Do you have a way with words?

Do you have a way with words?

Do you have a way with words?

 As faster communication brings the world closer and trade becomes truly international, the need to interact with one another in different languages becomes imperative.

Even within India, there are so many written and spoken languages. This is why India is described as a ‘socio-linguistic giant’.

Here’s an example which highlights the importance of linguistics in everyday life. An American detergent manufacturer’s ad showed a stack of dirty clothes on the left, a box of the detergent in the centre and a neat pile of clean, ironed clothes on the right. The ad, which was a success in America, appeared in other countries. But it was a huge flop in West Asia because the people read from right to left – it appeared as if the detergent made the clean clothes dirty!

Many students have a flair for languages and an interest in the language and culture of other regions. Linguistics is an apt career for students with such interests.

What is linguistics?

Linguistics is the systemic study of the sounds, script, grammar, sentence structure, diction, punctuation and pronunciation of different languages. Even the development and evolution of the language, and its relation with the culture of the region, fall under the ambit of linguistics. Sometimes, linguists also study “dead” and declining languages with reference to the changing milieu that made them moribund.

You, the student, may well ask, “What is the purpose of studying linguistics, which appears to be dry and academic?” Good question.

Linguistics is necessary for foreign language teaching, interpreting, translation, transcription, language policy formulation, copy writing, and even speech therapy. The linguistic study of defunct languages can be applied to determine, for instance, if the languages presently spoken in India face extinction.

Like all science, linguistics can be studied for purely academic purposes or for its immediate and practical application. In fact, this branch is called Applied Linguistics. The linguist can specialise in one language or a group of languages. The most widely spoken language in the world is English, which has become the language of international communication and commerce. The second most popular language internationally is French, followed by Spanish and German. There are historical reasons for the popularity of these languages. In the future, other languages (Mandarin, Japanese) may gain importance for international communication, in the wake of the shifting of world economic power from Europe and USA to Asia.

Work opportunities

A linguist can find jobs in organisations and government departments dealing with other countries or regions. A linguist is not just a person who knows another language, though this in itself is a good thing in today’s world. A linguist has a deep understanding of the language and the culture in which the language developed. This enables the linguist to interact with people speaking that language, at a deeper level, to translate and interpret better, and to teach languages better.

A linguist can even work in the Information Technology and Communication industry in these areas – developing software for automatic translation, voice recognition, speech synthesis, etc.

Qualifications required

Academic qualifications: Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral degrees. Eligibility (Bachelor’s level): 10 + 2. Of course you must love languages. Only if you have an interest in lands and cultures other than your own, will you find this career interesting.

Where can I study?

Almost all universities in India offer courses in Linguistics, but the scope of most are limited to Indian languages. There are about 20 “language” universities in India today.

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