About Linguistics, Audio and Video

Lots of careers for linguists

Marc Franco of Snap Language addresses some of the big misconceptions about our field, including the big one: that there are few careers that we are suited for!

He even shares some great resources, enjoy!:

RELATED VIDEOS “About Literacy” playlist: https://goo.gl/t2DtAU “About Language and Linguistics” playlist: https://goo.gl/wXB6xh

FURTHER READING “The linguist vs polyglot gaffe” (web article): http://goo.gl/mVLxIO “Why linguists hate being asked how many languages they know.” All Things Linguistics (blog):  http://allthingslinguistic.com/post/48473292525/why-linguists-hate-being-asked-how-many-languages

REFERENCES “Current LINGUIST Subfields.” The Linguist List (web page):  http://www.linguistlist.org/LL/LingSubfields.cfm

“What is Linguistics?” Linguistics (University of California, Santa Cruz web page): https://linguistics.ucsc.edu/about/what-is-linguistics.html

“Why Major in Linguistics?” Monica Macaulay and Kristen Syrett. (Linguistic Society of America web page): https://www.linguisticsociety.org/content/why-major-linguistics

About Linguistics, Career Paths for linguists, Events

What it means to be a Career Linguist

imageThis post is written 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!!

Career Linguist is a truly unique creation, designed to organize professionally-minded linguists, to represent and actively advance their interests. The site is the brainchild of Dr. Anne Marie Trester, whose pioneering vision is of linguists adopting a greater role in the modern world, especially within domains beyond academia. This is a vision that has resonated with me since I discovered Career Linguist around this time last year, and I feel fortunate to have happened upon it at such a decisive juncture in my own career. I look forward to many others being similarly inspired, perhaps even as a result of my own work on the site.

The notion of a “career linguist” is a unique concept. So much so, in fact, that its definition is remains open, subjective in the mind of every linguist who wishes to apply her or his linguistic knowledge in commerce, government, and public affairs. The more I’ve written for the site and learned from my colleagues’ content, the more I’ve begun to discover the “career linguist” in me, and the potential of this idea to transform the lives of language enthusiasts everywhere. Ultimately, the idea can transform the world. That is why I am proud to call myself a “career linguist”, and why the term has taken on a distinctly profound meaning in my life.

To me, being a career linguist means committing myself to applying my linguistic expertise for the benefit of the world. It means thinking like a linguist in whatever professional position I find myself, and drawing on my theoretical knowledge of language to tackle real-world problems. Career linguists are a special breed, shaped from traditions of both technical finesse and verbal art. Our uniqueness serves us in finding uniquely creative contributions to humanity. In sum, being a career linguist means sharing linguistics with the world through professional outlets. It is indeed being a linguist, but with a little something extra, an edge, a pragmatism about our craft.

The reason Career Linguist and its mission mean so much to me is because I have never felt that critical analysis of language should be limited to academia. It should be applied, whether such application be to human problems or to human enrichment. I think Dr. Trester would agree that our world is one with communication at its core, fueled by global advancements in technology and interconnectedness. We at Career Linguist recognize the primacy of linguistics in such a world, and the site represents a significant step forward in advancing the lives of career linguists everywhere.

Thank you Patrick for sharing your vision and your passion with the Career Linguist community!! I know that I was inspired by the post, and I hope that others will be as well (do let us know, we love to hear these kinds of stories!)

Join us for stories around the Campfire series Fridays at 1pm PST / 4pm EST, starting this week – Friday September 1st – where we will pose the question: “What pressing questions are we/ should we linguists be addressing in the world?”

Here’s our schedule so far:

September 1 – Abby Bajuniemi: Research, Design, Strategist, Speaker, and Linguist (recently profiled on Superlinguo)

September 8 – Nick Gaylord: Data Scientist (see his blog at PhDeli)

September 16 – Greg Bennett: UX Researcher (find him on LinkedIn)

September 22 – Kathryn Ticknor: Linguistics Researcher focused on Health (find her on Twitter at @ticktalkco )

September 29 – Serena Williams: Localization, Data Quality manager at Avantpage

About Linguistics, WaLK series

“I’m a linguist” “you’re a what now?”

