chapter  7
33 Pages

Language, Culture, and the Culture of Language

International JD students in U.S. Law Schools
WithSwethaa Ballakrishnen, Carole Silver

Although international students routinely have been admitted to U.S. law schools for many years, there is little known about this demographic outside of specific contexts where being international is the norm (like the LLM and the SJD). This chapter extends this literature to focus on a rising trend of students within the more “mainstream” law school program, the JD. Drawing from interview data with 58 international students, as well as supplemental data from law school faculty and administrators, we suggest, in line with other research, that language is crucial to framing these students’ experiences. However, we do not limit our analysis to direct language proficiency. Instead, we argue that beyond technical language markers like vocabulary and syntax, it is the culture of language that determines both the quality of students’ interactions and their institutional choices. International students, like all students, are constantly engaging in interactions that determine their perceived “fit” within sites in which they are embedded (e.g. classrooms, student groups, study groups, etc.) and across these contexts, expectations and presumptions of their abilities and identities shape the ways in which they are received and treated. In concentrating on language and its interaction with students’ lived experience, these data give us important insights into understanding the law school cultures and their systemic reproductions of hierarchy.