Author Topic: A Free BA in Linguistics!  (Read 521 times)

Offline In Search of Lost Words

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A Free BA in Linguistics!
« on: June 09, 2019, 05:53:41 PM »
For my fellow Americans, the title of this post no doubt explains why you're here reading my message. A free degree! It does seem quite unrealistic. However, in a few European countries, it is quite realistic (even for international students). I would like to know what are the top linguistic programs in these countries - and out of all these countries. Any input you can give is appreciated.

I'm considering pursuing a degree internationally within the next year. And free is hard to beat (even if there are living expenses, small fees, and book costs). Many universities even offer courses in English! Of course, being a language-lover, the true purpose of this post is to determine what language I should learn next! Below are four countries with very favorable tuition costs.
1. Norway
2. Finland
3. Germany
4. France

Thank you for the advice!

Offline panini

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Re: A Free BA in Linguistics!
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2019, 07:49:07 AM »
You narrowed it down to 4 languages, pretty much. I have definite recommendations for Norway and France -- Tromsø and Nice (U. Côte d'Azure). Then maybe Düsseldorf. It's actually a bit difficult to study linguistics in Finland. But I might change my recommendations if you were interested in something specific in linguistics. If you're really just interested in learning languages, you probably want a university with a lot of language programs.

Offline Daniel

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Re: A Free BA in Linguistics!
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2019, 03:36:27 PM »
As Panini said, programs vary a lot in specialization, but also theoretical approach. That matters more for graduate programs, but will still (even if you're not expecting it) affect how you experience those topics as an undergraduate. For example, at Oslo you'd be likely to study syntax with LFG, a grammatical theory you probably wouldn't experience elsewhere. Whether that's a good thing just depends on your preferences, which, ironically, will only develop after you've studied a bit. Or Dusseldorf happens to be a place with Role & Reference Grammar (otherwise only really popular at New York's University at Buffalo). Some other areas don't vary so much theoretically (but might vary otherwise, like what kind of research labs are on campus, and what kind of experimental approach are most popular there), and as Panini said, maybe just picking a school with lots of languages is a good place to start. Interestingly, I wouldn't have necessarily picked the same recommendations as Panini, probably just because our interests are a little different, and because there are many good universities. By the way, at least the University of Helsinki has a good program in Finland, from what I've heard (from graduate students, though I don't know specifically about the undergraduate program).

Honestly at the undergraduate level, the biggest factors will be availability of classes (make sure the program is large enough and offers everything you'd like, and often enough that you can take it during your years there), as well as your general experience in the location. There are a lot of different options that will all give you, academically, very good experiences. Remember, sometimes your classes will be taught by PhD students instead of professors anyway. And often you might even enjoy the classes with the PhD students more because they might have more time to get to know you and be more relatable to your experience, so it's not always about finding the "best" ("top", etc.) people/programs, but about the overall experience. The "best" are also not always the best instructors (most fun, most energetic, most relatable), so there are various tradeoffs there too. I'm not saying to avoid top schools either. Just lots of options, and you shouldn't be concerned about a school that's the right fit for you instead of what might look the best on paper.

It's hard for me to make any specific recommendations, simply because there are so many different possible experiences, and many of them would be good, and it also depends on you, both your interests now, and how they will develop at any particular program.

In terms of specifics, you're going to find by far the most options in Germany (although I don't know about costs). Norway seems to have a relatively strong focus on Linguistics at many schools so you'll also find a number of options there. And then many in France too. And a few in Finland.

Based on your question, honestly I'd focus more on realistic options. If you can get a degree for free, that's great, so see where you'll be accepted, and enjoy the experience. It will probably be a good one.

If your goal is to just get a degree, then some of the more specific issues like preference of linguistic theory won't matter so much (at most you'll have to pass a class or two you don't like). And if your goal is to then continue to graduate school, you can try something different then once you've found your interests and goals in the field. So either way you can be flexible now.

One recommendation I'd suggest would be to look at the design of the programs/departments. It's often a little different in Europe than in the US. Instead of one big "Linguistics" program, some schools either have different programs or different sub-groups for different topics of theories. If possible, for an undergraduate program, I'd recommend finding a more integrated program where you get to experience lots of different perspectives, rather than having a narrower experience that might or might not fit your developing interests, and give you the experience to think about different options for graduate school later. Once you get to graduate school, a more focused program could be a good thing, but you'll need to wait until you know your interests to pick the right one.

In short, my suggestion is simple: look at the department websites, and look at the lists of classes. Any university offering many classes in Linguistics is a good one for an undergraduate degree. This also means they probably have a lot of diverse faculty (and graduate students) and good funding to offer all of those classes. And languages are probably close by too.
(And by the way, you can look at the program requirements/options too. What about research? Are there options for undergrads to do research? Or is there a required thesis? Does the program offer flexibility to take extra language classes if you want? Etc.)
« Last Edit: June 10, 2019, 03:43:31 PM by Daniel »
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