I am a recent graduate of the Masters in Language and Communication, or MLC, program in the Georgetown University Linguistics department. I am lucky enough to have been enrolled in a program that I truly love and enjoy. There are a few links to the program in my blogroll, and some of the skills we develop in the course of the program are listed below. Below the list of skills is a list of some of the classes I’ve taken in the program.
According to Anna Trester’s publication Career Paths for Linguists (2009), “the study of linguistics cultivates a range of skills transferable to many fields, some of which include:
- Heightened awareness of language and communication
Students learn the philosophical framework and linguistic tools through which to identify what is conveyed directly (or indirectly), explicitly (or implicitly, through inference) in interaction. Such training is unique and moreover is applicable to any field. For example, linguists are familiar with the face-saving strategies identified with politeness theory (including their general social distribution and cultural variation), which is of value to international organizations in training employees in awareness of cross cultural differences in business interactions.
- Research and Project Management Skills
Linguistics graduates have skills and training in the collection, interpretation and presentation of data, and are able to conduct both quantitative and qualitative analyses. As part of their training, students learn how to identify variables, code variants, tally results, organize (quantitative) data into tables and use basic hypothesis testing statistical techniques. Additionally, they are able to make sense of these patternings (qualitatively) at the local level, including within and across a single interaction. Importantly, linguists are trained to understand the strengths and weaknesses of both quantitative and qualitative research techniques, their interdependencies, and how (and when) to use both. They are able to offer a well-researched, considered opinion on topics relating to Linguistics and are able to debate issues in this and related fields with confidence. Projects completed during the degree encourage the development of project design, coordination and management, and evaluation and presentation skills.
- Strong Analytical and Observational Skills
Linguistics often involves identifying and making sense of language puzzles and patterns, which extends to other areas of analytical thinking, allowing linguistics majors to analyze a range of possible outcomes for business decisions. Many top business and political leaders have spent at least part of their academic careers studying linguistics, to gain some of these powerful advantages. Linguistics researchers must learn to incorporate ongoing observations into the design of a project as they emerge and as the project itself is unfolding. In order to understand participants’ perspectives on what they are doing when using language, a researcher often becomes a participant/observer (which entails field work, note-taking, and journal keeping), which further develops the ability to observe and analyze social interaction.
- Powerful Oral and Written Communication Skills
Linguistics majors rely on their skills to understand the meanings and the intentions of speakers and writers. In the same way, they develop powerful communications skills that allow them to express ideas in clear, concise ways. Not only do graduates develop an exceptionally high degree of accuracy and precision with language, including attention to detail in writing, but also they are highly sensitive to the ways in which written and verbal information is communicated and the relationship between spoken and written language. Exceptional oral communication skills are also cultivated through fieldwork, including interviews with subjects where natural speech must be encouraged in order to understand the technicalities of spoken language. In developing and practicing interviewing skills, students learn how to structure an interview, how to establish rapport, as well as how to record and evaluate an interview through the use of linguistic tools and questionnaires. It may be easily seen how confidence and facility with interviews would be a highly valuable skill for any job seeker.
- Ethics, Tolerance and Interpersonal Skills
The study of linguistics cultivates keen social and political awareness and the ability and willingness to behave in a way that demonstrates an understanding of politeness and cross-cultural, cross-language and cross-gender communications. For example, students are trained to be aware of ways that gender, culture, and other issues affect language. Additionally, students are trained to identify underlying assumptions, including unpacking power relationships, which are often reproduced through language. Because of this, students are able to recognize how opinions, values, and attitudes are conveyed (sometimes unconsciously) in interaction and are better able to identify and receive them with objectivity. It is for this reason that many researchers have explored the application of linguistics in mediation and conflict resolution.”
The classes I’ve taken in the MLC program:
Introduction to Linguistics
Ethnography of Communication