Travers’ big idea: learn a language, get clients

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  • Could it be worth doing Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Portuguese as well/instead?

    It's a big enough firm

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  • 2009. London lawyers discover there are other cultures beyond the M25!!!! They are different!!!! And if you want to sell something to them, you have an advantage if you speak their language!!! This is such apocalyptic news that Roland Emmerich will make a film about it.

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  • I love how the brits automatically assume that learning Arabic, Chinese or Russian is more worthwhile without even considering how HUGELY difficult they are, in particular as the vast majority of english solicitors stuggle with the basics of French, German, Italian and Spanish, why would it be a better idea to try and learn a language that shares no comment alphabet or ver structures?

    It's better to learn a European language at which you have a shot of actually learning to hold up a conversation in short space of time rather than wasting hours and hours on learning an exotic language that, with the same amount of effort, will have you able to use generic phrases instead of actually constucting dialogue.

    Good on ya Travers'! Bon courage und viel Glück!

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  • I agree with [9:13am]- you are hardly likely to impress a potential client in Vladivostock by simply learning to parrot well-worn tourist phrases in Russian such as 'Please tell me where to find the local uranium mine'

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  • Idiots.

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  • Bertie Berlitz made me spray coffee over my laptop with his post.
    Given that we are allied to Europe it's not entirely unreasonable that we at least try to show a little courtesy and respect for our neighbours by learning a few phrases before we invoice them.
    A bouteille over the head in a cafe seems far more civilised than a Newcie Brown across the back of the Judge Dredd.
    To try though and out Boris the Russians by trotting out a Berlitz language course is deeply insulting to a rich history and culture stretching back centuries - not least because of the assumption underpinning such courses that Russian is a common Dalek language spoken exactly the same in every region of what is a truly vast continent...
    Same with China...
    There is little excuse for not speaking a local -ish language like German and French and every excuse from not being able to tell your Hakka's from your Hong's...
    I still remember trying to learn Manadarin in Hong Kong from a course that had such rich phrases as: "Can you direct me to the Sun Yat Sen memorial?" and "Where can I buy fodder for my litter of pigs?"
    Over to you Links...

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  • Hey, I am already fluent in 4 languages and good in few others. What about giving me a training contract?? hehe

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  • Each post has its own valuable point.
    However, for still unknown to me reasons I failed to secure TC with international firms after making numerous applications and trying to sell my language skills. The firms didn’t even want to give me legal experience…
    Having obtained two law degrees from different countries and LPC in a foreign language (English) plus speaking fluently two other languages, I was left in a battle of oneself, because employers failed to see my personality through robotic applications, they failed to appreciate what it takes for a foreigner to achieve within a few years on arrival; they failed because I could have brought connections they were looking for, niche areas that I could have helped to develop and create unique international relations.
    People who say they can speak “difficult” languages and conduct business put a smile on my face (I’ve listened to too many criticisms from those on the other side), the majority cannot (I met only one in all those years!) and it takes years to learn and it is not just about talking in another language, it is also about understanding another culture. I was misunderstood and ignored like an ugly duckling, but never mind, I make money for those who saw my talents through the debris of modern bureaucracy.

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  • I was going to comment on how insular the Travers move seemed, but from the posts above it appears to me that there is enough ignorance out there to justify their "softly softly" approach. Krusty, I don't know about you, but my French and my German classes all included learning how to ask for directions to well-known locations. Is there some reason you feel asking about the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial is beneath you (notwithstanding the memorial in question, I believe, is in Taiwan). Is that more 'rich' than asking about the Louvre? And I don't think the phrase you are being taught, whether about pigs or otherwise, matters if you're learning to construct sentences. It sounds to me that you are all about learning phrases, when actual language learning, as I'm sure we all agree, is about more than that. Those who have a knack for it can learn any language. It's a skill, and less of a geographical issue (especially given most native English speakers only speak it instinctively, rather than with reference to grammar and syntax that one normally needs to use to learn a foreign language) than you appear to suppose. Certainly you display no obvious ability in any language (including English) in your post, but I will assume that's because you don't care to be precise or clear. In which case, I will also assume that your working universe is broadly local, and hence your attitude towards languages in places a bit too far away for you to have to deal with. I work in Asia, but I speak French, Mandarin, Cantonese and German on a fairly regular basis for work.
    I know someone who taught herself Russian in 1 year as an additional A-Level, with no school support, and who is now at "Oxbridge" continuing her education in that language. Can I persuade you that just because Russian is hard and you don't think you'll ever be fluent in it, doesn't mean you shouldn't start to learn something, even if only by way of Berlitz?

