Mistakes and Oral Communication in Legal English

Prof. Paula Klammer
  • The below was initially posted by Prof. Paula Klammer on LinkedIn. Re-posted here by Prof. Stephen Horowitz with permission.
  • Prof. Klammer is a Legal English Lecturer & Research Fellow at Georgetown Law. Currently earning her Ph.D. in Law from Universidad de Palermo in Argentina, Paula is an experienced lawyer and translator and is bilingual in Spanish and English.

In legal English (and in life), mistakes are good.   

Educators often talk about what and how we teach our students. But in my last semester as a Legal English Fellow at Georgetown, I want to share what I’m learning from the two colleagues who have taken me under their wings.  

The number one pain point of many legal English learners is their lack of confidence in their oral communication skills….. They’re afraid that communication mistakes will be interpreted as if they don’t know what they are talking about (law-wise) or that people will think they are not good lawyers.

This week’s most valuable lesson can be summed up like this: it’s good to make mistakes.    Here’s a little context:    In Prof. Julie Lake’s Oral Communication in the Law class which is part of Georgetown’s Two-Year LLM Program, students were given prompts to practice their oral communication skills. The class is designed to start students off within their comfort zones and help build up their confidence as legal English speakers.   

Prof. Julie Lake

The number one pain point of many legal English learners is their lack of confidence in their oral communication skills. Like their English-speaking colleagues, non-native English speakers are highly intelligent and well-versed in their legal systems. They want nothing more than to display their exceptional lawyering skills in English, but they often doubt their ability to communicate effectively. They’re afraid that communication mistakes will be interpreted as if they don’t know what they are talking about (law-wise) or that people will think they are not good lawyers.

This is a legitimate fear. Nobody wants to be embarrassed, especially not when practicing law.     That’s why oral communication training is not just about getting students to speak English, but to do so in a way that builds up their confidence. Students know a lot more than they realize and they are often much better at communicating in English than they think.   

So Prof. Lake gives students prompts that are personalized to each individual and serve as both a diving board for them to start speaking, and also as an ice-breaker for them to get to know each other and to build a sense of community. Ultimately, the underlying feeling at the end of each of Prof. Lake’s classes is that we are all in this together, and this is a safe space for students to speak English, make mistakes, and learn.   

Mistakes are welcome and should be embraced. Mistakes are learning opportunities. And making mistakes in English doesn’t reflect poorly on learners as lawyers. Mistakes are, according to Prof. Lake, when learning happens.    So my favorite takeaway this week is to welcome mistakes. 

❤️

 #legalenglish #englishlearning #englishcommunication

Click here to see previous Georgetown Legal English Blog posts about Prof. Paula Klammer.

The (mis-)use of “Besides,…..”

Post by Stephen Horowitz, Professor of Legal English

I have nothing personal against the conjunctive adverbBesides,….”

However, I’ve frequently noticed that “Besides,…..” is used by some foreign-trained LLM students in lieu of connecting phrases such as “Additionally,….” or “Furthermore,…..” And the students don’t realize that “Besides” has a different feeling and nuance, and is not an equal substitute for other connecting words used to signal that the sentence is adding information related to the previous sentence.

For example:

(Ex. 1) “The US Constitution granted the federal government with certain enumerated powers, while the state governments were granted residual powers. Besides, the federal government and the state governments share some common powers as well.”

(Ex. 2) “In this case, Jason was in his home with two officers sitting across from him at the kitchen table, and the officers’ car’s police lights were flashing for all to see. Besides, Jason’s mother was marking making breakfast in kitchen, which means his mother leave left Jason alone to talk with the officers.”

As a result, I find myself frequently providing corrective written feedback along the following lines:

“Besides,….” is not the connecting word you should use here. A better word would be “Additionally,…” or “Furthermore,…..”

Although we do use “besides” to communicate to the reader that we are adding more information, “besides” also feels less neutral and more informal than a word like “additionally.” It feels kind of pushy, like trying to persuade the other person by appealing to the their sense of personal connection to you.

For example, “Come on, let’s go see the movie tonight. It’s Friday night and you’re assignment isn’t due for a week. Besides, all of our friends are going to be there.”

