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Should I choose linguistics as a major?

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Zerzura
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Australia
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45 posts - 53 votes 
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Studies: Russian

 
 Message 9 of 21
21 January 2014 at 10:52am | IP Logged 
patrickwilken wrote:
Zerzura wrote:
Hello!

I'm about to choose my other Bachelor of arts major (yes I know queue flipping burgers joke). I'm majoring in Russian and my other major will be Linguistics, Economics or Journalism. I'm just wondering if anyone here has any knowledge or personal experience on the Linguistics major.

So far what I am reading is that it is a very specific field that is only useful if you plan on studying a foreign language (which I am). Translating and teaching are the first careers that come to mind - that will benefit from this major. But really my impression of the infortmation on the internet is that it's only about as better as not having a major!


I studied at Melbourne Uni and did a BSc (but for a while dabbled in BA) as well.

From what little you've said I would recommend either journalism or economics, rather than linguistics. As others have said linguistics is really going to lead you towards an academic career. On other hand I see how you could get some interesting jobs with Russian plus journalism or Russian plus economics. Don't just assume that Russian will lead you to translator jobs.

By coincidence I rent my apartment from a German journalist, who learnt Russian and now works in Central Asia with his wife, and writes pieces for Spiegel etc and makes documentaries for German TV.

I assume Russian plus economics would also lead to some interesting career paths.

Having a foreign language, in particular a difficult and important foreign language, will open up a lot of doors.


That guy pretty much almost is living my life dream. There are some specific courses devoted to translation skills in the Russian extended major, the linguistics seems like too much theory. I can only start studying its application if I decide to study it for an extra year after my degree! (includes TESOL and stuff like that).

Thanks so far for the input, it helps a lot to have some second opinions!
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Rob_Austria
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Austria
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 Message 10 of 21
21 January 2014 at 2:13pm | IP Logged 
From a practical point of view (I've been working as a freelance interpreter and translator myself for about 20 years), I would say you are much better off with journalism and/or economics than with linguistics.

I entered the field of translating/interpreting because of my love for languages and because I thought that I might be able to put my skills to good use in life. I was not too hopeful as for the "beauty of the texts" I would have to work with.

I knew (even though I had no idea about the extent to which this assumption would turn out to be true) that I would not always be working with wonderfully written texts or at conferences where topics that interest me personally are dealt with.

As I see things today, my job has allowed me to live an incredibly independent life (compared to the life-work-balance of my siblings for example) and it has given me the opportunity to stay in close touch with languages on a permanent basis. There are many times when I just love what I do, and there are times when I simply work through the pages of a specific text or presentations given at a conference, wishing for my job to be over rather sooner than later ;-). But, as I said, all in all I've been very happy with my career choice.

If I had to choose between journalism or economics, I'd go for economics, simply because it is the more practical choice when it comes to your job qualifications. Economics, law and (almost) any technical field will prove to be a major asset for your future career as a translator/interpreter.

Personally, I've concentrated on law and have faired very well with my decision, even during the economic crisis. No matter if business is good or bad, lawyers seem to be the ones that always get enough work. In good times it is contracts on mergers etc., in bad times you'll be translating insolvency proceedings (just to give you a basic idea, this is a bit of a generalization, of course).

P.S. Russian and law would be an excellent combination by the way.

Edited by Rob_Austria on 21 January 2014 at 2:15pm

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anamsc2
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 Message 11 of 21
21 January 2014 at 2:45pm | IP Logged 
I majored in linguistics and math, and I'd say don't major in linguistics if you don't really, really like linguistics itself (as opposed to languages and language learning). There are a decent number of jobs outside of academia for people who studied linguistics (especially if they have good technical skills), but in my experience they're pretty linguistic-y, i.e. pretty close to the things you'd study in a major, so they might be boring if you don't really love it.

Studying linguistics can help you be better at translation and teaching, I think, but if you wanted to do that you'd be better off studying translation / teaching specifically.

Also, linguistics isn't really one of those impressive-sounding majors that will get you good generalist jobs where they just want "smart" people. In my experience, at least in the US, people don't have a good understanding of what linguistics is (they think it's literature or that you learn to speak a lot of languages), which can make it harder to get a job outside the field.

Edited by anamsc2 on 21 January 2014 at 2:47pm

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Arekkusu
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 Message 12 of 21
21 January 2014 at 3:10pm | IP Logged 
I went into Linguistics because languages were, by far, my biggest passion. This led me to teaching languages first, then translation, then interpretation, and back to teaching and creating language learning material. I did it regardless of what anyone else thought because I couldn't see myself doing anything else. In retrospect, it worked for me.

I don't know if it's economically wise to take up a degree in Linguistics, but I'd say it's a lot more valuable than a degree in Russian, for what it's worth. Theoritical Linguistics is a scientific discipline that will teach you very valuable things about languages and how they work, all with a scientific approach.

