My Way to Boost Creativity

New ideas sometimes emerge when you are asleep and dream. Then, unfortunately, when you wake up they are gone. That’s why some people have a pen and paper on their bed tables to note them down. I don’t.

Sometimes you come up with a great idea by accident, doing something that is not thought provoking at the very first sight.

In my case it does not work this way. Usually it does not.

Because when I sleep, I sleep. When I swim, I swim. When I dance, I dance. When I am on holiday, I reset my mind, switch to relaxation mood, don’t turn on my computer and set an autoresponder message in my email box.

My creativity is encouraged best when I:

  1. Make a plan, set a deadline, make a resolution – they can be very motivating.
  2. Read. I read everything: articles in newspapers and magazines, blog posts, Facebook, LinkedIn posts, books, presentation slides, presentation abstracts. What I read does not necessarily come from my “industry”. I like to cross borders of disciplines and transfer into my professional area.
  3. Attend conferences (but when you do, take down notes and write down the ideas which come up with in the meantime). Even if the presentation if not exactly your cup of tea, try to think up ways you could transfer the ideas you hear into your field.
  4. Sit down and start writing. And this works best. My thoughts become well-organised, one idea generates another. When they appear on the screen or a sheet of paper in black and white, they start to make sense and develop almost freely. They can be always modified or deleted but they come to being. As long as they are not put on paper, they can easily vanish forever.

Before holiday I wrote a topic for a potential presentation or a blog post on a sheet of paper: How to Use Machine Translation for Teaching. I have past the sheet many times this summer but never conceived a word. I had used machine translation a few times before I went for holiday, though. Today I have opened my notebook and described three different tasks machine translation can be used in. As I was describing them, another idea evolved to extend the topic into a whole chapter in the book I am working on.

The conclusion is therefore one and only and as old as hills – only work can generate fruits.

How to Exploit a Sample Clause in Class

The clause is, for example, a standard indemnity clause like this one below:

Licensee shall indemnify and hold harmless the Licensor, its affiliates and their respective officers, directors and employees from and against all costs, expenses, damages, claims, obligations and liabilities whatsoever from facts or circumstances not attributable to the Licensor including, but not limited to, all costs arising out of the acts or defaults, whether negligent or not, of the Licensee, Licensee’s agents, sub-contractors and employees.

A sample of an authentic clause can be exploited to practise various skills. The first stage may be the selection the terms of art and other legalese words for paraphrasing. This can be done by the teacher or by the students themselves to raise their awareness of the essential features of legal texts. I have bolded the terms of art, examples of legalese and words typical of the language of contracts which I consider significant in the clause above.

Next, the students can be asked to translate the text into their native language to make sure they understand what the clause deals with and really means.

Afterwards, the students write a paraphrase or a summary of the clause using plain English and their own words. Here attention is drawn to the features of plain language, i.e. word order, the length of the sentences, the use of tabulation, linking words, correct punctuation, eliminating nominalisations and the abuse of the passive voice, accuracy, etc.

The paraphrase or the summary can be prepared in a form of an email/letter sent to a client, who needs the clarification of the said clause.

In order to improve speaking the clause can be paraphrased orally in a form of a simulated lawyer-client interview.

Additionally, students can think of potential problems the clause may give rise to when the obligations it contains are or are not carried out.

There are many websites where sample contract clauses may be found, e.g.

Life Skills. What Do Employers Want from Graduates?

Growing popularity of the law studies, overproduction of law graduates, and the new demands of the labour market require the legal English teachers to reformulate their believes and workshop. The role of LSP (Languages for Specific Purposes) teachers is constantly evolving towards the one of the language coaches, who are able to equip their students with the skills that will help the them increase employability at the outset of their careers.