In the above sentence, “Besides” works well in communicating the intent to persuade. It’s appropriate between friends when one friend is trying to push the other friend into changing their mind. But this informal, pushy feeling undermines your credibility in legal writing when your intention is just to add more information, e.g., one more reason or example, and let the example itself help with the persuading.

In other words, “besides” is saying more to your reader than you probably intend to say. For these reasons, I suggest using “Additionally” or “Furthermore” (among other options) as a connecting phrase in your legal writing rather than using “Besides,….”

I find myself writing this kind of comment so frequently, in fact, that I finally decided it would be more time effective to just write a blog post about it so that I can always share with my students in the future. Besides Additionally, now other legal English and legal writing instructors can use this as well, if it helps make their work a little easier.

In the meantime, if anyone ever figures out what English language textbook or publisher keeps teaching “besides” as an exact synonym for “additionally,” please let me know so I can lead an effort to try and address the problem at the source.

***********************

Bonus: This language (mis-)use example reminds me of when I taught English in a middle school in Japan years ago. From my well-meaning supervisors I would occasionally hear statements like, “You had better sit down now.” Or, “You had better eat the food now.” Each time I wondered why they were threatening me, even though a threat seemed unnecessary in the situation. But then I realized their English classes must have taught them that the phrase “(you) had better” is a synonym for “should.” And it is. Sometimes. But sometimes it can also sound like an organized crime family member making a veiled threat. Thereafter, I told myself, “You had better get to the source of that misinformation before leaving Japan.” But alas, I never did.

Oh well, in both instances it could be a lot worse. Besides, at least it gives me something fun to write about!

Dissents, LLM students and learning to read cases

Post by Stephen Horowitz, Professor of Legal English

One of the challenges for many foreign-trained LLM students studying at a US law school, especially if they come from a civil law legal culture rather than a common law legal culture, is getting their brains to buy into the notion that the words and language and arguments that they read in a court opinion have weight. That statutes and statutory language is not the final say in a legal argument, but actually just a first step followed by a search for and review of case law that interprets various parts of a statute.

Click to see the full article.

A subsequent and related challenge for many foreign-trained LLM students (as well as for US-trained JD students) is then training their brains to also understand that, even though what a judge writes in a court opinion may constitute law (at the time and in the jurisdiction of that particular case), it is not infallible and may have major flaws in its arguments. And this is even more so in law school in the US where the goal of study is often not just about determining what the law is, but thinking about what it could or should be. And training one’s brain to analyze arguments in order to be able to construct effective arguments in the future.

In that vein, I recently came across an article about the role of dissenting opinions that may be helpful for foreign-trained LLM students trying to wrap their brain around the US common law legal system. (Or legal English professors trying to help them get there.) Because from the perspective of one trained in a civil law legal system, a dissenting opinion may seem rather extraneous.

Prof. Sherri Lee Keene, Georgetown Law

The article, “Teaching Dissents” (Minnesota Law Review, July 7, 2023) by Prof. Sherri Lee Keene of Georgetown Law, is intended to help law students better understand the significance of dissenting opinions.

The abstract of Prof. Keene’s article notes that, “Court opinions are often written to sound authoritative and sure, making legal decisions seem purely logical and channeling a tone of inevitability…… In contrast to the voice of the majority, which often seeks to draw attention away from conflicts, dissents can show where choices were made in the decision-making process, and where others could have been made.”

Prof. Keene highlights the notion that teaching and studying dissenting opinions is a great way for students to learn to be critical readers and “identify spaces where they can challenge existing precedent and advocate for positive change.”

And from a legal English perspective, I appreciate that Prof. Keene has provided those of us who work with foreign-trained LLM students a very useful tool for helping our students to more deeply understand and get comfortable with the concept the US common law legal system and its culture.

Below is the full abstract and a link to the article:

Continue reading “Dissents, LLM students and learning to read cases”

Updates from the Georgetown Legal English Faculty (September 2023)

Post by Stephen Horowitz, Professor of Legal English

Here’s what the Georgetown Legal English faculty have been up to over the summer….

