Learning a new language is an important decision, to be considered by most US-based lawyers trying to attract new clients and increase the profit margins of their law firm. As we have discussed previously in “Why and How to Hire Bilingual Employees”, hiring bilingual employees is a smart decision expected to enhance the firm’s ability to meet the needs of their clients. Attorneys that truly want to go bilingual should begin to learn a new language. You’re never too old to learn. In this context, what’s the fastest, most convenient method of learning a foreign language? There are various ways in which an attorney can discover the pronunciation, basic grammar notions and vocabulary of a second language, regardless of its particularities and level of difficulty.
#1 Language schools and special courses
Learning Chinese, Spanish or another foreign language should be at the top of a lawyer’s professional goal. Now they have the opportunity to finish what they’ve started years ago in school or revisit a New Year’s resolution, by investing their spare time and money in language courses offered by a language school. The best part is that attendees receive the best educational support ensured by qualified staff with excellent teaching skills. However, it can be expensive and it might be difficult for busy professionals to find time to fit this activity (which requires commuting to the school’s location) in their already tight schedules.
#2 Turning an important assignment into a fun, enjoyable activity with inexpensive online tools
Cutting-edge technology works in our favor, helping us annihilate cultural and linguistic barriers by making the most of free or inexpensive online tools, in the form of language programs and language software available online, like Babbel and Rosetta stone. Babbel is a great option for both beginners and advanced and offers attorneys the chance to explore a fun, interactive learning process which helps them get familiar with the pronunciation particularities, the basic vocabulary and grammar rules of any language that they might want to study. Known as the leading language-learning software available online based on a clever mix of sound, images and text, Rosetta Stone gives attorneys the chance to study 30 different languages and it is commonly considered one of the fastest, most effective ways of discovering the particularities of a second language. This program is available in 4 sets (Levels), but they can also be purchased individually, according to one’s needs. If you’re going down this path, be prepared to invest a great deal in your education, as only the first set (Level 1) will cost you approximately $180. Also remember that you can always try it for free before investing in these useful online sessions.
#3 DIY learning process- the trickiest, most rewarding method
Assuming that you think that the first two options aren’t really tailored to your specific needs, there is one other alternative that you might want to consider. Invest your time and energy in a DIY learning process: use free, basic online tools to discover the correct pronunciation of a certain foreign language. Meet and talk to non-English speakers in their own language to enrich your vocabulary. Refine your skills and continue your vocabulary training by watching movies and shows in the new language (i.e. Sesame Street). After a while, you will manage to understand essential grammar rules by using cost-free flashcard programs, and even succeed in writing your own short essays. Persevere by reading a lot of books written in the language that you’re currently studying. All in all, the DIY second language learning progress is fun, challenging but equally rewarding for any lawyer who might be willing to go bilingual without wasting any time and money.
For more on language learning see, “I Learned to Speak Four Languages In A Few Years: Here’s How“, and www.howtolearnanylanguage.com.
Are you learning a new language? Why did you make the decision to do so? Which learning option fits your needs? Please let us know in the comments section.
All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.
6 comments on “How Lawyers Can Learn A Second Language (And Why They Should)”
My mom is learning French right now. She started with some CDs made for people getting ready to travel and is now using a web app called Duolingo. My boyfriend started using duolingo as well because he wanted to learn Spanish. It is free and can be done online in your browser or in an app version. They only support Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Portuguese. I’m told it requires some constant dedication because if you stop using it for a while you go backwards and have to re-do lessons.
There are also language learning games on the Nintendo DS. I have one called My Japanese Coach that gives you lessons and games to facilitate learning. Because Japanese is so dependent on writing characters with the proper stroke order, it recognizes that as well. I’ve been supplementing this with some apps on my Android phone that also force you to use proper stroke order. One is mostly for studying what you already know and quizzing yourself but another has full on lessons with audio from native speakers (This one cost $10 but it is worth it). Drawing Kanji (Chinese characters) is key to learning them so having a touch screen app is fantastic. I suspect there are similar apps for Chinese as well.
Thank you for the suggestions Paul.
I learned French by taking French courses in France and living with a French family. It sounds expensive, but it was the equivalent to any other vacation I would take.
Right now, I am brushing up on my Spanish. I’ve looked into language schools in Panama because that was where I was born. Classes there are very inexpensive. For example, private lessons are only $13/hour and much less if you are willing to take lessons with others.
Thanks for the comment Corinne. Language schools in foreign countries are a great option for learning a new language.
You actually reminded of a Study Abroad Program I was looking into while in law school. It was a Summer Program in Guanajuato, Mexico or Madrid, Spain run by the University of New Mexico School of Law. (http://lawschool.unm.edu/international-law/study-abroad/index.php)
There’s actually many foreign study opportunities for law students at ABA approved programs. (http://www.americanbar.org/groups/legal_education/resources/foreign_study/foreign_summer_winter_programs.html)
Please let us know if you do take classes in Panama.
I completely agree. I’m originally from Texas so learning Spanish would be very helpful. I am currently trying to teach myself American sign language (asl). People may not necessarily think of that as a language, but I think it could be beneficial. I have yet to see a lawyer, arty least in my area, that knows ASL.
Shay, that’s a great idea. Knowing American sign language would absolutely be beneficial to a lawyer serving the deaf community.
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