“What prompted you to combine Law and English as a Second Language?”
“What connections do you see between writing for lawyers, linguistics, English as a Second Language, and the plain language movement? How do you see these fields working together to promote clarity and equity?”
“How can other lawyers help clients who speak English as a second language? What should lawyers know about ESL processing that would help them better serve clients?”
“How can professors help students who speak English as a second language?”
Below are some quotes from the interview:
“In Japan I encountered so many situations and behaviors that felt uncomfortable and at times even irrational. I learned to stop myself and consider the possibility that it actually was rational if you’re working from a different set of assumptions. And I learned to question and evaluate my own assumptions about how things should work before I fell back on a judgmental view or comment. It’s led me to a passionate curiosity for trying to understand why people do things they do.”
“The plain English movement is a reaction to a sense that the writing of lawyers and judges had become unnecessarily complicated and was acting as a barrier to access to justice. Although not stated explicitly, the plain English movement seems to me to assume native English speakers as its primary users and consumers. Legal English, on the other hand, is a catch-all term relating to the approach and curriculum for helping lawyers and law students from other language backgrounds study or work with US (or UK, Canadian, Australian, etc.) law or contracts in English.”
“The primary overlap [between Plain English and Legal English] is probably with regard to input. In the case of plain English, if you simplify language and use fewer words, then there is less information to process, both in volume and complexity. That should work to the benefit of non-native English speakers. In other words, using plain English makes a text closer to the idea of “comprehensible input.” Of course, it’s also possible that even a text that meets plain English standards could still be challenging for a non-native English speaker to understand for a variety of reasons, including vocabulary, grammar, and cultural knowledge gaps. And of course among non-native English speakers, there will also always be a wide range of facility with English.”
“However, it seems to me that plain English and legal English begin to diverge regarding output. This is because plain English can often be conveyed as a series of prescriptivist rules and principles for how to use and not use language. Whereas in legal English, the priority is generally learning to communicate one’s ideas accurately, with style a little lower down the priority list depending on the student. From a legal English teaching perspective, we want the students to learn to feel confident in expressing their ideas.”
The September 2023 issue of AL Forum (the applied linguistics newsletter for TESOL) is out, thanks in part to contributions from several members of the Georgetown Law faculty. And the theme is language, teaching, and generative AI.
Co-edited by Georgetown Legal English ProfessorHeather Weger and George Washington Teaching Associate Professor Natalia Dolgova, it leads with a letter from the editors and includes two articles by Georgetown Law colleagues.
“In this issue, you will find leadership updates summarizing past and future ALIS activities, and this issue provides a closer look at how educators are grappling with the impact of generative artificial intelligence (AI) technology, such as ChatGPT, on our field.”
“A detailed case study of his experimental use of ChatGPT to design teaching materials for a vocabulary course, [including] examples of how to prompt ChatGPT to generate materials (e.g., quizzes and practice activities.)”
Summer 2023 was packed with legal English endeavors! A highlight was meeting up with LL.M. and J.D. alumni during a visit to South Korea, generously hosted by Law Center alumnus, Chairman Seung-Hoon Lee .
The opportunity to connect with our multilingual community in a global setting affirms the legacy of the Georgetown experience. I was delighted to share insights about our Two-Year LL.M. program with these colleagues and welcome two of our incoming students.
Back in the U.S., I’ve been excitedly working on the release of the next issue of AL Forum, the Applied Linguistic Newsletter for TESOL, a publication I co-edit with Dr. Natalia Dolgova. This issue will explore the impacts of artificial intelligence (AI), such as the emergent use of ChatGPT, on educational practices; it includes articles from Georgetown colleagues Professor Stephen Horowitz and Technology Specialist Ellery Boatright.
Research also found a way into the summer! Professor Julie Lake and I are collaborating on upcoming conference presentations and publications that focus on integrating asset-based pedagogical practices into Legal English education. As this busy summer wraps up, I look forward to an even busier school year!