Following up on the conversations that have emerged from my “What’s Linguistics?” post…

If there is one thing that I know to be true of the job search, it is that each of us can and must be constantly challenging ourselves to practice articulating what it is that we mean when we say that we are linguists.

And as it turns out, this conviction of mine is actually tied up within my understanding of what kind of a linguist I am.  I am trained as an interactional sociolinguist, although in most cases, I won’t use the term “interactional sociolinguist” because term can often cut conversation off right at the pass.  If my goal is to foster contexts for conversational interaction, because my training and my experiences have taught me to value the power of these contexts, I will look to find a way to use language in such a way that it brings my interlocutor along with me to be able to see what it is that I do.


So, here is the latest version of my elevator pitch (something that you might be able to say over the course of an elevator ride), to help someone see what you mean when you say that you are a linguist.  Picture this in response to “I’m a linguist” and the response: “you’re a what?”

Well, I see my job as being that of a “interaction champion”  Because I am uniquely invested in their power, I seek and protect and defend and foster  conversational interaction.  I am always looking for conversations which could be happening but aren’t or where they aren’t proceeding as smoothly as they might do where I can bring the tools that I possess by virtue of my skills and training as a linguist.  When I find one such, I work to first identify the barriers to communication and understanding then create and promote smooth contexts for interaction.

Now, as you all know, I am a linguist who is interested in Careers.  What this means first and foremost is that I believe that as linguists, we need to be having more conversations about career – open conversations that explore broadly and invite curiosity – that in so doing, we learn from one another and we learn more about ourselves and what we have to offer.

  • We need to have these conversations because the world of work by and large does not know what we have to offer, and we by and large don’t know what we have to offer the world of work.
  • Career conversations themselves are the means by which we learn about what we offer the world of work.  These interactions teach us what we might be doing and they afford us opporutnities to practice talking about ourselves and to ask and receive feedback on whether (and how) it is coming across.
  • We must therefore actively work to remove the barriers to having career conversations.
    • Many of these barriers are structural: the contexts simply don’t exist for having the conversations that we need to be having, many of the voices which need to be included feel silenced, etc.
    • But I also see barriers that arise out of lack of awareness and understanding about what conversations could be happening but aren’t (or what to do about that), and it is here where I can that I might make a difference!
  • My perspective also means that I see interaction as the way in to career.  Careers come about as the result of a series of interactions.  If you want to get yourself started working on your career, start thinking about what interactions you could be having,  but aren’t (yet).



When we pay attention to the texts and interactions that comprise the job search, we pay better attention to the people we talk to and how, and the language that we use when we talk to them.  And this increased attention of course must include attention to what conversations we could be having but aren’t, and removing the barriers as we become aware of them. In bringing our attention to our language in these contexts, we can be career linguists for ourselves: bring our heightened awareness of language and all of our critical analytical skills to the meaning which we construct about our skills and abilities to ensure that the language that we use to talk about ourselves in jobseeking interactions is the very best that it can be.

After all: we are language experts, there is no reason why our resumes and cover letters shouldn’t be the very best ones out there!!!

Ultimately, when more of us are using our skills and training to solve the problems that we feel called upon to solve, well, more of us are solving the problems that we feel called upon to solve, and isn’t that  why we all chose linguistics in the first place?

So I start here, by asking you:

What problems do you feel called to solve?  How are you uniquely equipped to solve them?   What do your skills bring to the conversation, what do they enable you to DO? Who benefits?  What are the implications?

With whom can you be sharing this information RIGHT NOW? What interaction can you create THIS WEEK to start using an interaction to help you begin to figure all of this out?

….and here’s to what comes next!!

About Linguistics, Career Exploration, The job search

How do I start my jobsearch as a linguist?

I have received a few inquiries this week from linguists wondering how to begin job searches. Some of their specific questions included:

How do I narrow down what fields to focus on?  How will I know what kind of a job I will like?  How do I find jobs that leverage my strengths and interests?  What jobs are out there?

Because there is not one way to answer these questions, nor indeed is there any one way to begin a job search, my response here will take the form of a “choose your own adventure” from the list below featuring three big ideas I have shared over the course of the years here at Career Linguist.  For an overview, you may wish to check out my HOW to Begin page.