Nowadays employers look for people who communicate well both verbally and in writing. The ability to use a foreign language verbally, to write clearly and succinctly, to demonstrate a wide range of profession related vocabulary, to prove the skill of critical thinking, analyse and research information in order to perform a task, may guarantee the competitive advantage over other candidates. Recruiters often mention drafting as the most striking lack among the job seekers. Therefore, applicants need to demonstrate very good, if not excellent, foreign language skills as early as at the stage of a job interview.

With 20 years of experience as an academic ESP (English for Specific Purposes) teacher I try to model my courses so that my students complete them not only with TOLES (Test of Legal English Skills) certificates, which is the requirement of my University, but also the extensive knowledge of legal and business English skills that they will transfer to respond to the expectations on the labour market when the need arises.

If I were to conduct a traditional needs analysis recommended by the ESP authors, I would have to investigate my students’ prior experience in English learning, identify their strengths and weaknesses, collect information about their lacks, wants and wishes, establish what knowledge and skills they already possess, what learning strategies they apply, what motivates them to learn, and on that basis specify what skills and knowledge they should develop during the course.

TOLES examination syllabus and its requirements, as well as my long experience, may simplify the whole task without the need of conducting the needs analysis sensu stricto. With more advanced students the completion of the task within two academic years is not a very challenging job. However, during that time the freshers start to grow up and mature, sometimes they apply for their first job and start to think about their future seriously. Thanks to them I have started to realise that their target needs, apart from the examination preparation, will also comprise the ability to deal with the tasks assessing their knowledge of English during the recruitment processes. Therefore, developing the so called life skills in the legal English classroom has recently become my secondary objective. Life skills are the skills necessary for active and successful participation in life, in this case in professional life which will help law students and law graduates face the demands of the labour market and prepare them for the challenges of the real, professional world. These may comprise among others: translation, mediation (of meaning), register transfer, public/court speaking, client interviewing, and drafting.

As a linguist and an academic I am not involved in corporate business dealings, so I have decided to track early careers of my prior students with the help of a business oriented social networking service LinkedIn in order to obtain a more detailed feedback. From my past experience and contacts with practising lawyers I knew that law graduates are expected to be professional and independent, have strong drafting, legal research and analytical skills. They have to work hard, be dedicated, enthusiastic and driven to achieve excellent results, take initiative, be brave to make judgments or prepare a memo with an objective analysis, work well with others and communicate well with clients, be flexible and able to adapt to the needs of the supervising lawyers. However, I wanted to know how ideal job candidates are recruited in practice.

A group of fifteen students was contacted and asked to participate in an email interview providing me with the descriptive answers to the questions concerning the particular tasks they had had to perform in English during the job interviews they had attended and the use of English later on the job.

My respondents often stressed that the knowledge of English was usually tested during the recruitment processes in big, multinational corporations and quite rarely in small, Polish companies and law offices. They mentioned that most often they participated in a casual conversation about general topic, e.g. their interests within the area of law or the topic of their Master theses. The objective of the conversation was to check their ability to express themselves verbally, their vocabulary including job-related vocabulary. Some respondents mentioned that such conversations had had sometimes been conducted by native speakers.

In big corporations linguistic tests are a part of the recruitment procedure. The tests may consist in correcting mistakes in an English text, completing a grammatical test, multiple choice test or lexical test checking the knowledge of specialist vocabulary which resembles certificate examinations such as TOLES or ILEC (International Legal English Certificate organized by Cambridge English). The tests are sometimes short essays or summaries of the texts on the topics related to the branch of business which the company operates in. The topics are often designed so that they also check the so called commercial awareness, i.e. the general knowledge of up-to-date economic, political or social affairs. The tests may be conducted in a traditional paper form during the job interview or online.

Another kind of assignment which is quite common are translation tasks. My respondents mentioned the following kinds of texts which they had had been asked to translate into English: sample contract clauses, extracts from the codes (e.g. the Civil Code or the Penal Code) or other specialist and legal texts, e.g. from the area of property law, company documentation, e.g. shareholders’ meetings resolutions, agendas, or power of attorneys.

