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Impact of foreign language skills on application?

Posted: Fri May 11, 2012 5:10 pm
by arslonga91
Hi, all,

First off, I'm so glad to have stumbled upon this forum and this website. Seems like a rich mine for information about law school and LSAT.

Just wondering if being fluent in one or two (or three) foreign languages helps in one's application? I understand they're far from game-changing aspects for admissions people, but would they have any sort of impact? Are they good "softs"? I'm a native speaker of English, pretty much fluent in French, as I've been studying it for 8 years and spent an exchange semester at Sciences-Po Paris; fairly good with Russian - it's my minor and I'm comfortable enough in it to do a report on Brics; and Chinese, which I've been speaking from the cradle but in which I have limited schooling. I'm interested in international law, so I guess in that sense foreign languages would be quite relevant.

Looking forward to your responses, thanks in advance!

Re: Impact of foreign language skills on application?

Posted: Fri May 11, 2012 7:04 pm
by howlery
It won't hurt you but LSAT/GPA are still the most important factors. Just think, is knowing a couple of languages and studying abroad objectively better than an HYP grad with awesome grades/scores and Rhodes/Marshall/etc.? Those people apply, too.

International law sounds great, man :P .

Re: Impact of foreign language skills on application?

Posted: Fri May 11, 2012 7:07 pm
by CanadianWolf
What does the "s" in "BRICS" represent ?

Re: Impact of foreign language skills on application?

Posted: Fri May 11, 2012 7:10 pm
by emptyflare
CanadianWolf wrote:What does the "s" in "BRICS" represent ?


South Africa

Re: Impact of foreign language skills on application?

Posted: Fri May 11, 2012 7:15 pm
by MrAnon
you could speak 19 languages fluently and it won't do much for your application.

Re: Impact of foreign language skills on application?

Posted: Fri May 11, 2012 11:37 pm
by dingbat
Made no difference for me.
Come to think of it, if it got asked in any app, so they probably didn't know

Re: Impact of foreign language skills on application?

Posted: Fri May 11, 2012 11:42 pm
by dresden doll
It's incredibly unlikely to make any difference whatsoever.

Re: Impact of foreign language skills on application?

Posted: Sat May 12, 2012 9:58 am
by CanadianWolf
Portuguese is in demand. Chinese should get you noticed. Russian is probably useless since all educated Russians tend to be proficient or fluent in the world's scientific language (English). French is good for dinner parties & working in Quebec.

Prosecutors & defenders often seek attorneys and/or paralegals fluent or highly proficient in Spanish.

Re: Impact of foreign language skills on application?

Posted: Sat May 12, 2012 10:54 am
by dingbat
CanadianWolf wrote:Portuguese is in demand. Chinese should get you noticed. Russian is probably useless since all educated Russians tend to be proficient or fluent in the world's scientific language (English). French is good for dinner parties & working in Quebec.

Prosecutors & defenders often seek attorneys and/or paralegals fluent or highly proficient in Spanish.

And this affects law school applications how?

Re: Impact of foreign language skills on application?

Posted: Sat May 12, 2012 11:54 am
by howlery
dingbat wrote:
CanadianWolf wrote:Portuguese is in demand. Chinese should get you noticed. Russian is probably useless since all educated Russians tend to be proficient or fluent in the world's scientific language (English). French is good for dinner parties & working in Quebec.

Prosecutors & defenders often seek attorneys and/or paralegals fluent or highly proficient in Spanish.

And this affects law school applications how?


Definitely a plus come OCI, though it depends on where the firm or organization does business. Not so much for admissions, you're right.

Re: Impact of foreign language skills on application?

Posted: Sat May 12, 2012 12:47 pm
by arslonga91
Yeah, about the "real world": I would think that foreign languages in today's globalized world would be a useful adjunct in most lines of work, including the law, and notwithstanding the primacy of English - which is what made me wonder about its usefulness on law school applications.

But damn, so it looks like I shouldn't even bother making these sound like sparkling assets. Still, two of these three languages, Russian and French, are part of my undergrad studies, along with History, so I'll have to make mention of them.

