Why I go walking…

I go walking or trekking when I am short of new ideas for my writing. I go to the forest to clear my mind.

I remember when two years ago I came up with a brilliant idea for research when trekking in the Bieszczady. Professor Jarosław Krajka had invited me to write a chapter for a book edited by him and professor Magdalena Sowa – an opportunity that you do not reject. First, I had to submit an abstract and for the abstract I needed an interesting topic and a research proposal which would motivate me to design it, conduct it and then write about it.

I went trekking to the Wetlińska Mountain Pasture in late December when the sun sets around 3.30pm, the day is short and the trails are empty. The silence around and perhaps only the sound of wind let me concentrate on my moves first, the feeling of the ground under my boots, slow steps to avoid getting tired too quickly, the view of blue sky above the tops of the trees…

And then the idea came to contact my former students and ask them how their English skills were tested during their first job interviews. I was interested to know whether I was teaching them the right skills to help them succeed in getting their entry jobs.

I did as I thought and collected over 20 interviews and managed to write a chapter “Increasing Law Students’ Employability Skills in the English for Legal Purposes (ELP) Classroom” published in: Magdalena Sowa, Jarosław Krajka (eds.), Innovations in Languages for Specific Purposes – Present Challenges and Future Promises (pp. 131-147). Frankurt am Main: Peter Lang. https://doi.org/10.3726/b10915

Later that year I presented the paper on “What Shall We Teach in the Legal English Classroom? The Students’ Perspective” at a conference “Specialized Languages in Teaching and Translation: Theory and Practice organized by Institute of Applied Linguistics at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań in November 2017.

Today I am sharing the slides from that conference here.

Yesterday I went to the forest again and came back with a new idea for a presentation that I am going to submit soon.

To be continued…

How I inspire my students

I believe that teachers inspire their students when they are enthusiastic about their work.

When I started teaching legal English 15 years ago, I was a fresher, although I had been teaching for another 15 years so far. I had to learn this complex variety of English myself and now I manage to prepare my students to sit (successfully) advanced level of legal English exams. 15 years ago I showed bravery and thanks to this I developed professionally.

Now I help my students develop linguistically and help them prepare enter their professional careers.

My recent greatest achievement was creating software for language testing. Initially the software was aimed at teachers and speeding up their work by saving the time teachers spend on grading tests. However, apart from the testing component, the apps has also a collection of public exercises which I create pro bono.

Public exercises are available for free to anyone who has a link. Students can use these exercises to revise and expand their knowledge of business and legal English.

Since last summer I have been running a OEAD (one exercise a day) project in which I create one public exercise a day (or almost every day). In this way, I encourage students to learn every day. The collection of public exercises comprises now about 160 exercises and is still growing.

This project teaches me systematic work with which I am trying to infect my students. It develops our media competence and proves that sharing is caring.

It shows the power of collaboration and how great value it constitutes. Collaboration – because the software was created in cooperation with my husband, an IT developer. Collaboration – also because other teachers can use my exercises for their purposes.

My students like the apps very much. My survey showed that over 90% of them had positive attitude to it. They appreciate innovations in the classroom and are aware that they get free high quality specialist content which is really scarce online.

Come and check out on your own: pustulka.edu.pl

Artificial Intelligence in legal profession

Check out these links to learn more about AI in legal profession

1. The In-house Guide to Legal Document Automation

2. The Survey Results on Legal Tech Knowledge Among Lawyers

3. UK Law Firms Failing to Meet Customers’ Demands

4. PwC report on Estimated job displacement and creation from AI

5. FT article on how AI will make legal work redundant

6. Barriers to tech adoption in the legal profession

Interview on studylegalenglish.com

During my stay in Split for the EULETA (European Union Legal English Teachers Association) in September I was interviewed by Louise Kulbicki from Study Legal English Podcasts about the use of technologies in legal English teaching and learning.

Surrounded by the beautiful architechture of the Split Old Town and over delicious octopus carpaccio we had a conversation which Louise has put on her website this week.

I hope you will find it informative and inspiring. Enjoy!

The Pustulka Project. Developing Online Testing Software for English for Specific Purposes.