Craig Hoffman 

Professor Hoffman gave a talk at the U.S. Supreme Court in early August.  He was invited by the Association of the Reporters of Judicial Decisions, whose annual meeting was held at the Supreme Court.  He was asked to speak about Language and Law and specifically about his paper,  Parse the Sentence First: Curbing the Urge to Resort to the Dictionary When Interpreting Legal Texts.   (Additionally, he also managed to get the New York Reporter of Decisions to send him an opinion from a New York trial court that the Georgetown Law librarians had been seeking!)   

Heather Weger

Prof. Weger with Georgetown Law alumni in front of Deoksugung Palace

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!

Julie Lake 

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.

John Dundon

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 Dundon ended the summer with a presentation at Georgetown Law’s faculty summer research workshop, where he spoke about his paper “A shifting precipice of unsettled law?”: A survey of how U.S. courts treat expert testimony using forensic stylistics, which was published this month in the International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law.

Yi Song

Prof. Yi Song takes a selfie with Prof. Michael Cedrone and their Georgetown Summer Experience “Foundations for American Law” class.

1. Summer Teaching

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.

2. Professor Song’s Master of Laws Interviews Project

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!

Michelle Ueland

Prof. Michelle Ueland (standing, far left) with fellow presenters and faculty at Universidad Nacional in Costa Rica.

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”

Mari Sakai

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.”

Abstract

  • 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.
Shuguftah Quddoos, the first Asian woman to serve as the Sheriff of Nottingham

Also,….

  • 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!

 

Stephen Horowitz

Georgetown Legal English professors John Dundon and Stephen Horowitz together with National Chengchi University law professor Anna Yan

*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.

*Released a USLawEssentials Law & Language podcast interview with Seongryol Ryan Park, a graduate of Georgetown Law’s National Security Law LLM program, who previously worked for South Korea’s Ministry of Unification and now serves as Assistant Secretary to the President for International Public Relations.

*Set up the Tax Legal English Resources page on the Georgetown Legal English Blog.

*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.

“Approaching Legal English Through Transactional Law” – Prof. Dundon presents at Language & Law Conference in Poland

Post by Stephen Horowitz, Professor of Legal English

Prof. John Terry Dundon, a member of Georgetown Law’s Legal English Faculty who teaches in the Georgetown Two-Year LLM Program, recently attended the Sixth Biennial Language and Law Conference at the University of Bialystok, Faculty of Law in Bialystok, Poland.  It was his second time at the conference (he last attended in 2019), and he had a great time reconnecting with legal English professionals from all over Europe. 

Prof. Dundon presenting at University of Bialystok

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.

Prof. Dundon in Warsaw

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.

Updates from the Georgetown Legal English Faculty (June 2023)

Post by Stephen Horowitz, Professor of Legal English

Julie Lake 

  • 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.

John Dundon

  • Presented at the Sixth International Language & Law Conference at the University of Bialystok Faculty of Law in Bialystok, Poland in June. Title: “Approaching Legal English through Transactional Law.”
  • Will be teaching “Introduction to U.S. Contract Drafting and Interpretation” at IE University Law School in Madrid, Spain in June and July.
  • Presenting at the Twelfth Bonn Applied Linguistics Conference in Bonn, Germany in July. Title: “When multilingual litigants encounter monolingual ideologies in U.S. judicial opinions.”
  • Teaching “U.S. Legal Research, Analysis & Writing” for Georgetown Law’s Summer Experience program in August.
  • Traveling in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan with my family.

Heather Weger

  • 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.

Paula Klammer

  • Continuing to work on her dissertation titled “The Semantic Rabbit Hole”
  • Preparing to teach “Advanced Scholarly Writing and Oral Communication in the Law” in the fall together with Profs. Julie Lake and Heather Weger.
  • Studying German at the Goethe Institut this summer (and loving it!).
  • Hosting Argentinian Legal Spanish expert Hairenik Aramayo for her US visit in July.
  • And she and her husband Pablo went to the Capital Wheel at National Harbor for Pablo’s birthday, and they received a photo!  

Stephen Horowitz

Master of Laws Interviews – Season 1 Finale: Asian, female, multilingual and partner, Catherine X. Pan-Giordano, Esq.

Dorsey & Whitney Partner, Corporate Group Head NY office, Chair of the U.S.-China Practice, Member of the Management Committee in New York City

Posted by Yi Song

Master of Laws Interviews Season 1 Finale – Catherine X. Pan-Giordano!