Professor Lake had a wonderful summer traveling around the U.S. with her husband and daughter. She spent a week at Cape May, NJ at the beach, a week in Chapel Hill, NC, and a week in Philadelphia, PA.
During her summer she made progress on her personal “language-based” summer project to learn Spanish. Language learning is a lifetime journey!
Professor Lake also spent time working with Professor Weger to revise the language-focused curriculum for Fundamentals of Legal Writing for the 2023-2024 academic year. In Fall 2023, incoming Two-Year students will learn how to use language-based strategies to craft a high-quality memo (i.e., a lawyer-to-lawyer document). In Spring 2024, incoming Two-Year students will learn about the scholarly writing genre and how to write a high-quality mini-scholarly legal research paper.
And finally, Professor Lake enjoyed researching productive ways to use ChatGPT as a learning tool for law and linguistic students.
Professor Dundon began his summer by presenting at the Sixth International Language & Law Conference at the University of Bialystok Faculty of Law in Bialystok, Poland in June (see prior post).
He then taught a summer class, Introduction to U.S. Contract Drafting and Interpretation at IE University Law School in Madrid, Spain, where he has taught for the past three summers.
In July, Professor Dundon presented a paper, When multilingual litigants encounter monolingual ideologies in U.S. judicial opinions, at the Twelfth Bonn Applied Linguistics Conference in Bonn, Germany; he’s been invited back to Bonn to appear as a discussant in a conference focused on legal discourse, taking place in September (more on that in a future post).
He also traveled in Morocco, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan with family, before returning to Georgetown to teach U.S. Legal Research, Analysis, and Writing as part of the LL.M. Summer Experience program.
Professor Yi Song taught two courses during the Summer Experience – “Foundations for American Law” (co-teaching with Professor Michael Cedrone) and her summer stable, “U.S. Legal Research, Analysis and Writing.”
She’s especially proud of being responsible for the idea of the group assignment for the Foundations class.
In July 2023, 102 international lawyers from around the world walked into McDonough 203 as strangers.
They were asked to form 10 groups to present before class “What I have learned from the Foundations so far.”
In the subsequent 10 days, we saw history reenacted as Marbury v. Madison came alive.
Like most historic events, it all began with a fateful night at the bar.
The foundations of the American legal system were reimagined in the multiverse with the prompt “what if the Founding Fathers were_____?”
An uncanny Professor Cedrone Impersonator? A jury trial, where a top international model found herself in the midst of legal dramas? A tort case that occurred on the premises of Georgetown Law, inspired by the Office-style-behind-the-scene footage?
When Dean Treanor came in one morning for a surprise visit, Prof. Song regretted that she forgot to take a group class selfie with him. But the one she got with Professor Cedrone still came out pretty good.
Master of Laws Interviews Project has come to the classroom this summer. Season 2 is being recorded now. Stay tuned for the Fascinating journeys such as how a lawyer got hired and became the first shareholder with international background in a firm’s 137 year history; How a former star student from legal research and writing class successfully turned her externship into the international associate position at BigLaw. And more!
I was an invited keynote speaker for this conference in Costa Rica (at a branch campus of my MA alma mater, la Universidad Nacional) on August 17 & 18. I gave two presentations (#1 and #2 below) and the closing plenary (#3).
1. “Advancing Listening and Speaking Skills in English for Specific Purposes (ESP) Classrooms”
2. “In Your Voice and In Your Shoes: Experiencing Sanaz Toossi’s Pulitzer-prize-winning play “English”
3. “What’s all the chatter about? Writing educators’ pedagogical responses to generative artificial intelligence (AI) products like ChatGPT-3.5”
I presented at the Global Legal Skills Conference at Nottingham Law School at Nottingham Trent University, England (July 30-Aug 1, 2023). My presentation was titled “Addressing international law students’ pronunciation needs: Best-practices informed by linguistics research and pedagogy.”
Although professors notice issues in their international students’ speech, they may not feel equipped to address them. This presentation will cover four research-based, best practices for teaching second language (L2) pronunciation: orienting towards intelligibility, creating task-based lessons, increasing talk-time, and giving feedback.
