In recent years, international business activities have increased significantly. Consequently, lawyers who worked in well-established national structure face international clients, process agreements and disputes involving companies located in various parts of the world, with different systems and traditions. For practical reasons, much of the international legal practice is in English, and most of the legal documents are written in English, or in English and other languages. This means that lawyers around the world need to learn the basics of legal English. In addition, they have to learn the language of legal documents that is complex because of specialized vocabulary, the use of archaic conventional formulas and complicated syntax. Thus, English becomes the main element of legal training at the educational and professional levels. Recently, most European universities have introduced courses in English for special purposes, such as legal English, in order to meet modern requirements and challenges.
Teaching legal English is associated with two problems. The first one is related to the peculiarities of the vocabulary and the structure of the sentence, the second involves studying the differences between the national legal system and other systems. Some cultural differences may require different approaches to teaching methodology to non-native speakers. According to the curriculum, the goal of teaching legal English is to prepare students for legal practice and study terminology.
Legal English, both in oral and written form, includes specialized terminology, which creates difficulties not only for native speakers, but also for foreign users. Legal English includes Latin vocabulary, French and Anglo-Saxon words and phrases, professional jargon and formal expressions, and thus presents sufficient complexity for language and law learners. The goal of training students in professional legal English is to master specific skills that they can use in the professional field. Also, students should learn how to draft legal documents. Due to its specificity, legal terminology should be studied in a specific legal context.
Being a teacher-not a native speaker of English, and even more of legal English, one must admit that the most laborious is the activity on the preparation and analysis of terminology. Each time you have to deal with complex topics, the teacher has to analyze not just a term but a whole vocabulary layer associated with a particular field of law, which entails studying the very conceptual material on the topic. It should be noted that most teaching materials and resources are based on authentic texts referring to the UK or the US legal system, in which students are hardly experts.
As noted by Badea E., the legal course of English in Romanian law schools is mainly intended for native English speakers, such as Introduction to Legal English or Professional English in Use . Great emphasis is put on cultural differences between the culture of foreign students and the corresponding legal culture, so the teacher should be well aware of these features and try to provide cross-cultural comparisons. It is assumed that a good teacher of legal English must have the necessary qualifications and experience in teaching English for special purposes and enough knowledge about the relevant legal entities. This approach is used in English-speaking educational systems. So, not being native speakers of English, teachers should find the most suitable approach to facilitate the mastery of the language and the students' understanding of legal concepts.
The most important thing for a teacher is to help students improve their vocabulary and terminology and cultural awareness through a wide range of approaches and methods. Based on the context of legal English and English for special purposes, it should be noted that the goal of the training is to use the vocabulary in practice from students in their field of knowledge, and since we are teachers who are not experts in these fields, it is necessary to encourage students to work independently on those issues, which are related to their subject matter. This work may include the calculation and method of information collection, assignments in the form of written projects that students must verbally present under the guidance of their teacher. For this purpose, a book written by Catherine Mason and Rosemary Atkins “The lawyer’s English language coursebook” is advisable to be used during the lessons with explanation of necessary terminology high range of exercises to practice.
There are some language skills and cultural characteristics that cannot be ignored, especially when we are dealing with legal English. Just as the law is considered extremely precise and concise, legal principles should be integrated and interpreted in accordance with a particular legal system.
Based on the assumption that legal principles cannot be explained to non-native speakers directly in English, in order to avoid the aforementioned problems, we must rely on alternative methods. Teachers must manage the existing knowledge, creating a solid foundation for learning the language and directing students to work autonomously to create a link between the purpose of the language learning program and pedagogical methods. Legal English resources are designed to update four types of language skills, adapt activities, and to match the socio-cultural real life situations. Thus, content and methods should be carefully adapted so that students can apply their legal English skills in their field.
Problem-oriented activities allow students to demonstrate skills and knowledge orally and in writing, such as, for example, conferences or international court sessions. They should also be able to deal with special texts, for example, treaties, directives, regulations or any other type of legal documents. These activities should be supported by traditional methods to create the basis and vocabulary for the further development of the language. This part of the vocabulary, which covers the legal terminology, should be mastered both in the classroom and in the self-preparation of projects.
Most students are not familiar with the legal system of English-speaking countries, so any course of legal English should begin with introductory texts on the history of English law and the differences between the codified system used in Western Europe and Latin America and common law in English-speaking countries. Preparation of speeches, writing essays and preparing projects require extreme control over the language, which combines written and language skills with the ability to formulate and develop the idea using special terminology.
Legal English certainly has its own characteristics that distinguish it from general English or other forms of ESP, while the goal of all language learning activities is to create conditions in which students can meet the training requirements of the curriculum and real living conditions.
- Badea Elena Codruta. Teaching Legal English as a Second Language // Second International Conference on Teaching English for Specific Purposes and New Language Learning Technologies/ University of Serbia. — 2015.
- Walker, D. M. The Scottish Legal System. An introduction to the Study of Scots. / Walker, D.M.. — Edinburgh: W.Green/Sweet & Maxwell, 2001.