English for financial and legal purposes with Mark Bransby: We don’t do it that way!
After many years working in civil law and training people in the UK, one of the things I love about teaching English in companies, particularly those connected with finance, is discovering the variances in the way business is conducted between Spain and the UK. If you also throw in the USA you can have 3 sometimes very separate financial and legal systems.
It is a common fallacy that Spain is rife with excessively bureaucratic challenges, suggesting that when you try and do something similar in the UK it is simple and straightforward. It is true that some things take longer and there are more hurdles but the reverse is also true- I have walked in and out of Spanish institutions within 5 minutes having initially been prepared to sit for hours because that is what would have happened in Britain.
A comment that I have sometimes heard in business based classes is ‘we don’t do it that way’, especially when talking about financial, accounting and legal processes. Globalisation has helped expose people to other systems and methods but this mindset can still be common. For example, in Spain solicitors will speak in court whereas in the UK it is barristers; solicitors are not permitted to do so. This, and demonstrating the different court structures and flow charts can draw a quizzical look from students, who can look at you as though you are speaking a foreign language, which of course is exactly what we are doing!!
One of the ways of conveying new vocabulary, structure and topics is through discussing the different processes that countries operate so that the ‘We don’t do it that way’ comment should never be an obstacle but a way of opening up a subject to talk about cultural as well as linguistic differences. Remember, the Spanish legal system may not have a separate word for barrister or attorney to differentiate from solicitor but they will need to know and understand the meanings when speaking to UK and USA clients. Another example is dealing with the idea that in Spain the prosecutor sets out the punishment demanded before a case is heard, which is completely contrary to what happens in the UK where a judge makes the decision based on precedent.
Classes highlighting these variations then provide a double benefit, adding context and background knowledge and understanding to the vocabulary and grammar that will form the basis of the activity and enable the student to not only use the language but recognise it and its context when it is heard or read. The comment therefore changes from being something that can trip us up to a way of opening two doors at once.