Many L2 speakers express a desire to “eliminate their accents”, however, accents carry valuable information of our diverse identities and experiences. Teachers can instead help students reorient towards the crucial feature of communication called intelligibility, which asks if the listener received the message the speaker intended to convey. Oral skills can then be addressed through task-based teaching, which focuses on tasks students face (e.g., oral case briefs, negotiations) and guides them through the language necessary to complete them. Third, increasing the amount of productive (versus receptive) interactions in the target language will help students to see progress more rapidly. One suggestion is assigning a video reflection after observing courtroom proceedings. Finally, explicit pronunciation feedback can be a salient tool for progress. Feedback can focus on unintelligible speech, articulation of a sound, and spoken grammar.
These four approaches can be applied in any classroom around the world. Digital access to all teaching materials will be provided.
A fun tidbit about the city was that it is the birth place of the Robin Hood lore, and there is actually a real Sheriff of Nottingham position (from what I learned, it’s apparently similar to Mayor).
The current Sheriff is the first Asian woman to hold the position, and we learned from her that all the city buses and trams are electric vehicles too.
GLS was a great small conference, and next year it will be in Bari, Italy!
*Collaborated with a USAID Ukrainian representative to establish online legal English training programs for Ukrainian law faculty starting in Fall 2023. The effort has involved identifying interested US legal English instructors and matching their areas of expertise with the interests of Ukrainian law faculty.
*Set up assessments (pro bono) for female judges from Afghanistan preparing to enter LLM programs at US law schools. The project, which involved collaboration with Prof. Daniel Edelson (Seton Hall/USLawEssentials.com) and Prof. Lindsey Kurtz (Penn State Law), was at the request of an ABA initiative working to mentor and support female Afghan judges.
*Taught a 4-week online Bar Exam Essay Writing for LLM Students course during May/June, in collaboration with Prof. Daniel Edelson. The mission (and experiment) was to make the course accessible to any LLM or non-native English speaking law student, regardless of ability to pay, and it worked well. A second section of the course had to be created to accommodate excessive demand.
*Wrote a soon-to-be published article abou for AL Forum, the Applied Linguistic Newsletter for TESOL, about using ChatGPT to create tax vocabulary practice activities.
*Invited to guest lecture (via Zoom) for a legal English course at Keio University in Tokyo, Japan during the fall 2023 semester.
*Had the opportunity to meet visiting scholar Professor Anna Yan, who teaches law at National Chengchi University in Taiwan and show her the new Legal English faculty offices in McDonough 477.
*Sadly was unable to attend the Global Legal Skills Conference in Nottingham, UK, July 30-Aug 1, which some attendees have shared was really fantastic. But hoping to attend the 2024 GLS Conference in Barri, Italy.
*Fortunate to have had a family vacation in July in a small town (Puerto Morelos) on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, which was a very positive linguistic experience and first time out of the US for my children.
Prof. Dundon gave a presentation titled Approaching Legal English through Transactional Law, which summarized the way that his current class on Contract Drafting at Georgetown Law combines substantive instruction about contract drafting with practice in a number of legal English skills (e.g., adapting language from precedent contracts, explaining contractual changes in ordinary English, and writing professional emails). He walked the audience through his syllabus, course materials, and one of the units from the course.
Questions afterwards related to ways that the course could be adapted to classes in programs that are not overtly US-law focused, as well as different ways to combine expertise from both lawyers and linguists in a single classroom.
Other presentations at the conference related to legal English instruction in a variety of educational and institutional contexts, legal translation, the Plain English movement, and the work of multilingual lawyers in Europe.
Overall it was a fascinating conference, and Prof. Dundon felt very lucky to attend.
Professor Lake will spend the summer working with Professor Heather Weger to revise the language-focused curriculum for Fundamentals of Legal Writing for the 2023-2024 academic year. In Fall 2023, incoming Two-Year students will learn how to use language-based strategies to craft a high-quality memo (i.e., a lawyer-to-lawyer document). In Spring 2024,incoming Two-Year students will learn about the scholarly writing genre and how to write a high-quality mini-scholarly legal research paper. She will also research productive ways to use ChatGPT as a learning tool for law and linguistic students.
