As a Language Partners trainer specialising in legal English, my usual assignments consist of being sent to large city law firms, often to refresh the English of their trainee lawyers and to introduce them to the particular (and sometimes peculiar) vocabulary of the world of law. So imagine my surprise when I was offered the opportunity to give two workshops to the lawyers at TU Delft. The first reaction of my 13-year-old son was ‘Cool, Mum! Are you going to teach them about the Hyperloop?’ ‘Err… no…’ But a good question, what was I going to teach them?
Where to start?
Where to start with designing a workshop? Well, the place that I always start is by trying to envision what my course participants actually do and what they need their English for. TU Delft… In-house counsel… Contract managers… OK, so just like my city trainees, they will want vocabulary and phrases in relation to drafting contracts, checking contracts and explaining contracts, although their ‘clients’ will be slightly different – not managers and directors of companies, but professors and inventors! So, this leads me on another train of thought… These lawyers are really focussed on intellectual property. Inventions need protecting. And all these professors and inventors need to be ‘hired and fired’ (well, hopefully not fired, but at some point, their contract will either be terminated or will terminate at the end of a fixed-term contract), so employment law should also feature in my plan.
The Dutch disease
With this as the legal basis for my plan, I also needed to throw in some grammar… The ‘Dutch disease’ would need addressing – using the present continuous far too frequently (I named it the ‘Dutch disease’ as it seems to be a highly contagious problem in the Netherlands). Some skills-based topics were also required – formal letter writing (sorting out the ‘Yours faithfully’ from the ‘best regards’), giving advice (useful phrases), and negotiating skills (which leads to a role-play situation allowing my participants to show their competitive streaks!)
PowerPoint prepared! I was ready. Two half-day workshops for two groups: one for the ‘juristen’ (legal counsel) and another for the contract managers. I really enjoyed my four mornings at TU Delft. The course participants were great – full of enthusiasm and really difficult questions (just the way I like them). TU Delft is a fantastic campus – you can almost feel the energy of young minds and innovation.
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