Contextualized teaching of legal English to French speaking students in Québec

Law students at the Universite de Sherbrooke are predominantly French speaking and have a limited exposure to English. A project was developed to provide them with a learning experience in legal English in the form of two intensive 15-hour courses. Through contextualized teaching (i.e. simulations conducted with teaching assistants), in small groups (enrollment limited to 12 per group), students go through everyday aspects of private practice – conducting the initial interview with a client, analyzing the client’s case with colleagues, drafting the required proceedings, preparing witnesses before trial, examining and cross-examining witnesses, delivering the final address to the judge – exclusively in English. The activities integrate the mastery of legal knowledge (in the fields of contracts and civil liability), professional abilities (legal drafting of judicial proceedings and trial advocacy) and language skills. The project raised interesting questions and challenges along the way. E.g.: - Which English legal vocabulary to use (Quebec’s civil law English vs. Anglo-American common law English) - Which resources to warrant the accuracy of the language used in the teaching material (English speaking faculty members, practitioners, teaching assistants and legal translators) - How to conduct efficient simulations with future legal professionals (inspired by the Quebec Bar training program) - How to evaluate students (class participation, written and oral assignments, vocabulary exams, practical exams) - How to deal with the variable level of mastery of the English language among students - How to ensure the quality of teaching in the context of a regular turnover among teaching assistants