Incidentally, I totally got the importance of the LSAT. I've been raised by parents who emphasized the exam-taking culture in which they grew up. My current GPA, 3.75, is not outstanding - I think it would be right around the 25th percentile at Harvard - so thing one: I'm not banking on HYS, and thing two: I'm putting forth all my energies into rocking the LSAT.

Re: Impact of foreign language skills on application?

Posted: Sat May 12, 2012 12:51 pm
by howlery
arslonga91 wrote:Yeah, about the "real world": I would think that foreign languages in today's globalized world would be a useful adjunct in most lines of work, including the law, and notwithstanding the primacy of English - which is what made me wonder about its usefulness on law school applications.

But damn, so it looks like I shouldn't even bother making these sound like sparkling assets. Still, two of these three languages, Russian and French, are part of my undergrad studies, along with History, so I'll have to make mention of them.

Incidentally, I totally got the importance of the LSAT. I've been raised by parents who emphasized the exam-taking culture in which they grew up. My current GPA, 3.75, is not outstanding - I think it would be right around the 25th percentile at Harvard - so thing one: I'm not banking on HYS, and thing two: I'm putting forth all my energies into rocking the LSAT.


Sounds like a plan. I believe your current GPA is above median at Columbia (#4, right behind Harvard), so if you score 172+ I'd say your chances would be great. Scholarships at schools below CCN seem like a possibility too, someone correct me.

Good luck :D

Re: Impact of foreign language skills on application?

Posted: Sat May 12, 2012 12:56 pm
by shintopig
arslonga91 wrote:Hi, all,

First off, I'm so glad to have stumbled upon this forum and this website. Seems like a rich mine for information about law school and LSAT.

Just wondering if being fluent in one or two (or three) foreign languages helps in one's application? I understand they're far from game-changing aspects for admissions people, but would they have any sort of impact? Are they good "softs"? I'm a native speaker of English, pretty much fluent in French, as I've been studying it for 8 years and spent an exchange semester at Sciences-Po Paris; fairly good with Russian - it's my minor and I'm comfortable enough in it to do a report on Brics; and Chinese, which I've been speaking from the cradle but in which I have limited schooling. I'm interested in international law, so I guess in that sense foreign languages would be quite relevant.

Looking forward to your responses, thanks in advance!


I would make sure that you make sure you show that you're focused and that you don't want to just study the generic "international law". That study is so general and so broad. You can do any law; criminal, intellectual propery, civil, administrative, public interest, military, health etc, on an international scale. You just have to join an international firm.

So make sure that in your essay you show your focus within the international sphere. Any idiot can like international law, but your ability to use your foreign language & experience to specialize & hone in on a particular field & career makes you a more valuable & desirable candidate.

So use your language & global experience as a leg up on everyone else, as you have already traveled & gain skills and experience. Therefore you know the scope of the international legal study and have a career in mind. Many people say they want int. law but have never set foot ouside of their home-state or the few surrounding states. Talk about how your experience (including languages) will make you a better jd candidate & attorney and more focused, more determined more knowledgable than the next guy. All that stuff . . .

Thus if you can use the languages to show your resolve, then I think they'll help.

Re: Impact of foreign language skills on application?

Posted: Sat May 12, 2012 2:42 pm
by American_in_China
International Law isn't a real field unless you go to T3, maybe T6.

Languages skills might help during hiring; firms with international clients will give slight to major preference on those fluent in the language and culture of the clients they deal with, depends on how much business it accounts for, and how many partners/associates at the firm already have that skill. I know that firms in my home market (Nashville) prize Japanese because of Nissan's headquarters being here, and are valuing Chinese more each year.
French does jack. Russian maybe a little (in NYC), probably nothing elsewhere.

Re: Impact of foreign language skills on application?

Posted: Sat May 12, 2012 2:56 pm
by arslonga91
Sounds like a plan. I believe your current GPA is above median at Columbia (#4, right behind Harvard), so if you score 172+ I'd say your chances would be great. Scholarships at schools below CCN seem like a possibility too, someone correct me.

