Mastering any language takes time and even as somebody who has been teaching Legal English for ten years, I am still learning new ways to use and teach the language. We all need to start somewhere and we all need direction so here are a few tips on becoming a better speaker of legal and business English.
Start by reading a lot. Books, magazines, Medium articles, websites, newspapers. Seek out articles that you will enjoy and be nourished by. If you are keen on business, look at business magazines or pick up The Financial Times. If you would like to understand more about the legal system, look for books on this subject. Take your time to analyse several sentences to work out how the writer has composed a paragraph. Learn from it and try and replicate the style in your own writing.
Buy a grammar book and by developing an intricate understanding of grammar you will understand the language far better. There are many grammar books that specialise in specific areas and I have written a book called The Legal English Workbook that will be of great assistance for learning legal English grammar.
Buy a grammar book which teaches you the beautiful English language. Look at the examples so you get an idea of how the language works. If there are exercises, do them on a separate piece of paper or photocopy the book so that you do them several times to get them right.
Practice makes perfect:
Write, read, listen and speak as much as you possibly can. Speak with friends and relatives who can also speak English, join a language exchange programme so you can swap your first language with a native speaker of English over a beer or two, listen to music from the British performers, watch TV shows with the subtitles on and then with the subtitles off. Immerse yourself in the language as much as possible.
Write, write and keep writing Just as you should read vociferously you should also write as much as you can. Start contributing to Medium or write a blog, post long Instagram posts about the place you are in right now — fill your prose with detailed adjectives that encapsulate perfectly the beauty of the location.
Proofread and edit After I have written several pages, I put my writing away and return to it with fresh eyes a few days later. Read through it again to see how well it flows and to pick up on any errors that you may have missed. If there are unnecessary words then edit them out.
You may also try reading the document aloud to yourself or to a friend to see whether it flows.
Improve your vocabulary:
There are several ways to develop your vocabulary skills but the best way is to pick up a serious newspaper such as The FT or The Economist and read an article or two. Pick ten keywords from the articles and learn them — learn how they are used and how they can be placed into sentences.
Get a teacher:
If Roger Federer and Cristiano Ronaldo still hire coaches while being at the top of their professions then you have no excuse. I have lost count of the number of people who have told me that they do not need a teacher just after sending a poorly written email. You need direction and guidance in Legal English and you should seek out a competent teacher to help you.
Keep learning and do not get disheartened:
It’s a slow and steady climb to mastery of the English language and with these tips you will get there.