows.
You: Oh, I see, but I want to double check that even though you are ensuring that it is waterproof, that it will still look the way we want it to look per our meeting last week. Let me show you the photos one more time.
Architect: Well, sort of. Those images had a different type of trim that won’t match the other windows in the existing part of your house, so I changed it. I thought you were just showing me the type of window you wanted, not the trim.
You: Really? I didn’t pick up on that. Can you walk me through that…In English preferably?
Crisis averted! You don’t need to have a full understanding of every tiny detail that goes into putting a building together. You just need to take the time to review your CONTRACT documents, recognize what you don’t understand, and ASK about it. Then you use a method that you DO understand (photos, pages ripped out of magazines, notes from previous meetings, etc.) to ensure that it will still look the way you anticipated. Don’t just put your head in the sand and assume that because you don’t understand it, you should ignore it.