A few weeks ago, I received an email from a Chinese-American, fluent in both English and Chinese, asking how he should go about learning Chinese law and Chinese legal terms so as to be better prepared for securing a paralegal job. In his initial email, this person asked me not to name him on the blog, a request I found pretty strange because I saw absolutely nothing in his request that would be “blog-worthy.”
However, upon receiving co-blogger Steve Dickinson’s response to this person, I instantly realized I had a blog post on my hands. So here goes.
Here is my suggestion on how to get familiar with legal Chinese. It is certainly difficult, but this is the method I suggest.
1. You have to select a place to start. It is all difficult, so you should just do your best. What you want is a law or regulation that is in Chinese but also has a very good English language translation. For the area you are interested in, I would suggest the Company Law and then the regulations on foreign invested enterprises. There are three sets of regulations: Wholly Foreign Owned Entities, Equity Joint Ventures and Cooperative Joint Ventures. Both Chinese and English versions of these are available on the internet.
2. Read the Chinese from copies of the laws/regulations you get on the net. First, compare the Chinese with the English and try to develop your vocabulary list from the translation comparison. When you come across Chinese terms you don’t know, try using an online dictionary. You can cut the Chinese and paste it into the online dictionary. This is much faster than looking up the words in a dictionary. I use a dictionary called Yellow Bridge. It works very well.
3. You also need a good legal dictionary. There are many available. None are excellent. You can look in the Foreign Language Bookstore on Fuzhou Road in Shanghai. If you use the technique above, you should not need to do a lot of dictionary work.
4. As you move from law to law, you will find that the reading goes easier. It will be very slow at the start, but do not worry. Other laws to look at are the Constitution, the Basic Principles of Civil Law and the Property Law and the Enterprise Income Tax Law.