As you know, we are a legal English and English for law provider. On the one hand, we try to improve language skills. On the other hand, we know that English for law is unlike most other areas of English language learning. Some think of our approach to legal English as a kind of CLIL – content and language integrated learning. In other words, learning the language is combined with learning ‘content’.
We think that this method is the best way of developing strong - and useful - English for law skills. However, it does present challenges. For example, what kind of ‘content’ are we talking about?
In relation to content, our experience is that most legal English and English for law students are studying for a specific reason – they want to improve their job and career prospects. This applies to both international law students and junior lawyers working in law firms, government, business and commerce, the financial sector, or wherever. These students of English for law have understood that English is becoming an increasingly important skill to have.
One of the challenges is to provide content that is as practically useful as it can be. We did not just want our content to be general, but relevant. We wanted our students to get a flavour of the dynamic and rapidly evolving nature of law – particularly in common law countries. And we wanted to make to make it accessible as possible for students whose English may not be fluent just yet.
One of the major differences between common law and civil systems is that things seem to evolve much faster in a common law system. New cases seem to come out on an almost daily basis which add something new to the tapestry of the legal landscape. Almost every case you read offers something to learn, on a practical level. This is the nature of the common law.
A challenge for us is to try to give students – whether academic or practising lawyers – a flavour of this, as best we can. As we often say, you are a student for maybe five years, but a practising lawyer for maybe forty. And the transition from the academic to the much longer ‘practising’ phase is not always easy to make. One of our goals is to try to make that transition slightly easier in the context of a world where English is now almost a vital skill to have.
We are trying to find the best balance we can between language and content provision, in a niche language area where content – and indeed language - changes on almost a daily basis. It will take time for us to do this, but it is a project we are dedicated to. In the next part, we will look at some more of the challenges.
© Cambridge Legal English Academy 2021