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Author Topic: Planning to study International Law - What language should I minor in?  (Read 3177 times)

smallpox

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Hi guys! I'm a pre-law student/undergrad, and I'm about to start in the fall at University of Florida. I'm going to be majoring in Political Science, but I'm in a bit of a tizzy regarding my language choices. I wanted to minor in Persian (I'm Iranian) but sadly they don't offer it at my school. Right now I'm narrowing my choices between Russian, Chinese, Japanese or Arabic. I have a bit of an advantage in terms of Japanese, since I taught myself hiragana and katakana one lonely summer five years ago (lol). I just want to know what language is the best choice for people planning to pursue International Law. It would help immensely, since I pick my minor soon!! :) Thanks!

BikePilot

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I don't know that there's one best, it really depends on which country you'd like to interact with and possibly live in the most.

As a general rule I've been told that foreign languages are only useful if you are sufficiently good in them to be able to conduct an entire interview and write a legal brief in the language.  This is probably an exaggeration, but is what the career services office said at my school.

Note that there's not really a single, unified field of international law.  That could include anything from international M&A to human rights to war crimes prosecutions.  Japanese probably won't help much for the latter two, it could be quite helpful if you wanna do US-Japanese deals/commercial law.
HLS 2010

Morten Lund

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As a general rule I've been told that foreign languages are only useful if you are sufficiently good in them to be able to conduct an entire interview and write a legal brief in the language.  This is probably an exaggeration, but is what the career services office said at my school.

That isn't bad advice, but my experience has been that it varies.  Some cultures will place great value on any ability to speak their language, even if the negotiations end up being in English.  Other cultures don't particularly care whether you can speak their language unless that is the language of the documents.

Remember that "international law" is a fuzzy concept.  Unless you are trying cases at the ICC, "international law" probably just means a US practice with cases/deals involving a lot of foreigners.  That means that the documents are likely to be in English regardless, and language is just for ease of communication.  I have found that the ability to discuss things with clients in their language is valuable, even when the negotiations and/or documents are in English.