Which language should I learn for an international law career?

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kngrv
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Hi! I'm from France, I just finished high school and I am going to be studying law and languages next year.

I took Mandarin Chinese as my second language, but now I have to think about a possible third language that I could pick on.

I'm hesitating between the following:
Turkish
Russian
Polish
Arabic

turkish: I enjoy the culture, it's the country of my ancestors, but it's an agglutinative language and it seems pretty hard
russian: I already tried to learn it when I was younger and I can't really get used to its pronunciation and the grammar was super hard; but it's spoken by many
polish: I was learning polish for ~5months this year then I stopped because I got lazy, so I have the basis already and it's a language that I take pleasure to learn; but on the other hand I'm not really interested by the culture and it's not widely spoken
arabic: I speak darija which is an arabic dialect (still pretty different from MSA), but I'm not really interested by the culture either and it seems realllyy hard too

which one would you have picked???
thanks
Last edited by kngrv; 4 weeks ago
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Grsuutfo
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To be honest I would pick Arabic. It is spoken in more than 25 countries and has over 420 million speakers. Additionally, it is one of the most useful languages to learn in 2020 and will very likely continue being so in the future. It's one of the 6 official UN languages, and while darija is far from MSA, the roots are still there and you will find reading and writing easy; the grammar shouldn't be much of a problem if you speak darija proficiently - it's just about acquiring new vocab and adjusting to MSA. Russian would be my second option since it's more widely spoken than Turkish and Polish. Turkish is my third and Polish is last. Good luck choosing. Wish you all the best.
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kngrv
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(Original post by Grsuutfo)
To be honest I would pick Arabic. It is spoken in more than 25 countries and has over 420 million speakers. Additionally, it is one of the most useful languages to learn in 2020 and will very likely continue being so in the future. It's one of the 6 official UN languages, and while darija is far from MSA, the roots are still there and you will find reading and writing easy; the grammar shouldn't be much of a problem if you speak darija proficiently - it's just about acquiring new vocab and adjusting to MSA. Russian would be my second option since it's more widely spoken than Turkish and Polish. Turkish is my third and Polish is last. Good luck choosing. Wish you all the best.
thank you so much for your answer, very informative and helpful! I didn't know arabic was one of the official languages in the UN. have a nice weekend, wish you all the best too.
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artful_lounger
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Overall, which language is "best" really depends on where you would want to practice law. It's unlikely that if you are practicing law in a country not speaking the target language that you will be expected to do any translation work yourself, because the law firm you are working for will probably want to get an external contractor to do the translation for liability reasons etc. So the main benefit would be in being able to speak with clients in their own language, which again depends on where your practice takes you and isn't something you can necessarily plan for yet.

One slight issue with Arabic is that there is a very large range of dialects across various Arabic speaking countries, and they don't match up exactly to modern standard Arabic (i.e. the "literary" Arabic you would learn in a classroom). So just knowing modern standard Arabic is only the first step and it would still take more work to be able to effectively speak it in some given country, and then if you went to another one you'd need to start learning the different dialect separately again. In the case of Arabic with the variety of and difference in dialects, you wouldn't necessarily be able to immediately fluently converse with clients from different Arabic speaking countries unless they all spoke the same dialect which you knew.

I'd suggest just doing whatever learning you find interesting and engaging for now, and then if you need to learn a language later you can do so with that focused reason in mind.
Last edited by artful_lounger; 4 weeks ago
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mpaprika
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I'd say Arabic
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Quick-use
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Arabic > Russian > Polish > Turkish.

That said, you could also consider Japanese, Spanish or German.
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kngrv
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(Original post by Quick-use)
Arabic > Russian > Polish > Turkish.

