Specialized English: what is this mysterious subject? by Monica Migliarotti - Profesora de inglés certificada - Madrid

Monica Migliarotti

Profesora de inglés certificada


Specialized English: what is this mysterious subject?

I decided to write this post after maybe the hundreth time I have been called by a Language school and asked to give Legal English classes  just like  General English classes and for the same price (or even less in some cases). 

Why teaching English for specific purposes requires a different preparation from General English?

So first of all: What is Specialized English like Business, Accounting, Financial, Legal, Medical, etc and is it the same as General English? Not at all. It is a totally different subject which includes specific knowledge of certain concepts which you normally acquire in your higher education such as University. Can any English teacher teach Specialized English ? Absolutely not. Does it require specific knowledge? Indeed. Do you have to be a native English teacher to teach it? No, even because it is, I repeat, a different subject. 

For too long there has been a common misunderstanding about the fact that Specialized English is a mere translation of specific terms from one language to another but it's not like that. It requires specific preparation and background since the teacher has to explain the concepts he or she teaches even because most of the time you teach specialized professionals. Therefore if you lack that preparation and studies, the result will be obvious. Sometimes some concepts exist in one language and not in another and you have to be able to explain what they mean. 

Another reflection: even if Specialized English was only a mere translation, are we really sure that only for the fact that we are native or bilingual we know specialized language? I surely don't think so. Why would I know finance Italian terms not having studied finance or can I explain some Chemistry principle in my mother tongue to other people? Not at all. 

You get what you pay for

So there you go: this is the main difference between what is called General English maybe some specialized vocabulary or Specialized English. 
What does it imply? It implies on the economical side that Financial Accounting, Legal English classes have to have a different economic treatment even because every class material has to be meticulously prepared and in most cases there is a program to be prepared and followed. Could I prepare an English for Medical Doctors class? Maybe I could: a basic, non technical one, since in my personal life also given my age and the fact that I travelled a lot I have learnt my fair share of medical terms in English. Could I prepare for a Financial English class not having studied Finance ? Hell no.
Once I was asked by a Language academy to give a class of English for accountants and I tried to explain I have very little (almost non-existent ) knowledge about it. I was told that since I teach Business and Legal English I could surely get by. I insisted that I couldn't. They insisted that I could. Eventually I asked how much the classes were paid anyway and it turns out that they were paid less than a General English class. Now could you seriously expect somebody to give such a detailed and specialized class for such little money? Not only do I find it unrealistic but also somehow offensive.   

After many years of teching Law at Law School in both languages and practising as a lawyer I am positive of one thing: make no mistake, when looking for a Specialized English teacher you should always go to a Specialized Center or a Specialized professional. 

Quality and preparation do not come free of course nor do they come cheap but in the end the result is beneficial to both parties. Thus you surely would have to pay more but then in this case the saying " you get what you pay for" comes really appropriate. 

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