Screen Shot 2013-09-23 at 10.16.44 PM

  1. Research

If there is one thing that I can guarantee that you will need to do as part of jump-starting a job search, it will involve research.  The thing about researching in a job context, however is that you are going to start thinking about going to people in the ways that you have been trained as a student to go to books and research articles.  The good news is that you still have a database: you have LinkedIn.

Maybe you want to start by plugging in Linguistics + X  into the Advanced Search bar on LinkedIn.  What industries are the linguists that you find working in?

I try to spend an hour a week on LinkedIn.  When you are jobsearching, this might be one hour a day.  Here are some LinkedIn basics, but in a nutshell, what you are looking for: people you know IRL who you can connect with, people you would like to know and who you know who might be able to connect you, organizations of interest to follow, groups that you might want to join etc. etc. etc.  Big questions to ask: do you return with the keywords that you would want to be found with?  Who does? Why?


  1. Informational Interviews

Plan to set up as many informational interviews as possible.    A good rule of thumb if you are in heavily into jobsearch mode is to plan to have at least two informational interviews a week.  People are busy, so know that to actually have two interviews a week might mean that you reach out to dozens of people, so you have to have patience, but you should rest assured that the hardest part is getting started.  When you talk to someone as part of an informational interview, one of your questions should be “what are the names of two other people that I should be reaching out to?”


  1. Respond to a job ad

Find a job ad that speaks to you (perhaps you found it by plugging in some keywords to LinkedIn that led you to a person of interest, which then led you to an organization of interest, which now helped you to identify a job of interest) and start choosing what aspects of your experience you might highlight about yourself in applying for it.   Look at the “tasks, duties, and responsibilities” that they are asking for to then figure out how these map on to the “skills, abilities and interests” that you actually posses.  Some of these may have been cultivated by your background in linguistics, and some might belong to other interests and experiences that you have accumulated along the way.  Either way, your training in linguistics has equipped you for the task of translating this experience into language that your addressee understands.


What you can count on

Something you can absolutely count on being asked to explain will be “what’s linguistics?” so you may as well spend some time developing your definition, and preparing pocket examples to have at the ready.  For inspiration, you may wish to look at career profiles of linguists who have done interesting things with their degrees.


10 things

You may also wish to purchase my short, and I hope motivating, video start-up lecture: 10 things you can do this week to develop your career.  Jumpstarting your search is only the first step in much a longer journey, so you may as well equip yourself with as many tools as possible that you might need along the way.

About Linguistics, Career Education, Professional self-presentation

Why a linguist?

Thank you to Barb Clark at You Say Tomato for calling our attention to this wonderful article:

Why every company needs a good applied linguist

Barb explains the who (applied linguistic anthropologists ) what why and how of it in her blog post Read her full post here

applied linguistic anthropologists can significantly contribute to a project in myriad ways which may often be beyond the initial scope or remit of the project

‘Bad’ communication, miscommunication, and misunderstanding don’t happen in a vacuum – an applied linguistic anthropologist can help show motivations for what’s being said

we bring linguistic, cultural, social, and other contextual factors relevant to the project as well as critical to understanding what’s actually happening behind and beneath all of those words we see and hear

About Linguistics, Professional self-presentation

“What’s Linguistics?”

“What’s Linguistics?”
“How many languages do you speak?”
“A linguist?  Like C-3PO?” (the latest variant of this question that I heard recently)

If you have taken even a single course in linguistics, you have probably been asked questions like the above (and likely with some regularity).  The general lack of awareness about our field demonstrated by these questions can be very frustrating, and no doubt you recognize the heavy feeling that follows as you try to gauge how much you really want to “go there” with this person in your response.

A classmate of mine used to sometimes answer by saying something along the lines of “would you ask a physicist to define gravity!?!  Go get a book!”

….and I’m not even yet talking about the perennial favorite:” “What can you do with a Degree in Linguistics?”

A conversational opportunity
But I am an interactional sociolinguist, and that means that I see things in terms of interactions. And from where I sit, for those of us seeking to broaden the understanding of the range of contexts in which our skills may be applied, I can’t think of interactions more important for us to pay attention to than these invitations to talk more about our field.  When we see these questions as opening interactional opportunities, as opportunities to share ideas, as opportunities to share enthusiasm, we elevate our field in ways that benefit all of us.