On 21 April 2018, the third day of IABL 2018 World Conference I had a pleasure to present PUSTULKA (pustulka.edu.pl/) – a new web-based testing software, developed specially for the ESP context, and created by me  – an ESP teacher, together with a software developer. It emerged when the quest for ideal testing software for FLT turned out to be unsuccessful.

With PUSTULKA teachers can create a variety of exercises (including cloze texts, multiple choice, drop-down lists, checkboxes, short and long answers), build tests out of the exercises, assign them online or print as WORD documents. Exercises are easily and quickly parsed (i.e. transferred) from plain text editors (e.g. Word or notepad) to PUSTULKA and the teachers do not need to have the knowledge of html or programming to manage.

PUSTULKA works in all browsers and on all devices and students do not need to create accounts to do the tests. They can view their score and answers immediately after submission. They can also e-learn with PUSTULKA by doing the exercises which teachers make public. There is already a collection of public exercises for you to test on: pustulka.edu.pl/PublicExercise/PublicExercisesList

Students’ satisfaction survey proved that PUSTULKA fulfilled its task of developing a user-friendly application. 91% of users had definitely or rather positive experience with this application.

The hidden agenda of the Project is to build a teachers’ Community of Practice[1] by inducing collaboration among them. Ideally, teachers will contribute high quality content to the application and share some of their exercises with other contributors. Teachers can comment on other teacher’s exercises, indicate the possibilities of modification or correct mistakes, etc. In this way teachers will benefit from the growing database of exercises, simplify their own and one another’s work, save time on designing and evaluating tests as well as develop their digital competence.

If you are interested in learning more about how to create exercises, assign tests, see a sample test or set up a free trial account, go to PUSTULKA Help section on: pustulka.edu.pl/Home/Help

We will be happy to hear your feedback. You can contact us via PUSTULKA web page or directly on info@pustulka.edu.pl

[1] Communities of Practice (CoPs) refer to groups of people who genuinely care about the same real-life problems or hot topics, and who on that basis interact regularly to learn together and from each other.

Common Law Legal English and Grammar – a Review

9781849465762A new monograph on legal English by Alison Riley and Patricia Sours comes from Hart Publishing. As a legal English teacher and a great proponent of plain English I approached the book with enthusiasm and desire to find some inspiration for my legal English classes, as the new academic year is about to begin.

The book is not a traditional legal English coursebook but a university textbook on legal English, explaining the intricacies of this specialist variant of the English language. The book, therefore, is addressed to rather advanced learners – from upper-intermediate to advanced level – and legal English practitioners.

The book provides the reader with a vast and thorough analysis of the legal language; however, we should not be discouraged by the 503 pages of the book, since the authors use plain English and clearly explain the features of the legal jargon.

The textbook is composed of six parts. The first one presents features of the English language used within common law contexts as well as internationally. The remaining five parts cover the language of different areas of law, which include: legal system and the British constitution, international treaties, human rights and European Integration, criminal law, tort law and contract law.

Each part of the book is divided into three chapters: (1) Language and Law, (2) Legal Grammar and (3) Consolidation.

The author of Language and Law chapters, Alison Riley, builds a foundation of legal knowledge for each area of law, explains the basic legal concepts and introduces technical language of the law. The author achieves her aim through the presentation and explanation of the legal concepts in context (e.g. cases, judgments, analysis of authentic excerpts from legal documents, literature, etc.). These chapters offer also lexical tasks through which the readers examine and analyse legal vocabulary in context, interpret the meaning of legal terms and learn how it may change in various contexts (e.g. between civil and criminal law).

Legal Grammar section prepared by Patricia Sours provides the learners with the knowledge on punctuation in legal texts, basic sentence structure, verb forms, word formation, adverbial clauses and nominal structures. The author illustrates her notes with examples extracted from authentic sources and provides opportunities for practice in tasks accompanied with the key which saves teacher preparation time and makes the book a self-study manual.

Each part of the book end with Consolidation usually containing five to six tasks in which the learners can test and expand their knowledge of legal vocabulary, practice defining technical terms, form collocations as well as test reading comprehension skills. Key to consolidation tasks is also provided.

“Common Law Legal English and Grammar” is definitely the title to remember for those interested in not only learning legal English terminology but also understanding the usage of the legal terms of art in context. The authors teach the readers legal terminology but also equip them with legal knowledge. They use brilliant and memorable examples to illustrate the use of language, selecting them from the history of common law but also literature and news satisfying in this way the tastes of both lawyers and linguists.

