What Majoring in Linguistics has Taught Me about Life

I think there are a lot of benefits for people who do go to college and for those who don’t go to college. I know not everyone is cut out for formal education, and that’s okay. But I think education for certain people has a lot of benefits, and as I walk away into the world with a BA in applied linguistics, I realize that majoring in linguistics has taught me more than just how to parse sentences and to transcribe in the IPA.

Each person’s experience with his/her major will be different, and even if you did/do major in a linguistic field, your experiences may be different. But I find that based on the classes that I’ve taken, that it has taught me these valuable things about life in general:

Every language is different and that’s okay!

I had a class called Syntactic Typology and Universals that really opened my eyes to all the different ways languages can work syntactically and morphologically (and we didn’t dip into phonologically but I bet that’s a whole different class!). This class changed my life, and I had no idea how interesting these variations between languages were. For example, a little less than half of the world’s languages are SOV structure (e.g. Japanese, Hindi) and a little less than that are SVO structure (e.g. English, Mandarin, Portuguese). Though these are the most common structures, there are structures like VSO that are represented in languages like Irish, Mesoamerican languages, and Classical Hebrew, and other structures (VOS, OVS).

Though I would like to think I have always been an accepting person, in a world that is rapidly changing in terms of acceptance, I think it’s important just to love people for who they are, despite the fact that someone may or may not be your cup of tea. We don’t really judge languages for the qualities they do or don’t have, we move on with our lives and learn it (or don’t learn it). Differences and variation are what make learning languages interesting because they’re not all the same. If all languages were the same, that would take the fun out of learning a new one.

We treat languages as if they were human by the things that can happen to them, by referring to language death, language revitalization, etc. If we can embrace a whole world of unique languages, a whole world of unique people should be embraced all the same.

I was happy they had this many languages, and the fact that they separated European and Brazilian Portuguese 🙂

Pay attention to the things around you!

Being a linguistics major and having a number of projects has made me more aware of the world through languages. One of my favorite fields of linguistics is sociolinguistics, so having a class like this has forced me to observe language in human interaction. It has forced me to pay attention to the kinds of things that go on in the world and the kinds of things that are accomplished through the use of just language. It makes the world really interesting, especially if you love languages.

The history of the English language itself is what results from language contact and social interactions between our ancestors thousands of years ago. When you have things like language contact, you have a lot of things like borrowing and loan words, and even code-switching (personal fave).

Even things like advertisements, politicians, writers, reporters, and even YOU! Yes, you, craft your words the way you do for a certain reason. You’ve heard this from probably a lot of people, but how you talk to your parents, your friends, your teachers, your co-workers, are all different, and that’s still in the realm of language also.

There’s a lot of things to pay attention to, and linguistics has taught me just to keep a sharp ear because this stuff is really cool.

This photo is kind of counter intuitive to the sub heading “pay attention” but…texting is still language too 😛

Still have to do the things you don’t like…

That’s right guys…linguistics has taught me that in life, you still have to do the things you don’t enjoy.

I majored in an awesome field and I really loved a majority of my classes or even all my classes. But the thing is, in some of those classes, I still had to do things I didn’t like to do, like take tests or complete a certain assignment. In the whole circle of things you love to do, there is still going to be that small percentage of things you don’t like to do.

But we do it anyways, because our love is greater than our dislike.

Creativity can be found anywhere.

I am naturally a creative person–I grew up drawing and coloring and painting and dancing and writing stories. Creativity has always been an important aspect of my life and I think I was internally afraid that I would lose creativity in my life if I kept pursuing my academic goals.

But that wasn’t necessarily the case. In a field like linguistics, I have often found myself trying to come up with really cool paper topics so I wouldn’t bore the professor or the class. I always wanted to out do myself from the paper before and see what I could come up with with my knowledge and the resources that were available to me.

Not to mention the days I spent creating PowerPoint presentations! I loved picking the template and fonts, seeing how to best organize information, and adding in fun photos and charts wherever I could.

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(Almost) all my presentations!

This leads me to my next point…

Talking in front of people is not a big deal.

If I were to tell my younger self that, I think little me would freak out. all throughout elementary school until senior year of high school, I would dread volunteering in class to answer a question or giving presentations. I’m a shy and introverted person who hates attention. So, I thought my misery would end in high school because I definitely wasn’t going to take public speaking or be on the debate team…

But I was wrong. I have had about maybe 4 or 5 presentations in my career was an undergraduate linguistics student, and in my overall college career for sure over 10 instances where I had to be in front of the class and talking. Surprisingly, there were a lot of presentations involved…but I realized that conferences are a thing in the linguistics word (if you decide to pursue graduate school). By the last presentation that I’ve had to give, I realized how easy it was for me to be in front of the class talking about my paper or project.

I was telling my friend how desensitized I am now to speaking in front of people, and that’s a good thing. People are people and if you’re in a class, chances are everyone has to talk. So don’t be shy and go for it.

It’s also an adrenaline rush when you know what you’re talking about. It can be pretty fun 😉 Trust me!

And if that doesn’t ease your thoughts, just know that in a year, none of your classmates will remember.


All in all…linguistics has taught me about, well…linguistics and languages. But this specific major has also taught me a lot about life, period.

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