Dorsey & Whitney Partner, Corporate Group Head NY office, Chair of the U.S.-China Practice, Member of the Management Committee

Asian, female, multilingual and partner, Catherine X. Pan-Giordano, Esq. is the epitome of success that Ingrid from the hit Netflix series Partner Track aspires to achieve.

Catherine is featured in the New York Times Magazine as one of Top Women Attorneys in New York, hailed as a Rising Star. She was honored as one of the Top Women in Dealmaking by The Deal in 2023; recognized as a Foreign Expert (China) by Chambers Global for four consecutive years and in Lawyers of Color’s Power List.

Growing up in China, Catherine loved ancient Chinese detective stories and crime fiction. She has studied law in China, Sweden and the U.S. She has been the top of her class throughout her school years, except at law school in the U.S., where she admittedly learned the most. When she started her career in the U.S. as a first-year associate, she made an unusual request with the firm that hired her. What was her ask? How did she make partner in BigLaw and earn one of the seven seats at the firm’s Management Committee? What was the most important factor contributing to her success?

Subscribe to the LinkedIn weekly newsletter to receive FREE insider tips. Read Catherine’s story here.

“How to publish an academic article in the US?” by Sebastian Luengo-Troncoso


Post by Stephen Horowitz, Professor of Legal English

A great post (and new blog/website) by Sebastian Luengo-Troncoso, a Chilean lawyer and currently a doctoral (S.J.D.) candidate at Georgetown Law titled, “How to Publish an Academic Article in the US?

Sebastian, who has an Environmental and Energy Law LLM from Georgetown and previously worked for the Chilean Ministry of the Environment, asks on behalf of many international LLM students past, present, and future, “What are the essential things to consider when publishing a law academic article in the US?” And then proceeds to answer the question in very helpful ways.

As a member of The Center for Legal English at Georgetown Law, I teach our yearly workshop to graduate students entitled “From a Seminar Paper to a Publication.” Here are some key takeaways to consider:

Click here to read the full post.

Master of Laws Interviews Project Season 1: Episode 9: How to succeed in law school as an internationally trained lawyer?

Posted by Yi Song

Ophelia Kemigisha, a human rights lawyer from Uganda is known for her activist work in feminism and LGBTQ rights. Like every law student, she spends most of her time reading cases. What surprises her about the reading and writing in law school is that cases you read are so convoluted yet you are expected to write something so simple and concise. What is her biggest takeaway about reading and writing in law school?

Subscribe to the LinkedIn weekly newsletter to receive FREE insider tips. Read Ophelia’s story here.

New idea: ChatGPT and LLM interview language prep

Post by Stephen Horowitz, Professor of Legal English

“I give too much unnecessary detail when I talk about the work I’ve done.”

That was the complaint and concern of an LLM graduate who recently sought my legal English advice. He’s in the process of applying to jobs, but some native English speaking friends had told him that he doesn’t come across terribly well when he describes his past work experience.

How do you help a non-native English speaking LLM post-graduate in this situation? Is it a language issue? Or some other type of issue?

It’s probably at least in part a language issue, although when I spoke with this student, his spoken English was fairly strong. But it also may be a cultural discourse issue and perhaps even a function of the student’s own personal style as well.

Regardless, the challenge is the same: The student needs to figure out a strategy to absorb and internalize the language and discourse style of the professional community he’s trying to join. I like to think of it as learning to code switch.

My suggested solution to the student: Find examples of the kind of language you want to be able to produce. In this case, the student was looking for jobs in the field of tax law. So that meant finding recorded examples of people talking about their work as tax lawyers, ideally with a transcript or subtitles. YouTube is the obvious place to look, and videos do exist of tax lawyers talking about their work. Though it’s more about giving advice and explaining their job to people who know less about tax law than they do, which is a little bit different than an interview situation, where you’re likely talking to people who have more knowledge and expertise than you do. Interviewers also typically occupy a higher relative status than the interviewee in the context of the interview, and so the interviewee’s ideal language also likely factors in register, i.e., level of formality.

Continue reading “New idea: ChatGPT and LLM interview language prep”
css.php