Good luck :D


Thanks, howlery. Awesome pic, by the way. :D

I would make sure that you make sure you show that you're focused and that you don't want to just study the generic "international law". That study is so general and so broad. You can do any law; criminal, intellectual propery, civil, administrative, public interest, military, health etc, on an international scale. You just have to join an international firm.

So make sure that in your essay you show your focus within the international sphere. Any idiot can like international law, but your ability to use your foreign language & experience to specialize & hone in on a particular field & career makes you a more valuable & desirable candidate.

So use your language & global experience as a leg up on everyone else, as you have already traveled & gain skills and experience. Therefore you know the scope of the international legal study and have a career in mind. Many people say they want int. law but have never set foot ouside of their home-state or the few surrounding states. Talk about how your experience (including languages) will make you a better jd candidate & attorney and more focused, more determined more knowledgable than the next guy. All that stuff . . .

Thus if you can use the languages to show your resolve, then I think they'll help.


Appreciate the incredibly useful advice. We're definitely on the same wavelength here. I was thinking of centering my application around this "international", multilingual theme. I have a growing interest in private international law, conflict of laws, comparative law.

Re: Impact of foreign language skills on application?

Posted: Sat May 12, 2012 11:40 pm
by shintopig
arslonga91 wrote:Appreciate the incredibly useful advice. We're definitely on the same wavelength here. I was thinking of centering my application around this "international", multilingual theme. I have a growing interest in private international law, conflict of laws, comparative law.


Well frankly TLS people tend to really discourage International Law. I guess the motive is that most people are pretty inexperienced in the international sphere & don't really understand what "international law" means; they just think it sounds cool

But I mean for an applicant like you who has a good amount of foreign language experience (only people who speak multiple languages know how integral such a skill is) and I assume travel experience, international law is much more of a natural choice. I have a similar focus in my application, so I get where you're coming from. Make sure to have a career in mind though and use the int. law concentration as the means to the end.

Frankly, though apply to the best schools you can as they tend to consequently have the best International Law as well. American, Temple, Case Western Reserve , Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota in addition to the T-14 are all schools to watch out for int. law.

All the best.

Re: Impact of foreign language skills on application?

Posted: Sat May 12, 2012 11:43 pm
by dingbat
shintopig wrote:Frankly, though apply to the best schools you can as they tend to consequently have the best International Law as well. American, Temple, Case Western Reserve , Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota in addition to the T-14 are all schools to watch out for int. law.

I have serious doubts about some of the schools you listed.

Re: Impact of foreign language skills on application?

Posted: Sun May 13, 2012 5:41 am
by UVAhopeful
dingbat wrote:
shintopig wrote:Frankly, though apply to the best schools you can as they tend to consequently have the best International Law as well. American, Temple, Case Western Reserve , Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota in addition to the T-14 are all schools to watch out for int. law.

I have serious doubts about some of the schools you listed.


+1

Re: Impact of foreign language skills on application?

Posted: Sun May 13, 2012 1:26 pm
by arslonga91
shintopig wrote:
arslonga91 wrote:Appreciate the incredibly useful advice. We're definitely on the same wavelength here. I was thinking of centering my application around this "international", multilingual theme. I have a growing interest in private international law, conflict of laws, comparative law.


Well frankly TLS people tend to really discourage International Law. I guess the motive is that most people are pretty inexperienced in the international sphere & don't really understand what "international law" means; they just think it sounds cool

But I mean for an applicant like you who has a good amount of foreign language experience (only people who speak multiple languages know how integral such a skill is) and I assume travel experience, international law is much more of a natural choice. I have a similar focus in my application, so I get where you're coming from. Make sure to have a career in mind though and use the int. law concentration as the means to the end.

Frankly, though apply to the best schools you can as they tend to consequently have the best International Law as well. American, Temple, Case Western Reserve , Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota in addition to the T-14 are all schools to watch out for int. law.

All the best.


Thanks, and you're right; if you don't know a couple of languages and haven't lived in other countries, you don't know what it's like and you probably don't have a sense of how useful being multilingual can be. It opens so many doors and provides much greater perspective. I admit I was somewhat surprised by the tepid response here; more out of lack of familiarity with the situation than anything else?