Other written tasks applied during the recruitment processes were quite varied and consisted in drafting a note, pleadings, a balance sheet, an e-mail to a client/customer, editing a text written in an informal register to the typical lawyerlike style. Sometimes candidates were asked to solve case studies within a set time limit, draft a legal opinion or give legal advice to a client verbally, e.g. on establishing a business in Poland and optimizing taxes. The biggest and most prestigious employers (the Big Four or the Magic Circle) use various online tests which are in English but not necessarily check the knowledge of the language as such but other skills, e.g. numerical, verbal or reasoning ones. Candidates solving these tests have to read a lot of text and understand the instructions in English, usually under the time pressure, but the tests eventually provide the recruiters with the non-linguistic feedback about the candidates.

The range of tasks which law graduates may be faced with is vast. Therefore, it is advisable to enrich  university language courses syllabi with the activities aimed at the development of the written skill. Following our students careers may help us gain practical information what kind of tasks these might be. Unfortunately, written tasks are usually not favourably welcomed by the students, since they are usually very demanding, time consuming and more difficult as compared with the tasks developing other skills. Incorporating them into the syllabi will definitely pay off in the long run.

Jakich umiejętności językowych szukają pracodawcy wśród absolwentów?

„Będąc” doświadczonym nauczycielem akademickim i lektorem prawniczego języka angielskiego, moje zajęcia staram się prowadzić tak, aby studenci wyszli z nich przygotowani nie tylko do certyfikatowego, brytyjskiego egzaminu TOLES (Test of Legal English Skills), czego wymaga od nich i ode mnie uczelnia, ale również by przekazywana przeze mnie wiedza dała im przewagę konkurencyjną na rynku pracy.

Gdybym chciała przeprowadzić książkową analizę potrzeb moich słuchaczy, taką jaka zalecana jest na początku każdego kursu języka obcego dla celów specjalistycznych, powinnam zapytać ich o ich  wcześniejsze doświadczenia w nauce języka angielskiego, zidentyfikować ich mocne i słabe strony, zgromadzić informacje o ich brakach, potrzebach lub życzeniach, określić jaką wiedzę i umiejętności już posiadają, jakie strategie uczenia się stosują, co kieruje ich motywacją, i … wskazać jakie umiejętności powinni nabyć w trakcie kursu.

Jeżeli te docelowe umiejętności wynikają z wymagań egzaminu certyfikatowego, to nasze (moje i studentów) zadanie jest dość proste. Dzięki mojemu doświadczeniu wiem jak to zrobić bez przeprowadzania zalecanej analizy potrzeb. Mam na realizację tego celu dwa lata; dwa lata w ciągu których moi młodzi i niedoświadczeni pierwszoroczniacy zaczynają dojrzewać i dorośleć, czasami szukać pierwszej pracy, poważnie myśleć o swojej przyszłości. Dzięki nim ja zaczynam rozumieć, że ich sytuacja docelowa to również radzenie sobie z zadaniami sprawdzającymi znajomość języka angielskiego w procesie rekrutacji. Moim celem staje się umożliwienie moim słuchaczom rozwinięcie tzw. sprawności życiowych (ang. life skills), czyli umiejętności, które pozwolą młodym studentom i absolwentom prawa zmierzyć się z wymaganiami rynku pracy.

Pracodawcy cenią u absolwentów umiejętność komunikacji zarówno w mowie jak i na piśmie. Szczególna waga przypisywana jest umiejętności pisania w języku obcym w sposób zwięzły i jasny, z wykorzystaniem branżowego słownictwa, odzwierciedlająca zdolność wyszukiwania informacji oraz myślenia krytycznego i analitycznego. Jej brak często jest podkreślany przez pracodawców, a ci coraz częściej za pomocą zadań pisemnych sprawdzają poziom znajomości języka angielskiego wśród kandydatów.

