Monday, March 25, 2013

New Resources: Two Articles by Donna Bain Butler

I am thrilled to offer two articles from contributor Donna Bain Butler today. First is a study by Professors Bain Butler, Wei, and Zhou on "Cultural Influence in Academic English Writing: An International Perspective," published in InterCom. The study looks at two groups of graduate student writers, Thai and Chinese, and tries to "distinguish between academic cultures" and to "identify the strategies they use for composing academic English assignments and abstracts."

Because of the pervasiveness of English language instruction around the world, it should not be surprising that students come to the United States with preconceived notions of what is academic English writing. In fact, as the study finds, the students' varying cultural backgrounds mean their notions of academic writing and the writing process in English may be quite different from one another.

Link to the article:

The second paper by Professor Bain Butler concerns content-based language teaching (CBLT), such as teaching legal writing to foreign-trained lawyers. "Integrating Content and Language Learning" was submitted to the École de langues at the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM) Meeting on English Language Teaching (MELT), August 21, 2012, and published in the proceedings.

In the Discussion section, Bain Butler expands on three general CBLT principles to develop communicative competence: "(1) increasing sources of information; (2) decreasing complexity of concept, text, or task; and (3) increasing interaction." She also discusses giving L2 writers concrete tools to improve their writing process as well as encouraging L2 writers to evaluate their own writing product.

The paper is a must read for anyone teaching content-based courses to non-native English speakers, especially in an academic (legal) writing setting. In addition to the topics mentioned above, Professor Bain Butler touches on cross-cultural literacy and plagiarism, student-centered teaching, and collaboration between disciplines.

Link to the article [PDF]:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Global Legal Skills Conference 2013 in Costa Rica

The 8th Global Legal Skills Conference was held in San Jose, Costa Rica, March 11-13. What a great conference! Presentations included an amazing array of topics, including the following (just to name a few): 

  • The Importance of Teaching International Students to Read Before Teaching Them How to Write
  • Academic Legal Writing
  • Creating Collaborations: Connecting the Law School Writing Center to the International Human Rights Clinic
  • Technology in the Classroom
  • How Gender and Cross-Cultural Communication Can Enhance or Interfere with Global Legal Skills
  • Incorporating Field Trips to Teach the U.S. Legal System
  • International Legal Research
  • Introduction to Law and Legal Education in Costa Rica and Central America

As part of the conference, we had the opportunity to visit the Supreme Court of Costa Rica, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the U.S. Embassy. Some of us also had the opportunity to travel in Costa Rica before or after the conference, which was fantastic and a welcome respite (for me) from the winter weather of the Midwest

My presentation "Patch Writing: Plagiarism or Part of the Writing Process?" discussed the difficulties of paraphrasing from sources, especially for international students, and how to deal with too much borrowing of the original language as part of the writing pedagogy, rather than as a practice to be condemned. I'd be happy to share my presentation PowerPoint and/or sources if anyone is interested. 

I plan to write a longer, more in-depth, post on patch writing in the near future, but until then, Professor Rebecca Moore Howard of Syracuse University provides a nice bibliography on her website:

Saturday, March 2, 2013

New Books for Teaching International Law Students

A couple of books have been published recently that may be of interest to teachers of international law students: 

An American Constitutional History Course for Non American Students

This course provides an overview of the American Constitutional History, and it is aimed to Law students primarily in countries outside of the Anglo-Saxon legal system. The course is organized in seven themes, namely The Colonial Origins of the American Constitutionalism; The Constitutions of the Revolution – 1776-1780; The Process of Federation – 1776-1789; Early Changes to the Constitution; The Civil War and the Reconstruction Era; The Progressive Era and the New Deal; and Civil Rights in the Second Half of the 20th Century. Through this chronological trip, the student should get a comprehensive view of the main characteristics of the American constitutional system and its evolution through time. The process of learning is based, primarily, on the study of legal documents, such as the early Royal Chapters of the colonists or the Constitution and its Amendments, and some landmark opinions of the Supreme Court of the United States.

International Legal English

"A practical course book for speakers of English as a second language" that includes pronunciation, grammar, and listening materials. 

H/T Legal Research Plus

Friday, March 1, 2013

TED Talk: Alan Siegel: Let's simplify legal jargon!

In one of the "In Less Than 6 Minutes" TED Talks, Alan Siegel decries the length and complexity of legal documents and calls for a simple approach in plain English. 

"What are we going to do about it? I define simplicity as a means to achieving clarity,transparency and empathy, building humanity into communications."

It's a short talk, but his message about using plain English and building humanity into legal communication is an important one for our students to hear and understand

Alan Siegel: Let's simplify legal jargon