Learn English Online


A previous blog entry (“Legal English, Legal Translation and Resources for Legal Translators”) focused on helping Spanish-English legal translators and legal professionals learn Anglo-American Law. But over the summer several of my former students of Legal English have asked me for resources to help them improve their “normal” (nonlegal) English skills. Here are Twitter accounts and blogs that I follow that focus on learning English. If any of you out there have additional suggestions, I will gladly to add them to this list:


@bbcle (BBC Learning English); bbclearningenglish.com

@Eingleses (Estudios ingleses); eingleses.com

@EnglishRadar; englishradar.com

@EnglishStudy; FunkyEnglish.com

@InglesSila, aprendeinglessila.com

@madridESL (Daniel Welsch); madridingles.net

@NextStepEnglish; nextstepenglish.com


@TEH_Learning; theenglishhall.com

@The_YUNiversity; TheYUNiversity.net

@YentelmanBlog; yentelman.com

How Can ES-EN-ES Legal Translators Learn Law? (Some suggested “Tools of the Trade”)

law books 1

I was recently interviewed by legal translator Fernando Cuñado for the Traducción Jurídica channel that he and Ruth Gámez have on Youtube. We discussed many aspects of legal translation and learning Legal English, and particularly about how nonlawyer legal translators can become proficient in both Spanish and Anglo-American law. I explained my personal method for learning Spanish law, which involved studying Spanish law school textbooks, taking notes as if I were a student enrolled in courses in the 15 major legal disciplines, and then searching for possible English translations. The results were subsequently published in my Léxico temático de terminología jurídica español-inglés (Tirant lo Blanch, 2015). Here you can view the full 32-page table of contents.

But what about learning US law or the law of England and Wales? For legal translators, American or British law school textbooks may not always be the best choice, since they mainly focus on caselaw and don’t really provide a concise source for the legal concepts and terminology that translators require. In the interview with Fernando, I reviewed what for me are some of the “tools of the trade” that helped me learn the fundamental concepts and terminology of US and UK law. Here are some of the basics (I’ve provided links to the newer editions; mine are definitely not the latest!):

1) Bilingual legal dictionaries

I own a ton of Spanish-English/English-Spanish law dictionaries. I won’t list them all here, but now that we have Internet (yes, it was possible to be a legal translator before Google), I’ll list them by author/publisher* below for those who may be interested in examining some of them. Over time, I’ve found that I basically use only two. Tom West’s Spanish-English Dictionary of Law and Business (Intermark Language Publications, 2nd edition, 2012) is my go-to bilingual dictionary for two reasons: it provides renderings for many complete phrases (rather than the single-word noun entries that seem to dominate many bilingual sources), and West gives context, indicating the Spanish-speaking country where the term is most likely to appear. I also use the Alcaraz/Hughes Diccionario de términos jurídicos (Ariel, 11th edition, 2012). Having also bought one of the first editions in addition to two of the newer ones, it’s easy to see that the present work has been greatly expanded and improved.

 2) Monolingual legal dictionaries

(English Law):

 (US Law):

  • Black’s Law Dictionary, Bryan Garner, Editor-in-Chief (Thompson West, 11th edition, 2019); for me, an imprescindible; I look up something in Black’s every day. I’ve put it under “US Law” but it’s really an international legal dictionary that includes lots of terms marked “English law,” “Civil law,” “Roman law,” “Spanish law,” “French law,” etc., as well as an extensive appendix of legal maxims in Latin.
  • Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law . (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2016). A standard US law dictionary in a useful trade paperback format.

 3) Legal Usage Dictionaries

These are entertaining as well as educational, since they give examples of how lawyers, judges and other legal professionals use, misuse, and abuse Legal English. These are the two “must-haves:”

3) Monographs on Legal English

  • Peter M. Tiersma. Legal Language (University of Chicago Press, 1999). Peter Tiersma was one of the world’s foremost experts on language and law. His Legal Language is a classic and his website (LANGUAGEandLAW.org) (maintained after his death by Loyola Law School in Los Angeles) is also a treasure trove of information on Legal English
  • David Mellinkoff. The Language of the Law (originally published by Little Brown in 1963). This classic combines a detailed history of the development of Legal English with criticism of modern legal language as often being “wordy, unclear, pompous and dull.”

