Linguistics is about language, but more than simply learning how to speak another language, linguistics is about the scientific study of language. It’s about how a child is never taught their first language, but instead acquires it. It’s about how a speaker can generally easily recognise if a phrase in their native language is grammatically correct, or the strategies required to make a question a question (for example, with question-marker words or shifts in tone), all without being formally taught it. It’s about knowing when certain words are taboo to use, even if you can’t explain why. At the heart, linguistics is about studying our unconscious knowledge of language, its structures and variations worldwide, and how language influences interactions with each other and the world.
But Why Linguistics?
On the surface, linguistics looks like a lot like a language course native speakers would be required to take in studying their mother tongue. Understanding sounds, words, syntax and meanings are all a core part of linguistics and provide a strong base for deeper studies. In studying linguistics, you can choose a path that interests you the most. Historical linguistics studies how languages have changed over time, socio-linguistics involves how language varies in situations, social groups and geography, and language acquisition is all about studying how people acquire or learn the languages that they use. There also exist opportunities to study how language relates to issues, how language is taught in the classroom, and connections between linguistics and cognitive science.
With many linguistics courses requiring or encouraging a student to know a second language other than their mother tongue, the whole world opens up. A second language allows a linguistic student to better understand the place of their languages in the world and how they differ, while also opening opportunities to study abroad to gain first hand experience with how languages other than their own work. Some institutes encourage those in the linguistic major to study courses in complementing areas, such as anthropology and computer science, areas which can all benefit from an in-depth understanding of the languages that are used in these areas. Anthropological linguistics help to understand historical, cultural and social issues, and linguistics has a home in computer science in the form of the development of artificial intelligence and text-to-speech programmes. Many institutes offer many different combinations of fields to allow linguistic majors the opportunity to best apply their studies, and platforms such as schoolapply.com can help find the best institute for your interests.
The Future In Linguistics
Linguistics is a major that can find a home in almost any field of work in today’s society. Education is a field that most people think of first, and it probably has the most variation in opportunities of all fields, in both low-paying and high-paying fields. Beyond simply teaching, you can become the person that controls and creates teaching materials, teach the teachers, and reach out to the surrounding communities, perfect for students wanting to help the world around them. If you want to see the world, there’s opportunities to take your skills abroad, as well, to share your language and culture with others.
For linguistics students with a knack for learning languages, there are many opportunities within government and state roles, both at home and abroad, offering both an exciting work space and a high salary for doing something you enjoy. Creative roles exist, as well, for those after something a little less serious and a little more laid back. Using your developed linguistic skills for writing, editing and advertising all exist as future opportunities. Linguists can even find a role in the performing arts, helping actors (or becoming actors themselves) and providing in-depth knowledge of the natural use of a language.
If a career isn’t the first thing you want to throw yourself into following the completion of your Linguistics degree, there are further study opportunities available to you. TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) and applied linguistics courses have focuses on teaching language, while MA and PhD programs can link linguistics into psychology and philosophy, as well as more in-depth programs studying into anthropology, cognitive neuroscience, the studies of particular languages and education. Professional programs exist, as well, for those interested in areas such as law, communications, speech pathology and information science.
When I Grow Up, I Wanna Be…
Teachers, from elementary to university, locally and abroad, all benefit from studying linguistics, but future careers go beyond that. Show off your fluency and cultural understanding while earning a high salary as a translator or an interpreter, whether it’s in a role as casual as tourism or travelling, or as serious as in a courtroom or in a hospital, or even for a visiting bureaucrat. Become a consultant in law firms, police departments or even for the FBI with a focus on forensic linguistics, offering insight into the language of legal texts, the linguistic aspects within evidence and the issues faced in voice recognition.
If you love working with words, there are career opportunities in working with dictionaries and becoming a lexicographer helping develop high-level dictionaries used the world over. Find a career in the publishing industry, putting verbal skills to work with journalism, or flex your understanding of syntax and jargon to become a technical writer or an editor. Join up with the computer science field and help develop language-related programs, such as language learning assistants and online translators. Or, for those who simply enjoy their studies and linguistics as a whole, there are opportunities in language documentation and fieldwork. These linguists work with language consultants to document, analyse and preserve endangered languages, and some organisations work with linguists to help create literacy programs to teach these endangered languages to the people whose heritage lies within it, as well as translating documents of cultural heritage and conducting language surveys to track how widespread fluency in any one language is.
The Importance of Language
Linguistics has a home in almost every field of study, and whether you study linguistics on its own or pair it up with another study that meets your interests, you will find it benefits you in many future career choices. The linguistics fields offer many opportunities in many different career paths, and even has many opportunities for the travel bugs who want to get out and see the world. The benefits of studying linguistics are far beyond any detrimental points, especially when studying language makes even the language of daily life something easier to understand and work with. Whether your goal is to help people, work in a high-paying job, work a federal role or simply continue to study languages, linguistics has something to offer everyone.