This Q&A with Julia was conducted by guest blogger Patrick Goodridge a linguist, language teacher, and writer based in Philadelphia, PA. Read more about Patrick below or on the Career Linguist guest bloggers page where you can also learn about being a guest blogger for Career Linguist yourself!!
Patrick: What is the role of linguists in shaping the future?
Julia: In the past few years, I’ve noticed more and more linguistic scholarship published by non-linguists – scholars in political science, psychology, computer science, etc. My first instinct was to be frustrated at the lack of collaboration with linguists on these projects and a lack of recognition of the value of linguistics in undertaking this research. But the more I think about this, the more I realize the positive conclusion that can be drawn from the trend: that the study of language is so important that scholars across fields are tackling these problems, and that there is a growing need for experts who can analyze language in a growing variety of contexts. What this means is that there is a lot of interesting language-related work to do, but that linguists will need to be proactive in making connections and becoming part of the expanding interdisciplinary opportunities. In short, there is a lot of work for linguists to do – we just need to market ourselves better!
Patrick: Why should younger students consider studying linguistics?
Julia: As with any field, there are “hot” and “cold” topics. Some areas where there seem to be a lot of career prospects for linguists right now are in human language recognition and production, broadly encompassed by the field of computational linguistics and including natural language processing; second language acquisition and ESL are practical and needed, though typically less lucrative career paths; and hot languages to study include Spanish, Chinese and Arabic (though I wonder about long-term career prospects with Arabic). The field of localization – customizing software, phone apps, etc. for international, multilingual and multicultural market – is also an area with high demand and which linguists are well suited for. There are also areas where linguists and linguistic anthropologists do well, such as my current work in market research and social media listening, which rely on linguistic skills like discourse analysis.
But nothing is ever guaranteed and no choice is completely safe, and while it’s important to be aware of job market limitations, there’s no reason to study a sub-discipline of linguistics that’s not inspiring just to get a good job. And the specific subject you study doesn’t have to constrain your career. I studied historical Slavic linguistics, but don’t work in this specific area right now. I don’t regret studying it, either. I built a large generalizable skillset from my studies, which I have used in every day of every job I’ve held since graduation. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that it’s most important to stay open and curious and keep learning (formally and informally) long after you’ve completed your degree or degrees.
But back to the question “Why study linguistics?” – Study linguistics because it’s fun, it’s inherently interdisciplinary and is a window of insight into something uniquely and fundamentally human. There will be careers in or related to linguistics for years to come and the people who are most passionate and most engaged in the subject matter will ultimately be the best candidates for those (super cool) future careers.
Thank you Patrick for this great interview, and thank you Julia – very much looking forward to hearing your story at the campfire!!! 🙂
Julia will be joining us in October for the Campfire chat series.
Tune in live Fridays this Fall for Stories Around the Campfire at 1pm PDT / 4pm EDT https://zoom.us/j/954763800
Has the campfire series got you wanting more stories about career?