4) Overviews of English and American Law

There are dozens of good overviews of English and American law to choose from, but here are the newer editions of the ones the ones that I used to learn about Anglo-American law so many years ago:

(English Law):

(US Law):

5) Overviews of Specific Areas of Law

To understand the basic concepts and learn the vocabulary of specific areas of law, I worked with a series of “study aids” or “exam study guides” designed for law school students. Here are some of the most readily available:

(English Law):

  • The “Concentrate” Series Study & Revision Guides (Oxford University Press), includes “Contract Law Concentrate,” “Tort Law Concentrate,” “Criminal Law Concentrate,” “Land Law Concentrate,” “Family Law Concentrate,” etc.
  • Routledge-Cavendish Lawcards are “pocket-sized guides to the key examinable areas of law.” I’ve used the ones on contracts, commercial law, intellectual property and employment law. They may not be updated to reflect the latest changes in English law, but they’re still good sources for concepts and terminology.

(US Law):

  • West Academic Publishing’s Nutshell Series includes summaries of every area of law imaginable, and I found the ones on civil procedure, criminal law, criminal procedure, intellectual property, and comparative legal traditions to be quite useful. West likewise has a similar “Acing” series, and Sweet & Maxwell also appears to publish its own Nutshells for English law.
  • Permacharts are plastic-laminated charts on many areas of US (and Canadian) law that cram an incredible number of legal concepts and terms onto just a few pages. I found them easy to tuck into a bag to read them in my spare time while on the bus or in the Madrid Metro.

 6) Legal English books for non-native speakers of English: There are many excellent ones, and I own about a dozen. They’re a good place to start, but may not provide the depth of concepts and terminology that seasoned legal translators may ultimately require. Below is an author list** of the ones I found most useful, for those who want to take a look.

Well, that’s about it. There are, of course, hundreds more print resources available, and legal translators may perhaps now find enough in-depth works on Internet to meet their needs for self-training in law. But, as I tell my students, “I still believe in books,” and I’m sure that the ones listed above can provide translators with a solid foundation in Anglo-American law and legal terminology.


*Becerra, Javier; Bodoutchian-Saiz, Veronique; Bossini; Francisco R.; Butterworth’s; Cabanellas, Guillermo; Cassells’; Collin’s; Dahl’s; Espasa; Kaplan, Steven M.; Mazzucco, Patricia; McGraw-Hill; Ramírez, Antonio; Robb, Louis A.; Romanach, Jr., Julio; Tena Calvo, José Ángel; Tomasi’s; West’s; Wiley’s (only lists the first author of co-authored bilingual dictionaries)

**Brieger, Nick; Brostoff, Teresa Kissane; Brown, Gillian D.; Bruno-Linder, Amy; Chartrand, Marcella; Gubby, Helen; Haigh, Rupert; Krois-Lindner, Amy; Lee, Debra S.; Mason, Catherine; McKay, William R.; Riley, Alison; Riley, David (only lists the first author of co-authored Legal English books)


Now in eBook! Thematic Lexicon of Spanish-English Legal Terminology


I’m pleased to announce that my Léxico temático de terminología jurídica español-inglés is now available in ebook.

More than a few colleagues have asked for a searchable versión, and since the Léxico is admittedly quite extensive (over 1,000 pages), the ebook edition will indeed make finding specific terms and concepts easier.

The work contains over 20,000 legal terms, expressions and concepts from 15 areas of Spanish law with their corresponding English translations, and its thematic approach presents terminology in the context in which it actually appears in Spanish legal texts. I created it as a tool for intensive translator-interpreter terminology training, as well as for lawyers and law professors who require an in-depth knowledge of Spanish and English in the major legal disciplines.