We should expect misunderstanding (about Linguistics)
Among the skills cultivated by the study of linguistics is that of having a heightened awareness of communication, which involves the expectation of the possibility for misunderstanding.  We recognize the labor involved in the interactional achievement of intersubjectivity and thus have been trained to have patience for the careful attention sometimes required and the investment of time, space, energy and work that being understood and understanding can entail.  Bringing these skills then to an encounter with a potential ally in the career journey will mean being willing to seek to understand together how it is that our skills and training in linguistics might be useful to the person we are talking to.

Be prepared with an example
I argue that it is our responsibility to have some examples at the ready which demonstrate exactly how we might be useful professionally, displaying our disciplinary commitment to promoting more effective communication and to broadening understanding.

How can you share a little bit of something that you are interested in?  Maybe you can talk about something that you are working on and are currently thinking about.

Sample examples?
On this blog, I share stories of the professional paths of linguists, and organizations who hire linguists. I also share job postings and other resources for learning more about linguistics.  What resources do you have to share?  Join the conversation by tweeting @careerlinguist

You never know where this conversation might lead. At the very least, you will share ideas, invite curiosity, and perhaps even recruit allies for the career journey ahead!

About Linguistics, Career Paths for linguists

‘Bring in’ … a call to professional linguists

Screenshot 2016-03-03 12.07.30As quoted in what color can your parachute be Roger Shuy framed the problem thusly  at the 1974 Georgetown University Roundtable in Linguistics (GURT):

“As a result of its isolative behavior, linguistics is now beginning to suffer from not having a natural apprenticeship domain, making it difficult for graduates to find work”

He suggested a solution, namely that linguists must overcome feelings of: “elitism and discover methods of breaking into such areas as information processing and retrieval, medicine, psychiatry, lexicography, publishing, the communications industry, and educational consulting.”

Writing in 2015 and from my vantage point as a professional linguist, I would frame the problem a bit differently.  For me, it is that:

The world of work needs linguists, but most would-be employers don’t know it!

…and to compound the situation:

  • Many linguistics professors aren’t sure how to help. While of course, there are some professors who wouldn’t want to because they participate in the elitism noted above by Professor Shuy above, by and large in my two decades of engagement with our field, my experience is that professors are overwhelmingly eager to help. They are interested in seeing their students succeed and see the value of having connections to a range of professional contexts, however, they simply aren’t sure what it is that they can do.
  • Conversely, those who would know how to help – career counselors and other experts in professional development – by and large don’t know what linguistics is, much less how it could be applied.
  • Finally, those who have found professional expression of their skills and training in linguistics might feel undervalued because they don’t see their perspective being represented or celebrated in the field.

But here is where I start to see a broader solution: those who are already “inside” can help with the “breaking in” by “bringing in.”

Certainly, this is a systemic problem having to do with (as Professor Shuy illustrates) decades of decisions and decision-makers who have shaped our field to undervalue being outward-facing and being oriented towards application in general, so the burden of the solution can’t be on the heads of those who are also trying to work out what they want to do as they are trying to work their way in to this “range of contexts.”  But I happen to know, from having conducted years research about careers for linguists, that for just about any context that someone might be interested in “breaking in” there are already linguists there who can help!!

So, for those of you who are “in” and who currently have jobs that you love which involve the application of your linguistics training (or know people who do), I invite you to:

  • share stories here, and in other venues like Superlingo, All Things Linguistic and the Business of Language.
  • Get plugged in with established platforms for sharing resources, information and building community through groups like the Special Interest group for Linguistics Beyond Academia through the Linguistics Society of America.
  • Create your own platform – we will help you spread the word!
  • Share information about job openings on Linguist List and on blogs, Twitter and LinkedIn.
  • Join the google group “Ling-Outside
  • Take advantage of mentoring opportunities organized through the LSA, and other academic associations and conferences.
  • Are you a member of professional associations?  Can you reach out to linguists who might be trying to break in to your field through communications channels established there?
  • Contact your university’s alumni office, career center, and linguistics department to identify yourself as a resource.
  • Help me share these career resources 

To the community: What other ideas / resources are out there needing to be shared?