When she is not working, she will be traveling, hiking, and camping with her family. Her personal “language-based” summer project is to begin learning how to speak Spanish in preparation for her daughter’s new two-way Spanish-English immersion school.
Professor Weger is excited to be traveling to South Korea this summer! On July 5, she will speak at an alumni event generously hosted by Mr. Seung-Hoon Lee, Chairman of Lee International IP & Law Group, Board Member of ALAAB, and alumnus of Georgetown Law Center and Seoul National University.
Prof. Weger is looking forward to making connections with the international community that Georgetown embraces and providing updates on the Law Center, including a focus on the innovative and impactful Two-Year LL.M. Program.
Received a grant from the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) for his proposal (with Prof. Daniel Edelson of Seton Hall Law) to create a self-guided online legal writing course that would make legal writing instruction easily available to students in Ukraine and anywhere else in the world at no cost and on their own schedule.
The presentation discussed the role of analogy in US legal writing and argumentation within the US common law legal system. And then it focused on the language patterns and parts of language used in 1) comparison and contrast, and 2) categorization.
Yesterday, Day 1 of the annual International Legal Education Abroad and LLM Administrators’ Conference hosted by American University Washington College of Law, Georgetown Law was represented on three different panels.
1. Craig Hoffman, founder of Georgetown Law’s 2-Year LLM Program (the first such program to exist), participated in a panel discussion titled “The Emergence of the Two-Year LLM: A Promising Alternative for Non-JD Law Programs” together with Ashley Sim (USC), Gabrielle Goodwin (Indiana University), and Rebecca Pendleton (Boston University.) The discussion, moderated by Prof. Pendleton, addressed the benefits and challenges of 2-Year LLM programs as well as changes over time.
2. Andrea Rodriguez Escobedo, Director of LLM Programs at Georgetown Law, presented on “Higher bar passage rate to attract more LL.M candidates: How can Law Schools help LL.M students pass a bar examination in the US?” A former Columbia LLM student herself, Andrea shared her and others’ research on LLM bar success and delved into the possible causes as well as potential solutions for support.
In particular, we focused on an approach we’ve been using called the “interactive textbook” model, which is a term we created to capture the feel of an asynchronous course that is set up sequentially and can be used as a self-guided course, but can also just as easily function as the text for an instructor-led course.
Yi Song, the Executive Director for Graduate and International Programs and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown Law, is the founder of the Master of Laws Interviews Project. The project provides curated insights to help internationally trained lawyers to establish and develop their U.S. legal careers.
Yi Song, the Executive Director for Graduate and International Programs and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown Law, has launched the Master of Laws Interviews Project. The project provides curated insights to help internationally trained lawyers to establish and develop their U.S. legal careers.
Professor Song first came to the U.S. in 2007 as an exchange student at Georgetown University. She received her first law degree from Beijing Foreign Studies University in China and her Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree from Georgetown Law. While studying for the New York Bar Exam and looking for jobs in the U.S., she found little information on how multilingual and internationally trained lawyers can build a career in the U.S.
Georgetown Law and its Two-Year LLM Program students are fortunate to have Applied Linguistics expert Prof. Heather Weger on the faculty to help multilingual law students with their writing skills.
This week Prof. Weger, who holds a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics, held a Grammar- Focused Workshop to introduce students to specific strategies to improve their self-editing skills. Self-editing is a notoriously difficult skill to develop, and students benefit from tailored support and direct practice. In Prof. Weger’s words, “My goal is to help students engage with their language choices so that they can express their thoughts and personality with clarity and confidence.”
The workshop had two components: (1) A hands-on review activity to review strategies to correct clause-level errors and write more concisely and (2) a Grammar Review Workbook with several self-diagnostic and self-study activities The workbook, created by Prof. Weger, was designed with input from the Legal English team and tailored for students in the Two-Year LL.M. program.