Here is a general overview of the Léxico’s content:

  • Law and the Judiciary (Derecho y sistema judicial)
  • Civil Procedure (Derecho procesal civil)
  • Criminal Law (Derecho penal)
  • Criminal Procedure (Derecho procesal penal)
  • Corrections Law (Derecho penitenciario)
  • Labor Law, Social Security Law and Labor Procedure (Derecho del trabajo, Derecho de la Seguridad Social y Derecho procesal Laboral)
  • Tax Law (Derecho tributario)
  • Law of Persons (Derecho de la persona)
  • Contracts (Derecho de los contratos)
  • Law of Torts (Derecho de daños)
  • Family Law (Derecho de familia)
  • Property Law and Property Registration (Derecho de cosas y Derecho hipotecario)
  • Law of Succession (Derecho de sucesiones)
  • Business Law (Derecho mercantil)

Download the full (32 page) table of contents: Léxico–Full table of contents.

Available from the Tirant lo Blanch legal publishers here.


Terminology Sources: An Overview of English Law

uk parliament-2

The “In Brief” legal resource website is a must for translators, interpreters and legal professionals who need to acquire a working knowledge of the law of England and Wales in many of the major legal disciplines. It describes itself as a “growing legal resource providing information on a variety of legal issues” that “aims to be the largest source of legal material of its kind anywhere on the Internet.” This may appear to be somewhat of an exaggeration, but the information provided does indeed cover an extensive range of legal topics, including

  • Agricultural Law
  • Animal Law
  • Business Finance
  • Charity Law
  • Child Law
  • Civil Court
  • Claim Preparation
  • Clinical Negligence
  • Company Law
  • Consumer Law
  • Contract Law
  • Court Judgements
  • Court Proceedings
  • Discrimination Law
  • Divorce Law
  • Employees
  • Employers
  • Estate Law
  • Football Law
  • Human Rights
  • Immigration Law
  • Intellectual Property
  • Land Law
  • Legal System
  • Marriage Law
  • Media Law
  • Motoring Law
  • Offences
  • Personal Finance
  • Personal Injury
  • Police
  • Preparing For Trial
  • Property Law
  • Regulations
  • Sales Law
  • Sports Law
  • Types of Claim

Explore more here: https://www.inbrief.co.uk/

An Historical Introduction to Legal English

ancient cloudy daylight england

The personal website of the American medievalist and Latin scholar Daniel Williman contains an outstanding work on legal English: “Legal Terminology: An Historical Introduction to the Technical Language of the Law.” For each area of law Professor Williman provides historical background, followed by related terminology and definitions. First published in book form by the University of Toronto Press in 1986, a glance at the Table of Contents of this work shows just how complete this overview is:

  1. Language and European History
  2. Legal History and Legal Terminology
  3. Litigation, Pleading and Trial
  4. History I: Roman Civil Law
  5. Contracts and Debts
  6. Judgement and Enforcement
  7. History II: Canon Law and Jus Commune
  8. Wills and Estates
  9. Penal Law
  10. History III: Germanic and French Custom, Feudal Law, Law French
  11. Domestic Relations
  12. Crime
  13. Documents, Instruments, and the Record
  14. History IV: English Common Law
  15. Real Property
  16. Criminal Procedure
  17. Equity
  18. Commercial Law
  19. History V: North American Reception of European Law
  20. Logical Argument and Evidence
  21. Torts
  22. Corporation, Partnership, and Securities
  23. Sovereignty and Conflict of Laws

It is possible to browse the work by chapters using the links above, or view it in its entirety (with its Preface, Introduction, References and Index to Latin maxims) here: http://www.corsanoandwilliman.org/latin/work/legalterminology.htm#contents




Terminology Sources: Swimming in the “Alphabet Soup” of European Union Agencies

EU Agencies

As translators we often have to use the official names of EU agencies and their abbreviations, initialisms or acronyms in other languages. Their names are sometimes easily confused and, moreover, to further complicate matters they often appear to be in flux, being amended from time to time to more accurately reflect the agency’s purpose and scope. A prime example is the former Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs)—OHIM) (in Spanish, Oficina de Armonización del Mercado Interior (Marcas, Dibujos y Modelos)—OAMI), located in Alicante, Spain, which as of March, 2016 is now known as the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) (or Oficina de Propiedad Intelectual de la Unión Europea—OPIUE).