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  • Construction lawyers would do well to learn more than a smattering of Yawi (a Malay dialect written in Arabic script and spoken by the inhabitants of Southern Thailand) as the widespread destruction caused by internecine violence in the area has created a plethora of opportunities for the adventurous property developer.

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  • Ref: Patpong, I have spent many weeks in this region, on a dugout on rivers such as the Tapi and Phum Duang, surveying chaotic scenes with an eye on the unceasing riches I might avail myself of. In fact, Yawi proved little more than an amusing diversion. Most serious business in the "wealth" provinces (Phuket, Surat Thani and Phang Na) is still underwritten in Thai proper or US English.

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  • Anonymous | 16-Dec-2009 5:55 am

    Who took the jam out of your doughnut?

    Abraham Lincoln was right (clearly and precisely even) when he said that if you look hard enough for the evil in any situation it's not difficult to find it.

    If you are in the habit of making inferences way beyond what's actually said for your clients then I greatly pity the quality of service they receive from you - in any language.

    My point was to agree with the trend of ther posts that before people look to learn less familiar languages that they should perhaps try their hand first at European languages (which "hello" is where Travers are coming from!?!)

    I also ventured that it was rather pompous (but thankyou nevertheless for the corroboration) to assume that any single language course in say Mandarin makes you an expert in all the regional dialect variants of that language.

    For example, the cantonese spoken in Guangzhou is markedly different from the same cantonese spoken in Hong Kong (a point made in very many Hong Kong movies like Fong Sai Yuk).

    By the way, I never said either where I thought the Sun Yat Sen memorial was - it's in Taiwan!

    Bully for you for knowing that - I'll make you a nice "I know where the Sun Yat Sen Memorial is" hat and you can wow your friends (assuming you have any).

    I speak German, Polish, Czech, and French and have a working knowledge of Cantonese so kindly keep your comments to yourself about anyone's knack for languages.

    Manners are universal - in any language they are welcome. Rudeness isn't.

    Perhaps you should brush up on your manners - as you clearly have no knack for them.

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  • KRUSTY & '5:55 am'

    Oooh, hark at them!
    There are Sun Yat Sen memorials all over the place (wall of the CLE off Holborn, even), though surely he's buried in NanJing?
    Da ben dan.

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  • There's also a Sun Yat Sen memorial at University of Hong Kong and a SYS history trail there too...

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  • Ich finde das ganze etwas bloed wenn die britischen Anwaelte damit anfangen, verschiedene Sprache zu lernen.... wieso stellen die nicht Anwaelte von anderen Laendern ein....

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  • Krusty: fair enough, it was a post in poor form. Your point about manners is taken.

    If I may, and this time without being rude, I do not believe there is ever any reason why anyone should be discouraged from learning any language, nor that they should learn a familiar language over a less familiar one.

    And it is always heartening to see that people remain passionate about languages and manners.

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  • Anonymous | 17-Dec-2009 4:54 pm

    Ich finde das ganze etwas bloed wenn die britischen Anwaelte damit anfangen, verschiedene Sprache zu lernen.... wieso stellen die nicht Anwaelte von anderen Laendern ein....


    Decent German, anonymous, but you should work on your grammar a bit. At least if you want to pretend to be German, that is. Why should law firms hire lawyers from abroad? You´re not a native German speaker; were you hired from abroad?

    Besides, what´s wrong with learning a second or even a third language? You should have learned at least one foreign language when you were at school anyhow.

    I´m based in Germany, working for an English law firm, and every single colleague of mine in Germany speaks English fluently but so far I have not met or spoken to a single British colleague that spoke German. Weird, isn´t it? I think it´s a grand idea to get your employees to learn another language. People will always appreciate if you speak their language.

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  • Well of course the point is that these firms will still end up with a variety of lawyers who know very little of the language, be it French, German or Japanese
    My understanding is that most people are happy that people try. I don't get the idea that Travers are doing this out of the goodness of their heart - they are doing it to get and retain clients. My point was that why focus on some of those languages and not other ones which are potentially of more relevance. Seemed a bit old fashioned to thing that Italian was more useful than Portuguese, for example.

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  • It would probably be easier and cheaper to employ native German/French/Russian/Chinese speakers who also have decent English Law degrees/professional qualifications or to employ such foreign lawyers and have them do the QLTT. However such foreign language skills classes might come in great use for those faced with the onerous task of having an authoritative conversations with the Sommeliers in the trendy restaurants of Paris, Frankfurt and Moscow.

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  • I think they might be overlooking the fact that it is virtually impossible to become fluent in a foreign language past the age of 7 unless you live in the country and immerse yourself in the language.

    Of course there will always be a couple of exceptions but teaching lawyers languages from scratch (particularly assuming they are already working 60 hours a week) is a ridiculous task.

    I say give the training contracts to those like the commenters who are already fluent.

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