Acquiring Foreign Languages Series: The Task

By Katherine Orthlanguages

If you’re fascinated by foreign, comparative, and international law topics, chances are good that you’ve studied a foreign language (or two!) in high school or college, or at some point during your professional career.  Perhaps you also find yourself in a situation similar to me: feeling dismayed that hard-earned foreign language skills have diminished over the years in the absence of job responsibilities that would keep those skills finely-honed.

Is it worthwhile to expend the time, money and mental energy to achieve high-level bibliographic proficiency in a foreign language over the course of one semester?  Can one expect to comfortably browse FCIL content from websites exclusively (or mostly) in a foreign language, constructing efficient searches and retrieving relevant resources with ease?  I intend to find out, having secured my employer’s blessing to enroll in two graduate-level courses at my university: “French for Reading” and “Spanish for Reading.”

These classes, which begin in early September, are primarily designed for Masters’ and PhD students enrolled in programs that require reading knowledge of foreign languages.  The courses have no speaking or listening comprehension components, and they are taught entirely in English.  French for Reading and Spanish for Reading do not teach legal French or legal Spanish terminology.  Instead, they provide a thorough introduction to grammatical structures, a solid foundational vocabulary, and reading strategies.

The blog posts in this series will document my self-set learning objectives, progress, and takeaways from French for Reading and Spanish for Reading as I prepare to take the Foreign Language Proficiency Exams offered in the final week of November.  Both courses demand ample independent study, and it is my intention to specifically tailor this study to the requirements of FCIL research across a range of institutions, jurisdictions, and source materials.  As such, I will regularly browse websites with ample FCIL resources in French and/or Spanish, setting tasks for myself to retrieve content, and monitoring my comprehension level and retrieval successes and pitfalls.

Are you considering acquiring or enhancing bibliographic knowledge of one or more foreign languages for career advancement?  I will be the guinea pig, covering topics from options for financing coursework to designing study strategies to fit around a full-time job.  If you intend to implement a foreign language self-study for yourself or a group, and seek advice for which texts to use or how to pace yourself, it is my hope that the posts in this series will be useful to you, too.  I will comment on syllabus content, class activities and homework – what kind is assigned, and how much.

Please join me as I take a journey (at breakneck speed!) on the road to bibliographic proficiency in French and Spanish!  I welcome any and all comments and questions you may have.

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