It looks like Columbia, NYU, Georgetown, UPenn and American all have great programs for international law. Not sure about the others you mentioned, but will do more research.

Thanks again, and best of luck to you, too.

Re: Impact of foreign language skills on application?

Posted: Sun May 13, 2012 1:56 pm
by FlanAl
dingbat wrote:
CanadianWolf wrote:Portuguese is in demand. Chinese should get you noticed. Russian is probably useless since all educated Russians tend to be proficient or fluent in the world's scientific language (English). French is good for dinner parties & working in Quebec.

Prosecutors & defenders often seek attorneys and/or paralegals fluent or highly proficient in Spanish.

And this affects law school applications how?


they want to take applicants that are going to get employed, it also makes you a more diverse candidate. I doubt it will give you a big edge but with equal numbers you'd probably get in over someone who only speaks english.

Re: Impact of foreign language skills on application?

Posted: Sun May 13, 2012 3:51 pm
by dingbat
FlanAl wrote:with equal numbers you'd probably get in over someone who only speaks english.

Re: Impact of foreign language skills on application?

Posted: Sun May 13, 2012 4:10 pm
by howlery
dingbat wrote:
FlanAl wrote:with equal numbers you'd probably get in over someone who only speaks english.


Provided that that person had softs that were of lesser value/employable, right? Is a LSAT/GPA/PS/DS/LOR tie against someone who has no redeeming qualities even likely?

Re: Impact of foreign language skills on application?

Posted: Sun May 13, 2012 5:07 pm
by FlanAl
I'd just consider fluency in another language as another soft. And I don't know how likely it is for there to be two people with "all other things equal" but I'd imagine that when you get close to that equalness, fluency in another language beats someone who just speaks english.

Re: Impact of foreign language skills on application?

Posted: Mon May 14, 2012 3:00 am
by shintopig
arslonga91 wrote:
shintopig wrote:
arslonga91 wrote:Appreciate the incredibly useful advice. We're definitely on the same wavelength here. I was thinking of centering my application around this "international", multilingual theme. I have a growing interest in private international law, conflict of laws, comparative law.


Well frankly TLS people tend to really discourage International Law. I guess the motive is that most people are pretty inexperienced in the international sphere & don't really understand what "international law" means; they just think it sounds cool

But I mean for an applicant like you who has a good amount of foreign language experience (only people who speak multiple languages know how integral such a skill is) and I assume travel experience, international law is much more of a natural choice. I have a similar focus in my application, so I get where you're coming from. Make sure to have a career in mind though and use the int. law concentration as the means to the end.

Frankly, though apply to the best schools you can as they tend to consequently have the best International Law as well. American, Temple, Case Western Reserve , Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota in addition to the T-14 are all schools to watch out for int. law.

All the best.


Thanks, and you're right; if you don't know a couple of languages and haven't lived in other countries, you don't know what it's like and you probably don't have a sense of how useful being multilingual can be. It opens so many doors and provides much greater perspective. I admit I was somewhat surprised by the tepid response here; more out of lack of familiarity with the situation than anything else?

It looks like Columbia, NYU, Georgetown, UPenn and American all have great programs for international law. Not sure about the others you mentioned, but will do more research.

Thanks again, and best of luck to you, too.


Its funny how the opinions on this post went from "it probably won't help you" to "it'll give you the edge over someone who just speaks English (aka. 99% of applicants)". Just goes to show I think how little people really know about how bi/trilingualism helps in an application. It's such an underrated skill in the U.S. and most applicants would rather doubt it than support it; just my view.

And as far as the schools I mentioned; go for the top-14 first then the names I mentioned second. So the specific names I mentioned are all schools outside of the t14 that have good int. law. However, all the t14 schools have great int. law. It all depends on your numbers and I would assume based on you applying to NYU, Penn and the like, that your LSAT & GPA are good. So yeah go for the best schools first.

Keep up the research & work.

Re: Impact of foreign language skills on application?

Posted: Mon May 14, 2012 3:35 am
by rad lulz
lol no law schools are good at "international law," whatever that is