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by Gareth Williams, Legal English UK writer/researcher
It is slightly disingenuous to use the word "mistakes" in the headline as we shouldn't really think of making mistakes in language learning but rather consider them as part of the overall learning process.
Having a limited vocabulary, a 'foreign' accent and confusing tenses might all be considered to be mistakes but they can be improved over time. In this article, I intend to take a look at how to change your mindset to help you to improve your skills in English for Law.
1. Worrying about mistakes
Worrying about errors is a huge hindrance to fluency and progression in the language and students need to relax about making mistakes as it is not possible to improve at anything without making errors. Author Malcolm Gladwell states that we need 10,000 hours to master something, so you will have to make many errors along the way.
During class, make sure that your tutor notes down your most common mistakes and look at why you seem to have made it. Look at how you can improve on this mistake for next time.
2. Spending too much time on the wrong vocabulary
Occasionally, students will tell us that they have bought books such as '1000 words in Spanish' or are learning ten words from the dictionary each day. While this is laudable, it makes no sense to try and learn random words that you would never use in your first language.
Write a short essay in your mother tongue which explains your work and what you do. Look at the key words you have used and then translate them into English. Those are the words that you should be learning first.
3. Immersing yourself in the language
It is always great to hear about students who speak with their partners in English at home as it is vital to communicate in the language as much as possible and wherever possible.
Some great ways to expose yourself to a language when you are not living in the country is by watching TV and movies from the region. Law is an area that has inspired many dramas on TV and in film as well as books so you have many resources to choose from.
Take an online class to speak with a native speaker language tutor about Legal English and do this with regularity.
Change your computer, smartphone and Facebook to the English language option and put post-it notes with the English names of everything around your house.
4. Worrying about listening
Listening well is important for everybody - especially lawyers - and training your ears and brain to understand native speakers does not have to be a frustrating experience.
By watching films and TV programmes with subtitles, you can follow along to what the actors are saying. Podcasts are also excellent as you can slow them down (or speed them up!) and you can listen to something that interests you. We recommend BBC Radio Four's 'Law in Action' programme with Joshua Rozenberg.
5. Maintaining that self-belief
To improve in Legal English you will have to maintain a positive attitude as believing that it is too hard or complex will affect your learning. Some easy ways to avoid becoming stressed are by setting short-term goals and rewarding yourself when you reach victories. You can also seek out fun ways to improve your language skills, such as TV, radio and apps.
To improve your skills in English for Law, speak to the expert tutors who have worked with lawyers from Cisco, Jausas Law, British American Tobacco, Bloomsbury Law, Santander Bank and many more. Contact us by e-mail or by telephoning 44(0) 20 3566 0145.