I will strongly recommend the book to my colleagues – legal English practitioners – as well as my most ambitious and linguistically advanced law students.






We wrześniu w Supraślu odbyły się pierwsze Międzynarodowe Warsztaty Legal English Share&Gain zorganizowane przez Wydział Prawa Uniwersytetu w Białymstoku.

Jak zwykle na Podlasiu, tak i w Supraślu, panowała gościnna i przemiła atmosfera, a spotkanie praktyków zajmujących się nauczaniem angielskiego języka prawniczego pozwoliło na wymianę doświadczeń i powrót do pracy w nowym roku akademickim z nowymi pomysłami.

Poniżej zamieszczam handout, który przygotowałam dla uczestników mojego warsztatu pt. Writing in Plain English, a dodatkowe materiały do wykorzystania na zajęciach można znaleźć w zakładce „Moje materiały”.


TOLES 2014 Results

Today I have had a chance to briefly analyse the results of TOLES Higher examination conducted in TOLES Examination Centre at Kozminski University in Warsaw in May 2014.

Two groups of students attempted the examination: one group had attended Legal English course leading to the exam for two years and the other for three.

The difference in the course length was due to the change in the curriculum introduced two years ago which limited the time of Legal English instruction offered to Law students from three to two years, i.e. from 36o hours of instruction to 240 hours.

The results which I have received today  prove a significant difference in the passability of the examination. Namely, among third year students there was only 5% of fails, while among second year students – 15%, i.e. three times as much.

The results, unfortunately, seem to confirm the teachers common conviction that the decision of the University authorities was, to put it mildly, not exactly right.

Memrise Project

W październiku 2014 roku rozpoczęłam tworzenie bazy słownictwa z zakresu Legal English potrzebnego do przygotowania się do egzaminu TOLES (Test of Legal English Skills) na poziomie Foundation i Higher. Baza jest wciąż w fazie powstawania, moi studenci biorą czynny udział w przygotowywaniu treści kursów, a wszystko odbywa się w oparciu o podręcznik „The Lawyer’s English Language Coursebook”. Baza powstała na stronie http://www.memrise.com/, a stworzone przeze mnie i moich studentów kursy są dostępne na moim profilu (http://www.memrise.com/user/LegalEnglish/courses/teaching/)

Ponieważ projekt został przyjęty przez moich studentów bardzo entuzjastycznie postanowiłam zbadać jak praca z memrise wpływa na wyniki w nauce osiągane przez studentów w trakcie lektoratowego kursu prawniczego języka angielskiego oraz czy studenci używający aplikacji memrise osiągają lepsze wyniki z testów niż pozostali i czy studenci współtworzący treści kursów osiągają lepsze wyniki od tych, którzy są tylko ich użytkownikami.

Badanie zostało przeprowadzone wśród studentów I, II, i III roku uczestniczących w kursie prawniczego języka angielskiego na poziomie B2+ za pomocą krótkiej ankiety składającej się z siedmiu pytań. W badaniu wzięło udział 32 ankietowanych.

Spośród badanych osób jedna osoba na trzy nie korzystała z kursów memrise przygotowując się do testu i utrwalając materiał. Połowa spośród tych ankietowanych zaliczyła test na poziomie oceny dostatecznej, jedna osoba na poziomie oceny dobrej, a 1/3 respondentów nie zaliczyła testu.

Natomiast w grupie studentów, którzy korzystali z memrise testu nie zaliczyło tylko 17% ankietowanych, niewiele ponad połowa otrzymała oceny dostateczne, a 1/3 oceny dobre.
Większość osób (75%), które nie zaliczyły testu poświęciły pracy z memrise mniej niż jedną godzinę. Jedna z osób w tej grupie poświęciła memrise więcej czasu (1-3 godzin), ale mimo tego uzyskała ocenę niedostateczną.

Studenci, którzy uzyskali najlepsze wyniki poświęcili pracy z memrise bardzo zróżnicowaną ilość czasu. Na siedmioro respondentów, dwoje korzystało z aplikacji poniżej jednej godziny, dwoje spędziło na nauce od jednej do trzech godzin, dwoje od trzech do sześciu godzin, a jedna osoba uczyła się ponad sześć godzin. Dwoje respondentów (28%) brało udział w opracowywaniu treści kursów memrise.

