Why should I major in Linguistics?

Careers in Linguistics

According to the website www.worldwidelearn.com, "Until fairly recently, most linguistics degree holders pursued academic careers as teachers or researchers. In the past few decades, however, businesses have discovered the significant value that skilled linguists bring to their operations. Many corporate executives recruit linguistics majors as senior advisors to help maneuver through complex international negotiations.  Graduates with a degree in linguistics also often find career opportunities in publishing, teaching, psychology, anthropology, neurology, speech recognition, communications, philosophy, and artificial intelligence.

Linguists have also benefited in a big way from the explosion of technology companies. As programmers toil to make systems easier for consumers to use, research facilities have hired linguists to improve user interfaces. Linguistics majors use their skills to help developers design better ways for computers to interact with people. As complex systems of speech recognition and pattern analysis move into the mainstream, many linguists work with scientists on artificial intelligence systems that can adapt themselves to the needs of a user based on that user's routines and speech patterns.

At the same time, government agencies have hired more linguists than any period since World War II. With critical needs for quality intelligence, the government employs linguists to monitor foreign broadcasts and decipher military codes. Linguists play a vital role in understanding the connections between terrorist "chatter" and legitimate security threats. As our country works to improve relationships with foreign trade and diplomatic partners, our government pays extra attention to crafting speeches and messages that portray our country and our policies in a favorable light." (Quoted with adaptations from: www.worldwidelearn.com)

Linguistics at Rhodes

There is an increasing need for "information professionals" in the modern information-driven economy. Graduates are often employed to synthesize, analyse and evaluate complex types of information flexibly, quickly and efficiently. "Good information professionals have a blend of analytical and creativity skills, are adept at problem solving, and excel at dealing with ambiguity. Finally, information professionals have developed excellent consultative and listening skills and the ability to adapt and try different approaches to problems. (Lavengood and Kiser 2007)" Linguistics graduates ideally have the following essential skills.

  • Language interpretation skills. While most of us learn to understand one or two languages in an effortless fashion, linguistics majors develop the vital ability to process and analyze speech. As linguistics majors become familiar with more languages, they can quickly translate from a foreign language to their native tongue. Experienced translators develop the ability to translate quickly from one foreign language to another, which makes them indispensable in a variety of legal, political, and business settings.
  • Strong analytical skills. To translate efficiently, linguistics majors train their brain to operate at high efficiency. This skill extends to other areas of analytical thinking, allowing linguistics majors to analyze a range of possible outcomes for business decisions. Many top business and political leaders have spent at least part of their academic careers studying linguistics, to gain some of these powerful advantages.
  • Critical thinking skills. Very early in their studies, linguistics majors must learn to make accurate decisions in urgent situations. Therefore, linguistics majors develop a profound ability to solve problems. The same kind of quick, critical thinking that allows a linguist to interpret speech or text also allows them to play out multiple scenarios in the heads.
  • Efficiency in written and oral presentations. Linguistics majors rely on their skills to understand the meanings and the intentions of speakers and writers. In the same way, they develop powerful communications skills that allow them to express ideas in clear, concise ways. Many linguists love to use their dense vocabularies to build dense written and oral presentations.
  • Fluency in one or more foreign languages. By tackling the challenges of translation from a linguistics perspective, majors can absorb new languages more quickly than most students. Therefore, they can quickly gain conversational and written fluency in entire groups of languages that share common heritages.
  • Techniques for teaching English as a second language. Many linguistics majors return to the classroom to help eager foreign students and workers understand English. In today's global marketplace, fluency in English can open up significant job opportunities for recent immigrants and for professionals who work overseas. Linguistics majors often develop powerful classroom skills that allow them to teach new languages effectively. They can also rely on their talents to communicate effectively with students in their native languages when necessary." (Quoted with adaptations from: www.worldwidelearn.com)

The Linguistics programme at Rhodes University aims to provide these skills combined with a comprehensive linguistic training balanced between theoretical and applied linguistics. On the theoretical front, modules include Syntax, Phonetics & Phonology, Semantics and Comparative Linguistics (with introductions to Japanese, Russian and Sign Language), while on the applied linguistics front, modules include Sociolinguistics, Discourse Analysis, Systemic Functional Linguistics and Language and Mind (with introductions to Language disorders, first and second-language acquisition and reading).

Last Modified: Fri, 15 Jul 2011 15:02:52 SAST