Author Topic: Aspiring Linguist  (Read 3946 times)

Offline NekoToKoara

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Aspiring Linguist
« on: January 03, 2018, 07:51:47 AM »
Hi everyone! New here to the forum. I got my Bachelor's in American Sign Language interpreting. I have been working as an interpreter for a little over 5 years now and I enjoy a lot of the work I do but have recently began to realize that this is not what I want to do with the rest of my life. Also, on my own time, I have been studying Japanese and recently took a placement test at a local university and will be starting Japanese IV as a non-degree seeking student next week.

So I have been considering going back to school for a linguistics degree. I am feeling a little overwhelmed, though, with what information I can find about linguistic degrees and careers online. I was hoping that maybe a few people could share their experiences getting into linguistics. Any information relating from what helped you pick a specialization to your experience working in the field or academia would be greatly appreciated.

I ideally would like to start a program (preferably PhD) by Fall 2019. Any information you could provide me to help me start carving my path towards that goal would be amazing. Thanks! :-)

Offline panini

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Re: Aspiring Linguist
« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2018, 11:05:06 AM »
Well, being in a sharing mood, I'll give you some personal details as to picking a specialization. The first step for me was discovering an interesting thing about languages, namely that English, Norwegian, Latin, Green and Sanskrit are historically related. I studied up on this matter and by the time I was in college I was committed to the idea of studying this ancient reconstructed language, Indo-European. I did this, but of course you can't just take classes in Indo-European (there was exactly one such class in the day, and they don't teach it anymore), so I took regular linguistic classes. Turns out that syntax and phonology were very interesting to me as well, so although I finished an undergraduate program with a thesis on Indo-European, I had mentally switched to "grammar" after the first two years.

The switch involved a number of aspects. One was my realization (thanks to an eminent professor who later became a colleague) that I really lacked the requisite background for doing Indo-European linguistics (requires fluency in Latin and Greek by high school, etc), and a second was a fundamental disagreement with the methodology of Advanced Indo-European linguistics (not basic comparative linguistics).

I had excellent teachers in syntax and phonology, so there was no essential flaw in either area that repelled me, but at least at the time, syntax was entirely about English, and phonology was (becoming) about other languages. I got into linguistics via the path of acquiring languages, so there was a natural attraction towards phonology. One of the basic problems I did have with syntax is the data problem, and the epiphany came for me when we were doing "Remarks on Nominalization", where Chomsky gives a perfectly grammatical example of tough-movement out of a nominalized clause, and it was essential to his analysis that this be ungrammatical. Apparently I was not the only person who rejected his data claims, because he makes the bizarre claim that speakers who accept his starred sentences are "not aware of an internalized property of their grammars". Whereas: once you toss out some of the silliness of Sound pattern of English, phonology was based on decent data claims.

Then finally, at the crucial moment, one of my phonology teachers wasted hours teaching me practical epistemology. So that's how I got here. In other words, I was in search of an intellectually interesting domain that could be a career, and I found it.

Offline Daniel

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Re: Aspiring Linguist
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2018, 07:30:02 PM »
If your question is about getting a job, then I would recommend a career-oriented Master's degree rather than a PhD. A doctorate prepares you for one thing: being a professor. At least in an academic field like Linguistics. There are few jobs out there in the "industry". And the jobs in academia are very competitive. If you are certain you want to pursue that path, then I'm not saying you shouldn't. But it's not the easiest or most certain way to a career. That's where I am now, looking for a job as I finish my PhD. A much more direct way to a job is to get a Master's in Speech Pathology, ESL, translation, or computational linguistics. You can still do some Linguistics on the way, but you'll be prepared for a job out there in the world. At best, a PhD would give you the same qualifications as a Master's (and often not!) if you end up looking for a job outside academia.
Welcome to Linguist Forum! If you have any questions, please ask.

Offline Geers

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Re: Aspiring Linguist
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2018, 06:09:50 AM »
This makes a lot of sense, Daniel. I went the route you're suggesting by sheer chance. I've had a relatively easy time finding a job, but I'm thinking people like you will land a meaningful job in the field sooner or later. I'm not sure that I have that at the moment.

Offline turnoi

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Re: Aspiring Linguist
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2018, 03:21:42 AM »
There are several options:
1. Looking for a job as a freshly graduated linguist from uni could make you a credentialled taxi driver, a pizza hut vendor, a doorman or an ESL teacher (the latter, which is according to my experience not a real job with prospects for a good career).
2. If you do not opt for an academic career at uni, you should be able to master at least 2 or 3 foreign languages with a high proficiency level (near nativ-speaker level) which would enable you to work as a translator/interpreter.
3. Otherwise, specialise in an area like Psycholinguistics or Forensic Linguistics; those are areas where you can apply your lingustic knowledge and competencies in practice if there is a demand for someone like you.

Being an excellent linguist academically alone will - unfortunately - not help in "earning your bread"!

Good luck!