Wśród osób ankietowanych, którzy uzyskali wynik dostateczny większość pracowała z memrise ok. 1-3 godzin, trzy osoby z dziesięciu – ok. 3-6 godzin, a jedna osoba poniżej jednej godziny. Dwie spośród tych osób (20%) brały udział w opracowywaniu treści kursów.

Jeden na ośmiu ankietowanych to studenci-autorzy definicji na kursach memrise. Deklarowali oni, że poświęcili na naukę stosunkowo najwięcej czasu. Większość z nich uczyła się z aplikacją od 3 do 6 godzin, a jedna osoba ponad 6 godzin. Połowa tych osób uzyskała na teście wynik dobry, a połowa dostateczny.

Studenci, którzy nie korzystali z aplikacji w przygotowaniu do testu, jako wyjaśnienia podawali następujące argumenty:
• Preferowanie i większe zaufanie do podręcznika i własnych notatek (50%)
• Przerabianie kursów memrise zajmuje dużo czasu (50%)
• Problemy techniczne (38%)
• Niechęć do nauki przy komputerze (13%)
• Brak informacji, że memrise istnieje (13%).

Zarzut, że praca z memrise jest czasochłonna i męcząca pojawiał się również najczęściej (44%) w komentarzach osób korzystających z tej aplikacji w przygotowaniach do testu. Drugą istotną wadą stworzonych kursów wymienianą przez co czwartą osobę jest nierozpoznawanie synonimów i uznawanie ich za błędne odpowiedzi. Około 15% ankietowanych narzekało na wady techniczne aplikacji, a pojedyncze osoby wspominały o zbyt długich definicjach, zbyt częstych powtórzeniach, nie uwzględnieniu w kursach wszystkich słów wymaganych potem na teście i możliwości powtórzenia raz przerobionego kursu dopiero po 4 godzinach.

Wśród najistotniejszych zalet pracy z kursami memrise ponad połowa ankietowanych studentów wymienia efektywne utrwalenie materiału poprzez częste powtarzanie przerabianego słownictwa. Jedna osoba na trzy ankietowane podkreśla znaczenie faktu, że memrise jest miejscem, gdzie mają dostęp do najważniejszego słownictwa z zajęć. Taka sama liczba respondentów docenia również nowoczesną, elektroniczną formę aplikacji i jej wersję mobilną. Co siódmy ankietowany wspomina o znaczeniu rywalizacji w nauce i podkreśla motywujący wpływ punktacji osiąganej przez wszystkich użytkowników i rankingów pokazujących najaktywniejszych użytkowników na każdym kursie. Wśród mniej istotnych zalet wymieniono profesjonalny i przejrzysty wygląd aplikacji, różnorodność generowanych ćwiczeń i możliwość nauki pisowni przyswajanych słów w ćwiczeniach, w których punktowana jest bezbłędność zapisu.

George Orwell

The model for writing that is usually cited by the supporters of the Plain English Movement is George Orwell whose simple style and text structure may serve as an excellent example as in the sample below from 1984 (1949, p. 123):

A Party member lives from birth to death under the eye of the Thought Police. Even when he is alone he can never be sure that he is alone. Wherever he may be, asleep or awake, working or resting, in his bath or in bed, he can be inspected without warning and without knowing that he is being inspected.

Nothing that he does is indifferent. His friendships, his relaxations, his behaviour towards his wife and children, the expression of his face when he is alone, the words he mutters in sleep, even the characteristic movements of his body, are all jealously scrutinized. Not only any actual misdemeanour, but any eccentricity, however small, any change of habits, any nervous mannerism that could possibly be the symptom of an inner struggle, is certain to be detected. He has no freedom of choice in any direction whatever. On the other hand his actions are not regulated by law or by any clearly formulated code of behaviour.

In 1946 in his essay “Why I write” Orwell wrote that good prose is like a window pane and a year earlier he published his manifesto entitled “Politics and the English Language” in which he criticised vague, pretentious, Latinised style used in politics and public speeches and formulated six elementary rules of good writing (2013: 19):

i. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

ii. Never use a long word where a short one will do.

iii. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

iv. Never use the passive where you can use the active.

v. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

vi. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.