Wykorzystując sieć LinkedIn nawiązałam kontakt z moimi studentami, którzy rozpoczęli już pracę zawodową i poprosiłam ich, aby podzielili się swoim doświadczeniem nabytym w procesach rekrutacji, które już przeszli.

Moi respondenci często podkreślali, że znajomość języka angielskiego była sprawdzana zazwyczaj w czasie rekrutacji do dużych, międzynarodowych firm, a rzadziej w małych, polskich firmach i kancelariach prawniczych. Najczęściej wymieniali oni luźną rozmowę na tematy ogólne np. zainteresowania z dziedziny prawa, temat pracy magisterskiej. Celem takiej rozmowy było sprawdzenie zdolności formułowania wypowiedzi i zasobu słownictwa, często słownictwa branżowego. Zdarzało się, że rozmowy te były przeprowadzane przez native speakerów.

W dużych firmach kandydaci poddawani są testom językowym, które mogą polegać na: poprawieniu błędów językowych w tekście angielskim, rozwiązaniu testu gramatycznego, testu wyboru lub testu sprawdzającego znajomość słownictwa specjalistycznego, który przypomina egzaminy certyfikatowe TOLES lub ILEC (International Legal English Certificate organizowany przez Cambridge English). Testy językowe mogą mieć też przybierać formę wypracowania lub streszczenia tekstu na tematy związane z branżą, w której działa firma lub sprawdzające wiedzę związaną z aktualnymi tematami gospodarczymi, politycznymi, społecznymi, czyli tzw. commercial awareness. Testy językowe mogą być przeprowadzane w wersji papierowej w czasie rozmowy kwalifikacyjnej lub online.

Znajomość języka angielskiego bywa też sprawdzana za pomocą zadań, w których należy wykonać tłumaczenie tekstu. W doświadczeniach moich studentów najczęściej pojawiały się tłumaczenia zapisów umowy handlowej, fragmentów kodeksów (Kodeksu cywilnego, Kodeksu karnego) lub innych tekstów specjalistycznych i prawniczych, np. z obszaru prawa rzeczowego, dokumentów spółek, np. uchwał z posiedzeń, pełnomocnictw.

Inne zadania pisemne zadawane w procesach rekrutacji polegały na sporządzeniu notki, pisma procesowego, bilansu, napisaniu maila do klienta, przeredagowaniu tekstu napisanego w stylu nieformalnym na tekst napisany językiem prawniczym. Ponadto kandydaci mogą być poproszeni o rozwiązanie case studies w określonym czasie, napisanie opinii prawnej lub ustne doradzenie zagranicznemu klientowi jak otworzyć firmę w Polsce i jak zoptymalizować podatki. Największe i najbardziej prestiżowe firmy wykorzystują również testy w języku angielskim, które niekoniecznie sprawdzają znajomość języka obcego, ale inne umiejętności, np. matematyczne.

Wachlarz zadań jest bogaty i uważam, że warto wzbogacać treści kursu języka angielskiego dla celów specjalistycznych o zadania pisemne. Niestety zazwyczaj nie należą one do ulubionych, co zapewne wynika z faktu, że są bardziej wymagające, czasochłonne i trudniejsze w porównaniu ćwiczeniami rozwijającymi inne sprawności.

Ciekawa jestem, jakie doświadczenia mają czytelnicy bloga. Zachęcam do dzielenia się nimi w komentarzach.

Mad Man on Writing

Since not only law students need writing skills, others following business English courses might find the advice of David Ogilvy – an iconic businessman and original “Mad Man” – convincing:

  1. The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather. People who think well, write well.
  2. Woolly minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches.
  3. Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Here are 10 hints:
  4. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.
  5. Write the way you talk. Naturally.
  6. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
  7. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
  8. Never write more than two pages on any subject.
  9. Check your quotations.
  10. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning — and then edit it.
  11. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
  12. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.
  13. If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.

Source: Oglivy, D. (2012). The Unpublished David Ogilvy. London: Profile Books Ltd.