That said, you could also consider Japanese, Spanish or German.
I already speak Spanish
Isn't japanese too "close" to mandarin chinese? or you think it's possible to learn both simultaneously (i'm a complete beginner in mandarin atm)

I will think about learning German thank you!
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artful_lounger
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(Original post by kngrv)
I already speak Spanish
Isn't japanese too "close" to mandarin chinese? or you think it's possible to learn both simultaneously (i'm a complete beginner in mandarin atm)

I will think about learning German thank you!
Aside from using the same script, they are linguistically unrelated as I understand - no more similar than say, French and German (in fact French and German are probably more related linguistically than Chinese and Japanese due to common roots in PIE...).
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Varis
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If you're learning a language for it to be relevant in your legal career, I'd advise focusing on the languages you already know / are learning to ensure they're at business level. If they're already are, then it just depends on which jurisdiction you might want to work with / at.
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kngrv
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(Original post by artful_lounger)
Aside from using the same script, they are linguistically unrelated as I understand - no more similar than say, French and German.
oooh okay I will dig more into it thank you
I answered to your post above but it is being vetted by the moderation if I understand correctly???

> I would like to work in public international law, within a NGO for example; is knowing foreign languages that are not spoken in the country where I could work, useful at all? thank you, I take your advices with great interest!

could you enlighten me please
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kngrv
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(Original post by Varis)
If you're learning a language for it to be relevant in your legal career, I'd advise focusing on the languages you already know / are learning to ensure they're at business level. If they're already are, then it just depends on which jurisdiction you might want to work with / at.
I have to choose another language between the ones following
german/arabic/catalan/spanish/greek/hebrew/italian/japanese/french sign language/latin/dutch/polish/portuguese/russian/czech/turkish

I will seek to learn spanish and english business vocabulary, but this is a mandatory course for my double diploma Law/Languages!
thank you for your answer
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artful_lounger
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(Original post by kngrv)
oooh okay I will dig more into it thank you
I answered to your post above but it is being vetted by the moderation if I understand correctly???

> I would like to work in public international law, within a NGO for example; is knowing foreign languages that are not spoken in the country where I could work, useful at all? thank you, I take your advices with great interest!

could you enlighten me please
From my (limited) understanding, I don't know how much it will help you if you are working on legal things, as opposed to working on linguistic matters (e.g. translation, interpretation etc), outside of being able to converse directly with clients/other stakeholders in the organisation. It's unlikely knowing another language is going to help you working on a contract between two entities based in different language speaking areas, as the contract is probably going to be expressed in just one of the languages or in a common language, and I would expect any particular translations needed of the legal content will be done by professional translators, not just whichever lawyers they have on hand that know the language to some extent.

The latter approach could easily create situations where things are misinterpreted leading to the contract terms not being met (or being responded to incorrectly), causing much trouble legally and financially. Using professional translators means those translators will have direct experience of the culture as well as the language, and be able to interpret with much more nuance than someone who just has conversational ability in the language. Also if it's a third party contractor then the organisation insulates itself from liability if for some reason something is mistranslated/interpreted leading to failures later, and they can sue the contractor for damages to boot. If they have in house translators then it makes clearer the lines of responsibility and avoids HR issues where someone misinterprets something and causes such problems, gets fired, and then turns around and says "well it wasn't my job to translate I am just a lawyer, I was just trying to help" etc.

Knowing certain foreign languages that are commonly spoken by the organisation and their partners may help with dealing with stakeholders as above though - these are probably going to be things like English/French/German though (and often the European members will speak two or more of those and related languages anyway) which are used as a lingua franca by the organisation and their stakeholders. I imagine it won't necessarily be local languages from the region(s) they are based or working in, in any case.

Quick-use however probably has much more relevant and accurate advice on both the language and professional sides of the matter! I do not work in those areas nor do I speak any other languages than English
Last edited by artful_lounger; 4 weeks ago
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kngrv
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(Original post by artful_lounger)
From my (limited) understanding, I don't know how much it will help you if you are working on legal things, as opposed to working on linguistic matters (e.g. translation, interpretation etc), outside of being able to converse directly with clients/other stakeholders in the organisation. It's unlikely knowing another language is going to help you working on a contract between two entities based in different language speaking areas, as the contract is probably going to be expressed in just one of the languages or in a common language, and I would expect any particular translations needed of the legal content will be done by professional translators, not just whichever lawyers they have on hand that know the language to some extent.

