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Dear all,

Having worked at the World Bank for more than 20 years, I feel that one must have some grounding in a language other than English to be successful. This is not to say one must be fluent, but a firm understanding of how languages work and the legal terminology used in various languages is a must. I have studied Spanish extensively, but have some knowledge of Latin, Russian, Italian, French, and Portuguese. Using this knowledge, I have been successful in searching for legislation in such countries as Romania and Serbia, and CIS countries. I admit that my weak points are Asian and Arabic languages, but we do have other staff at the World Bank that we can consult when needed.

I also credit the support garnered through listservs and colleagues who have greater expertise than I could ever have. With more legislation available online, navigating websites in different languages can be quite challenging, even with some knowledge of other languages.

Regards,
Laura Lalime Mowry
World Bank Law Library
Washington, DC

Sent from my iPad

On Mar 5, 2015, at 5:27 AM, Daniel Zwaagstra <[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>> wrote:

Hi all, I can’t resist sharing my thoughts on this. I work as an international law reference librarian in the Peace Palace Library in the Hague (The Netherlands). Marilyn cited a former boss Kent McKeever who said “My job is to put the user in touch with the document or information he or she is seeking. It is not my job to interpret it for them”, but one of my ‘duties’ is adding keywords to books, bookitems (edited books), journals, journal articles etc. so interpreting them is necessary. As we have a huge collection of English, French, Spanish and Italian materials besides other European and non-European materials (one collegue of mine handles the Islamic law, another the Russian, Polish languages etc.) I need to have some understanding of the legal jargon and legal system of these countries otherwise I can’t do my work (you need a law degree to work here). In addition we serve the institutions that reside in the Peace Palace (The International Court of Justice, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and the Hague Academy of International Law) as well as scholars and students of international law, so at least French and English language skills are necessary to be able to communicate with them. So it depends also on the type of work you do I think.



Best regards

Daniel Zwaagstra
Reference Librarian
International Law
Peace Palace Library
[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
www.peacepalacelibrary.nl<http://www.peacepalacelibrary.nl>






From: International Law Librarians List (Int-Law) [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Gualtier, Susan
Sent: donderdag 5 maart 2015 0:29
To: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: [Int-Law] [SPAM] RE: "English-Only" FCIL Librarian?

I have to agree with you, Ellen, that it depends upon the community!  I think it would be impossible to work as an FCIL librarian here in Louisiana without at least a reading knowledge of French, which I use on almost a daily basis.

That being said, beyond that one specific cultural need, I have found that the most valuable skill is not necessarily fluency in foreign languages, but an understanding of how languages (and language families) work and how they shape the way that people in a culture think and act, how the law and other materials are published, how websites are laid out, etc.  A person with a solid background in linguistics would probably make an excellent FCIL librarian, whether they had any foreign language proficency or not!

Not to mention that skills in a language tend to lead to publication opportunities, etc. that you might not otherwise have had; it’s about so much more than reference questions.

Just my two cents as a still-relatively-green FCIL librarian who tends to overthink and agonize over these sorts of things!

Susan Gualtier, JD, MLIS
Foreign, Comparative, and
International Law Librarian
Louisiana State University
Paul M. Hebert Law Center
1 E Campus Dr.
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
225-578-4028
[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>

Check out the LSU Law Library on Pinterest, at http://www.pinterest.com/lsulawlibrary/, and on Instagram, at http://instagram.com/lsulawlibrary!

From: International Law Librarians List (Int-Law) [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Ellen Schaffer
Sent: Wednesday, March 04, 2015 5:00 PM
To: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: [Int-Law] [SPAM] RE: "English-Only" FCIL Librarian?

I'd like to say that the key is the concept of proficiency and also the type of community one is working in. There are wonderful colleagues who can be helpful, but there are times when it is extremely satisfying to figure out the response to a reference question on your own. Is it absolutely a requirement for an FCIL librarian to know foreign languages? No, but it certainly adds to the understanding of the work we do.

Ellen

On Wed, Mar 4, 2015 at 5:42 PM, Kimbrough, Tom <[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>> wrote:
I think Lyo makes a valid point.  Personally, I would wonder why an FCIL librarian who has no interest in languages would event want to enter this field, but, on the other hand, I don’t think that “proficiency” (which I interpret to mean a very high-level of knowledge) in a non-English language is a prerequisite by any means.

I am proficient in Korean but very rarely use it in my job.

I have conversational-level Mandarin Chinese ability, but my level is not “proficient” in that I cannot efficiently do legal research using materials in simplified Chinese characters, much less original Hong Kong-style characters.  Nevertheless, I can and do make collection development decisions for the SMU Law Library regarding Chinese-language databases, often seeking the input of others with better language skills such as our International LLMs from China.  And my lack of proficiency didn’t stop me from writing an article in LRSQ about building a Chinese law collection in the academic law library.  Whether that article is of any value to anyone else , I’ll leave for others to decide but I did get a $1,000 prize (Borgeson Award) out of it.  :)

Three years of Spanish in college and Latin in high school gives me an ability to navigate Romance language materials at a very basic level but no way would I describe myself as “proficient” in Spanish.