In the end, it's about gaining as much knowledge as possible in the field that fascinates you the most and pushing for a career in that direction. A degree in Economics will not be useful if you don't care about Economics.
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maydayayday
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 Message 13 of 21
21 January 2014 at 8:17pm | IP Logged 
I think the consensus here is that Linguistics is only really useful to you if you wish to pursue an academic career: and even then I'd say teaching linguistics or analysing languages (I read Linguistics as part of my 2nd or was it 3rd undergraduate degree and none of them included languages at all - go figure - but I did use is in my doctorate in natural language processing.

If you are keen to start working sooner take which ever of subjects grips your interest most: from experience there is nothing worse than having to write papers or even worse revise a subject that doesn't interest you (mine was plant biology).

If you wish to go on to a translation/interpretation career you'll probably get your fill of theoretical linguistics on that course - I know several of my friend did.

There remains the option of extra-mural courses or distance learning if you still feel you need the subject in your CV/resume.

I'm interested to know if you took any other subsidiary languages in your degree? We had an Australian girl in the Japanese automotive company who amongst other had read Russian and Japanese as minors at Uni - she was a B2 at best but not bad for minors. I think it might have been Monash but I'm not sure.
    


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Serpent
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 Message 14 of 21
22 January 2014 at 3:35am | IP Logged 
Arekkusu wrote:
I went into Linguistics because languages were, by far, my biggest passion. This led me to teaching languages first, then translation, then interpretation, and back to teaching and creating language learning material. I did it regardless of what anyone else thought because I couldn't see myself doing anything else. In retrospect, it worked for me.

I don't know if it's economically wise to take up a degree in Linguistics, but I'd say it's a lot more valuable than a degree in Russian, for what it's worth. Theoritical Linguistics is a scientific discipline that will teach you very valuable things about languages and how they work, all with a scientific approach.

In the end, it's about gaining as much knowledge as possible in the field that fascinates you the most and pushing for a career in that direction. A degree in Economics will not be useful if you don't care about Economics.
I'm in a similar situation but my field is "theoretical and applied linguistics" (applied doesn't include teaching here in Russia). I'm not satisfied with the language classes involved, but overall this has been my best option to get a higher education. For the linguistics subjects, you can work with various languages. Sometimes it's acceptable to do theoretical stuff with languages you don't know, but I have enough options among what I know :-) For the serious projects, I definitely remember using at least my Finnish, Polish and BCSM, as well as a failed attempt to use Portuguese :-) the prof thought it was obvious that we were to choose a Russian audio recording to analyze although this wasn't specified anywhere :P I might be forgetting something too. So I would say linguistics is a great field for aspiring polyglots, also because it will help you massively with the guesswork involved in learning.

In more practical terms, at least here in Russia it's pretty common for jobs to require simply "high education" or only specifying whether it should be technical/humanities (mine is basically in between these btw - applied linguistics also involves programming/maths/computers). For example, I've had only one job so far - I was a spam analyst at Kaspersky Lab. Spam analysis requires both languages and at least some IT knowledge. We were required to work with all languages there was any spam in, using google translate if necessary. (I didn't need it much :P)

Anyway, obviously there's no college where they teach spam analysis, and (again, at least here) many jobs are like this - you're taught most things you need within your first month of work, and you pick up the rest through experience. Obviously if you're currently a student or already have a degree, it makes it more likely that you can actually cope. And I think for things that take longer to learn (but still not years) it's still considered better to have both a degree and the required narrower profile certificate. Of course it's a fuсked up system, of course it devalues high education and forces people to study things they neither need nor care about. But for a potential employer there might be surprisingly little difference among the journalism, linguistics and Russian degrees.
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AML
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 Message 15 of 21
22 January 2014 at 4:14am | IP Logged 
Zerzura wrote:
Hello!

I'm about to choose my other Bachelor of arts major (yes I know queue flipping burgers joke). I'm majoring in Russian and my other major will be Linguistics,
Economics or Journalism. I'm just wondering if anyone here has any knowledge or personal experience on the Linguistics major.

So far what I am reading is that it is a very specific field that is only useful if you plan on studying a foreign language (which I am). Translating and
teaching are the first careers that come to mind - that will benefit from this major. But really my impression of the infortmation on the internet is that
it's only about as better as not having a major!

There is bound to be someone here that knows a thing or two about this major... if you're reading this, I want to sponge your brain for advice!

Thanks in advance!



If you don't plan on becoming an academic, I wouldn't major in it unless you LOVE linguistics. You can always just take a couple of linguistics classes to
satisfy your needs (80/20 rule applies here).
To avoid "flipping burgers", you might consider Computer Science or some other generally applicable major (Engineering) as your second major. Or a second
language.

(my background: science PhD and a non-science Master's).
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Gunshy
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 Message 16 of 21
22 January 2014 at 3:38pm | IP Logged 
To be fair in the English speaking world unless you're graduating from an Oxbridge or Imperial-esque institution, whatever you major in is really just a piece of paper enhancing your employability (given you want no more than an undergraduate degree, that is). Nothing's preventing someone from becoming an economist after having completed a history degree. There are so many graduate schemes it really just depends on what you think you could excel in the most.

I major in linguistics for the same reason Arekkusu does: I can't see myself studying anything else.

Edited by Gunshy on 22 January 2014 at 3:40pm



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