The latter approach could easily create situations where things are misinterpreted leading to the contract terms not being met (or being responded to incorrectly), causing much trouble legally and financially. Using professional translators means those translators will have direct experience of the culture as well as the language, and be able to interpret with much more nuance than someone who just has conversational ability in the language. Also if it's a third party contractor then the organisation insulates itself from liability if for some reason something is mistranslated/interpreted leading to failures later, and they can sue the contractor for damages to boot. If they have in house translators then it makes clearer the lines of responsibility and avoids HR issues where someone misinterprets something and causes such problems, gets fired, and then turns around and says "well it wasn't my job to translate I am just a lawyer, I was just trying to help" etc.

Knowing certain foreign languages that are commonly spoken by the organisation and their partners may help with dealing with stakeholders as above though - these are probably going to be things like English/French/German though (and often the European members will speak two or more of those and related languages anyway) which are used as a lingua franca by the organisation and their stakeholders. I imagine it won't necessarily be local languages from the region(s) they are based or working in, in any case.

Quick-use however probably has much more relevant and accurate advice on both the language and professional sides of the matter! I do not work in those areas nor do I speak any other languages than English
thank you!! in this case it would be more interesting choosing a language which culture and history I am most interested in because it won't have much impact on my professional life. I will think about it more thoroughly
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Quick-use
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(Original post by kngrv)
I already speak Spanish
Isn't japanese too "close" to mandarin chinese? or you think it's possible to learn both simultaneously (i'm a complete beginner in mandarin atm)

I will think about learning German thank you!
Japanese is not close to Chinese Mandarin at all. Chinese Mandarin utilises a pictorial writing script (hanzi) for everything. Japanese uses this pictorial writing script only for nouns and verb stems but it also has its own 2 alphabets which it employs. Ergo, in Japanese you have 3 writing scripts that are used simultaneously while in Chinese you only have 1. The way you pronounce or say words are completely different and unrelated to the point that you couldn't even guess what they could be.

Imagine looking at a picture of a bird. In Spanish and Russian, the word for 'bird' would be completely different. But, the picture itself would be the same, right? This is the same when it comes to Chinese Mandarin and Japanese - they use somewhat similar pictures but the words aren't even remotely close. In fact, being able to speak Japanese or Chinese will not give you an advantage in learning to speak the other whatsoever. Their grammar is the complete opposite (in Japanese verbs come at the end of the sentence: I apple eat) and Japanese utilises incredibly strict rules with its sentence composition while Mandarin does not. The only advantage you would gain is having a sound knowledge of Chinese characters which you could recognise.

Moreover, Chinese Mandarin employs simplified characters introduced in the 1900s while Japanese continues to use the more traditional looking characters introduced thousands of years ago, so even then, going from Mandarin to Japanese will be hard because the 'pictures' will be very, very different and much more complicated looking.

Coming from a Japanese background, I can look at a newspaper written in Chinese Mandarin and recognise various 'pictures' and get the general gist, but I wouldn't even know where to start in reading/pronouncing it. What's more, Mandarin uses 3x more characters in its text since the text is composed fully of Chinese characters (verbs, nouns, adverbs, pronouns - absolutely everything) while Japanese uses 3x less characters (or 'pictures') because they're only used for nouns or verb stems while the rest of the language is written in either of its 2 alphabets.
Last edited by Quick-use; 4 weeks ago
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Quick-use
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(Original post by kngrv)
thank you!! in this case it would be more interesting choosing a language which culture and history I am most interested in because it won't have much impact on my professional life. I will think about it more thoroughly
Feel free to ask me anything related to languages. I'll try my best to be as helpful as I can! :rambo:
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Johnny ~
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(Original post by kngrv)
Hi! I'm from France, I just finished high school and I am going to be studying law and languages next year.

I took Mandarin Chinese as my second language, but now I have to think about a possible third language that I could pick on.

