Linguistics  Program Description


Insider Info

dotWhat is linguistics? Good question. Ask any high school student and they might be stumped for the answer. The reason is simple, according to Brian Joseph. He's a linguistics professor at Ohio State University.

"It's not like molecular biology where one is likely to know about going into it directly from high school," says Joseph. "The way a student enters the linguistics profession is usually through a graduate degree. Most students learn about linguistics once they get into college. While we do have a few advanced high school students who learn about the field, linguistics isn't something that is generally taught in high school."

John Colarusso says other factors come into play for linguistic's low profile. He's a linguistics professor. "Grammar is no longer taught at the high school level and grammar would lead into linguistics," he says.

Linguistics is the study of spoken and written language. It isn't typically taught in high schools.

Linguistics professors agree that once a student discovers the field, the sky is the limit.

"These are highly motivated and self-directed students," Joseph says. In fact, many of the students he speaks to about the field speak more than one language, and some speak several. "Very few majors muddle by with Cs. Most get B-pluses or As."

Colarusso sees typical traits in a linguistics student. "A good linguist is analytical, prone to abstract thought and sensitive to languages. The first two features might be found in someone bound toward math, but the allure of language would be a distinctive trait."

He adds that a student must realize that linguistics isn't just about learning a language, but about understanding the conversational aspect of it and also the meaning behind the language. Often a student becomes interested in linguistics after taking it as an elective during the first year of university.

"After being introduced to the exciting world of linguistics through taking an elective course, students can take more specialized and challenging courses in linguistics," says Trude Heift. She is a linguistics professor. She adds that the linguistics program where she teaches offers a variety of courses ranging from those dealing with sounds to those that deal with the meaning of words.

"We also have courses devoted to language learning and teaching, computational linguistics, neurolinguistics, sociolinguistics, historical linguistics, universals and typology, language and the law, and First Nations languages."

Many graduates of a linguistics program go on to graduate school and then specialize in related disciplines, such as psychology, anthropology or law, says Joseph. In fact, a linguistics degree alone is not always enough for a lot of employment prospects, he says, unless one wishes, and has the necessary skills, to teach languages.

Linguistics graduates often work at jobs that require high degrees of competence in spoken and written language. That's according to Heift. She says a student with a bachelor of arts degree in linguistics is well-prepared to become a language teacher, an education policy researcher, an editor or publisher, an immigration officer, a speech language assistant, or a researcher in a private research lab.

Linguistics graduates can also go on to careers in information technology and international development agencies. With further education, a student can become an audiologist, a translator, a speech therapist/pathologist, librarian, a lawyer or a journalist. A student can also receive graduate training in linguistics to become a professional linguist with a career in education and academia.

The field offers many opportunities to study and teach abroad, says Joseph. But there are also many opportunities at home, he says, including opportunities to teach English as a second language. There are also opportunities for software development in areas of speech recognition and medical transcription. Other students have entered the field of computational linguistics, he says, particularly those with a PhD.

For those with even just a minor in linguistics there are opportunities in the documentation of endangered languages, Joseph explains.

While university is never cheap, there are usually no additional costs involved in a linguistics program. If a student takes a course that requires special equipment, it is generally part of the course and is provided in its language laboratories, says Heift. She says the price of course books in linguistics is comparable to other courses.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: English Language and Literature Teachers

Explore all the known languages in the world

Webb's World Translation Resources
Links, tips, radio stations and more

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this program is about? Check out Just the Facts for a simple description.