Why Does Legal English Sound Like Gibberish to Many Spanish Law Students?

Vol. 43 No. 2


Katia Fach Gómez, JD, PhD, LLM, teaches conflict of laws, international arbitration, and international business transactions at the University of Zaragoza in Spain. She also teaches legal English at various Spanish institutions and is the author of the book El Derecho En Español. Terminología Y Habilidades Jurídicas Para Un Ejercicio Legal Exitoso (Successful Lawyering in Spanish) (Texas University Press, 2013). A prolific legal writer, Ms. Gómez has taught at a number of U.S., European, and Latin American universities. Disclaimer: Ms. Gómez has been recently appointed as national expert at the European Research Council. The views expressed are purely those of the writer and may not in any circumstances be regarded as stating an official position of the European Commission.

Legal English is unfortunately still a rare bird in law faculties in public universities in Spain. However, a command of legal English—the generic term used in this article to refer to both a specific legal subject taught in English and an instrumental “English for Specific Purposes” (ESP) subject in the legal sphere—is one of the assets that the voracious labor market demands of even recent graduates. This article is a personal reflection on the multiple dysfunctional factors in Spain that, together, prevent this gap from closing as quickly and completely as would be desirable. My article also shows that other, more auspicious developments in the legal English teaching and learning field are starting to take root in Spain and that there are also reasons for believing that Spanish lawyers can be relied on to take the lead in the long overdue “degibberization” of legal English.

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