I'm hesitating between the following:
Turkish
Russian
Polish
Arabic

turkish: I enjoy the culture, it's the country of my ancestors, but it's an agglutinative language and it seems pretty hard
russian: I already tried to learn it when I was younger and I can't really get used to its pronunciation and the grammar was super hard; but it's spoken by many
polish: I was learning polish for ~5months this year then I stopped because I got lazy, so I have the basis already and it's a language that I take pleasure to learn; but on the other hand I'm not really interested by the culture and it's not widely spoken
arabic: I speak darija which is an arabic dialect (still pretty different from MSA), but I'm not really interested by the culture either and it seems realllyy hard too

which one would you have picked???
thanks
Arabic is the most useful, though chances are that you wouldn't manage to get it up to a decent level, particularly if it's a third language that you probably won't have the opportunity to learn to a high level with everything else that you will have going on.

You also need a reality check as to the degree to which any of these will meaningfully advance your career as someone who isn't a native, isn't 'from' that culture, isn't capable of understanding technical/legal terms, etc. They won't. Best case scenario, you get nudged up a bit if you wanna go to Dubai for a secondment, or you get some translation/liasing work dumped on you because there's no one else who speaks the language in your team/department.
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kngrv
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(Original post by Quick-use)
Japanese is not close to Chinese Mandarin at all. Chinese Mandarin utilises a pictorial writing script (hanzi) for everything. Japanese uses this pictorial writing script only for nouns and verb stems but it also has its own 2 alphabets which it employs. Ergo, in Japanese you have 3 writing scripts that are used simultaneously while in Chinese you only have 1. The way you pronounce or say words are completely different and unrelated to the point that you couldn't even guess what they could be.

Imagine looking at a picture of a bird. In Spanish and Russian, the word for 'bird' would be completely different. But, the picture itself would be the same, right? This is the same when it comes to Chinese Mandarin and Japanese - they use somewhat similar pictures but the words aren't even remotely close. In fact, being able to speak Japanese or Chinese will not give you an advantage in learning to speak the other whatsoever. Their grammar is the complete opposite (in Japanese verbs come at the end of the sentence: I apple eat) and Japanese utilises incredibly strict rules with its sentence composition while Mandarin does not. The only advantage you would gain is having a sound knowledge of Chinese characters which you could recognise.

Moreover, Chinese Mandarin employs simplified characters introduced in the 1900s while Japanese continues to use the more traditional looking characters introduced thousands of years ago, so even then, going from Mandarin to Japanese will be hard because the 'pictures' will be very, very different and much more complicated looking.

Coming from a Japanese background, I can look at a newspaper written in Chinese Mandarin and recognise various 'pictures' and get the general gist, but I wouldn't even know where to start in reading/pronouncing it. What's more, Mandarin uses 3x more characters in its text since the text is composed fully of Chinese characters (verbs, nouns, adverbs, pronouns - absolutely everything) while Japanese uses 3x less characters (or 'pictures') because they're only used for nouns or verb stems while the rest of the language is written in either of its 2 alphabets.
ohhh I didn't know that thank you for your answer, I think I may go for Japanese then since I want to work in connection with East Asia
I'm just a bit afraid of the fact that many who take japanese/korean courses here are passionate about the pop culture of Japan or Korea, animes mangas video games etc, I imagine they must be extra-motivated compared to someone taking modern greek or amharic
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kngrv
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(Original post by Johnny ~)
Arabic is the most useful, though chances are that you wouldn't manage to get it up to a decent level, particularly if it's a third language that you probably won't have the opportunity to learn to a high level with everything else that you will have going on.

You also need a reality check as to the degree to which any of these will meaningfully advance your career as someone who isn't a native, isn't 'from' that culture, isn't capable of understanding technical/legal terms, etc. They won't. Best case scenario, you get nudged up a bit if you wanna go to Dubai for a secondment, or you get some translation/liasing work dumped on you because there's no one else who speaks the language in your team/department.
i see thank you
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Napp
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Personally i'd go for Russian, personal bias aside, it would be rather helpful across much of Western Asia/Eastern Europe/Caucuses and so on.

That being said, as others noted, if you're doing it for a career move then it really depends where/what you want to practice. Arabic being of no use in Russia and vice-versa, for example.
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kngrv
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(Original post by Quick-use)
Feel free to ask me anything related to languages. I'll try my best to be as helpful as I can! :rambo:
do you make use of the languages you know (aside from english) in your work? if you don't mind answering
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