Navigating this complicated maze is much simplified by an article published in the May/June, 2016 issue of “puntoycoma: Boletín de los traductores españoles de las instituciones de la Unión Europea” that provides the current (and some possible future) names and abbreviations for dozens of EU agencies in Spanish, English and French. It’s entitled “Las siglas de los organizmos descentralizados de la Unión Europea: situación actual” and is available here:

In addition, the EU Agencies Network maintains a current interactive map with the name, location and link to the website of EU agencies.



Terminology Sources: “Legal Language” by Peter M. Tiersma

Terminology Sources

For anyone interested in Legal English, Peter Tiersma’s book on “Legal Language” (University of Chicago Press, 2000) is an absolute must. After tracing the origins and development of Legal English (providing sample texts in Anglo-Saxon and Law French), he then examines the nature of legal language as used by both lawyers and in the courtroom. Another remarkable source of information on legal language is the late Professor Tiersma’s webpage, part of which is still maintained and made accessible to the general public by the Loyola Law School of Los Angeles (http://www.languageandlaw.org/).

Terminology Sources: Fundéu

Terminology Sources

For anyone interested in Legal Spanish (and Spanish language in general), Fundéu (Fundación del Español Urgente) is a must. Since 2005, in this collaborative effort of the Agencia EFE news agency, BBVA (Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria) and the Real Academia Española, Fundéu’s team of journalists, linguists, lexicographers, translators and other language professionals have provided a forum for promoting the correct usage of Spanish in the communications media and everywhere else. As their mission statement indicates, “mediante recomendaciones diarias y respuestas a las consultas que recibimos, pretendemos ser una herramienta que ayude a todos aquellos que utilizan el idioma en su actividad diaria en los medios de comunicación, las redes sociales, las nuevas plataformas digitales…

Terminology Sources: Glossary of Notarial Terms

Terminology Sources

Spanish-to-English translators are often called upon to translate a variety of notarial documents. An excellent source for understanding the terminology of notarially-recorded instruments and lots of basic Civil Law concepts is the Glosario de Términos Notariales available on the website of Spain’s Consejo General del Notariado at http://glosario.notariado.org/ .

The site also offers a series of folletos informativos covering many of the areas of private law in which notaries intervene: http://www.notariado.org/liferay/web/notariado/folletos-informativos .

And, finally, the Consejo publishes a searchable online magazine Escritura Pública featuring a variety of articles that seek to serve as a punto de encuentro entre este colectivo y el resto de la sociedad: http://www.notariado.org/liferay/web/notariado/publicaciones/publicaciones-periodicas/escritura-publica .



Terminology Sources: Legal Information Institute (LII)

Terminology Sources

Housed at the Cornell University Law School, the Legal Information Institute has provided open-access legal information from a variety of sources since 1992. Its “Get the Law” section includes the complete texts of the principal US legal documents. including the US Code (compendium of all permanent federal statutes), all of the Federal Rules of Procedure (civil, criminal, appellate, evidence and bankruptcy) and the Uniform Commercial Code, among others. The LII’s “Legal Encyclopedia” features hundreds of entries on business law, constitutional law, criminal law, family law, employment law, money and finances, and many other areas of law. The “Articles” section likewise has hundreds of summaries on a broad variety of legal topics. And under “Español” many of the aspects of US law are presented in Spanish. At the end of the article in Spanish there is a link to the same or similar article in English for those who may want to compare the concepts and terminology presented there in both languages.