Career Profile: Training
The Career Profiles in Linguistics section regularly highlights career paths taken by linguists. If you would like to recommend someone (including yourself) for a future profile, please contact Career Linguist.
Anna Dausman – Part II
See Part I of her profile here
As a student, I double-majored in linguistics and English, studying language discrimination, and ‘less commonly taught languages’ in higher education under Dr. Anne Charity Hudley. I was able to find expression of these interests working as a teaching assistant with Dr. Charity Hudley and a faculty member in History and Africana Studies to put in place a summer Swahili ‘language and sociolinguistics’ course, addressing the gap in language and cultural instruction for student groups volunteering in Kenya and Tanzania. As a teaching assistant for the ‘Swahili Language & Culture’ course, my co-TA and I ran one-hour daily review sessions of vocabulary and grammar, and mostly used an interactive teaching style.
These early teaching experiences showed up in various ways professionally at Break Away.
One of my favorite aspect of training and consulting that ties back to linguistics is the challenge of finding patterns. When a client describes a problem, it’s an invitation to dig deeper – so you ask questions and give practice exercises. The more you learn, the more that emerges, until you can clearly identify the agents, the issues, and what needs to change or pivot.
In creating curricula, I often had a mental visual of syntax trees – because there’s a structural component to writing effective lessons. You’re clustering like-ideas together, nesting concepts, and putting it all together in the most efficient and logical order.
But I also found that my background in linguistics was a huge help meeting the demands of a small, fast-moving nonprofit. The most direct application was in communication skills: every day, I’d use some combination of sending outreach emails to schools with service programs, talking on the phone with community partners, answering questions from students, drafting announcements to the constituent base, and staying on top of the organization’s social media presence (its own beast). Our staff is consistently prompted to find the right balance of professional tone, warmth, and personality for each.
Overall, the biggest piece of linguistics that sticks with me is the notion of a framework guided by cultural norms and values. In nonprofits, it’s very similar. You’re making decisions within a scaffolding, paying attention to the overlay of mission, brand, voice, values, and culture – and to really nail the work, you have to know that structure inside-out, while continuing to look for ways to innovate within it.
I find myself now in a time of transition, and am reflecting back as I look forward – taking stock of where I have been as I think about where I might go next, I am tracing the connections among interests that began as academic and found expression professionally. Among these, experience with a public health and environmental sustainability organization in eastern Kenya.
Thank you so much for speaking with us here at Career Linguist, Anna!
Here’s to what’s next!!