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Active Legal English Skills

You read all documentation in English, wrote the English emails and now suddenly face-to-face, you’re mumbling as words evade you. Racing through short term memory for exact jargon, the Dutch version dominates and you succumb to internal pressure. Unexplainably, your thought screen is now broadcasting even the French or German term! Don’t worry, it happens to us all and it is is not a memory problem.

Feeling confident speaking English

Producing spontaneous technical speech on the spot demands prior practice. Hopefully in a safe environment, among colleagues not with the client in a debut meeting. Experience really is your best teacher. Once you have stumbled a few times in a training setting, errors or speech lapses become par for the course. Meaning, future potential errors in a real time business setting won’t affect your feeling comfortable when conversing, purely because, you’ve been there, experienced it and know how to cope. Eventually, this translates into fewer errors as confidence is no longer an issue.

Speaking and writing are active skills unlike reading and listening. However, in writing, there is always time to craft your concept whereas time disappears in face-to-face client driven interaction. Under the spotlight, pressure to perform might rob you of finding those passively well known language items when it matters most and that is what affects confidence.

Legal English group classes

Sparring with colleagues over familiar field literature, common deals or complex cases, permits errors thus providing a safe arena for essential practice. You’re el Matador in the ring without the bull. Colleagues’ feedback and a native speaker’s ad hoc improvements will advise you on any gaps where you falter. Practicing presentation skills in a kind environment and stepping outside your comfort zone to attempt new language items, lends a hand to confidence building plus an overall upgrade to your Legal English speaking skills.

Multi-cultural working environments

The Dutch and Scandinavians are known to be excellent in English compared to many other European nations. The Dutch are exposed to English at a young age, while Scandinavian languages have similar diplomatic constructions, assisting them in politically correct English. Although, I would call the latter understanding English culture. Simply put, using “well” or “actually” instead of an ingrained direct “no”.

Multi-cultural work floors are common in a global market economy, with company subsidiaries spread worldwide. Cross cultural interactions are rewarding and educational even with the few drawbacks. Namely, the difficulty for non-native speakers of English to recognise imported errors from other languages. Errors which, if heard repeatedly on the work floor, are often absorbed unconsciously. If you find yourself overusing or underusing articles, “a” or “the” you could be working with Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Russian or Turkish professionals. Their mother tongues do not contain articles. Or if you are using “Jurisprudence” for Case law, you might be any continental nationality but not British or American. Furthermore, is it By-laws or Articles of Association? Let me leave that for another blog…



Robyn Goodman
I am an ex-Zimbabwean, ex-South African, now Dutch national who has lived two years in Thailand and half a year in both London and Zurich. I've been working for Language Partners since 2004 and I am a Legal and Business English trainer who coaches professionals in their field of expertise.

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