I wish I could Russian, German, and Bahasa Indonesian, but my lack of ability in those languages hasn’t stopped from handling research assignments involving those languages for various professors.

So, I agree, Lyo, it’s “overrated” as a prerequisite, just like a Yale degree is.  Just kidding, Dan!

Cheers,

Tom

From: International Law Librarians List (Int-Law) [mailto:[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>] On Behalf Of Wade, Daniel
Sent: Wednesday, March 04, 2015 4:06 PM

To: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: [Int-Law] [SPAM] RE: "English-Only" FCIL Librarian?

Amen!

Dan

From: International Law Librarians List (Int-Law) [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Pratter, Jonathan
Sent: Wednesday, March 04, 2015 4:46 PM
To: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: [Int-Law] [SPAM] RE: "English-Only" FCIL Librarian?

Hello INT-LAW,

The profound defects in Lyo’s arguments are made manifest by her citation of Google Translate.  I can only think that Lyo has not had sufficient experience with this bizarre system.

Jonathan Pratter

From: International Law Librarians List (Int-Law) [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Lyonette Louis-Jacques
Sent: Wednesday, March 04, 2015 3:38 PM
To: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: [Int-Law] [SPAM] RE: "English-Only" FCIL Librarian?

Ellen, Jonathan, et al.  – I think there are so many ways to overcome not having any language but English versus the times you actually need a foreign language that, for the most part, you don’t need one.

Back in 2006 for an AALL FCIL-SIS oral history<https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__www.aallnet.org_sections_fcil_History_Oral-2DHistories_Docs-2DVault_louis-2Djacques.html&d=AwMGaQ&c=-dg2m7zWuuDZ0MUcV7Sdqw&r=K2glYpAbU1OQj9No47gxCcfJ79ufAxTF9F5pgsFsWJs&m=diHl8iWrw5BA3TyKs62e1My0VZuzpHwaQ8R5DoptOjs&s=t_eJcdiop2xgcxYJ00XDhGacdZevc9TBI5RpQmknny0&e=>, I said as follows, and the options have improved since too with not only INT-LAW, but also the IALLMembers and other listservs, other folks at your institution with foreign language skills, Google Translate, etc.  The foreign language skill does not have to be located in the foreign, comparative, and international law library position:


Q: How important is it to have knowledge of foreign languages for FCIL jobs?

…But, for the most part, there are certain things that can help you use foreign language materials without fluency. Catalog subject headings will be in English. There will be a whole bunch of clues about what the topic is even if the title is in a foreign language. You can also use bilingual dictionaries. There are also many people in the profession who have language skills and they can help you too. So, my short answer is that maybe foreign language skills are overrated.

I haven’t changed my mind…:)

Cheers,
Lyo.
From: International Law Librarians List (Int-Law) [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Ellen Schaffer
Sent: Wednesday, March 04, 2015 3:24 PM
To: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: [Int-Law] [SPAM] RE: "English-Only" FCIL Librarian?

I have to agree with Jonathan, Lyo, and wonder, as does Catherine, how you have come to feel this way. If anything, I have wished to be proficient in more languages during my career. The ones that I do know have proved very useful.
Ellen

On Wed, Mar 4, 2015 at 4:05 PM, Deane, Catherine <[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>> wrote:
Do tell, why do you think it is indispensable?

Best,
Ms. C. Deane

From: International Law Librarians List (Int-Law) [mailto:[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>] On Behalf Of Pratter, Jonathan
Sent: Wednesday, March 04, 2015 3:02 PM
To: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: [Int-Law] "English-Only" FCIL Librarian?

Hello INT-LAW,

I would assert exactly the opposite.  Today more than one foreign language is indispensable in an FCILL.  Lyo & I could have a great debate on this.

Jonathan Pratter
Tarlton Law Library
University of Texas at Austin

From: International Law Librarians List (Int-Law) [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Lyonette Louis-Jacques
Sent: Wednesday, March 04, 2015 2:49 PM
To: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
Subject: [Int-Law] "English-Only" FCIL Librarian?

Good day, INT-LAW!  I have a quick question.  If there is anyone on the listserv who is especially responsible for providing reference, collection development, cataloging, or acquisition services related to non-English-language legal materials, but is only proficient in English, please contact me off-list at [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]> (I have long asserted that now you don’t need a foreign language to be a foreign, comparative, and international law (FCIL) librarian, and I’d like to be proven correct).  Thanks, Lyo.

Lyonette Louis-Jacques
Foreign and International Law
Librarian and Lecturer in Law
D’Angelo Law Library
University of Chicago Law School
Email: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
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'Au milieu de l'hiver,
j'ai découvert en moi un invincible été.' /
"In the midst of winter I found there was,
within me, an invincible summer." - Camus

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