People often ask – how many languages do you need to know to be a linguist? The answer is simple – at least one. Many well-known American linguists know only English, but this does not prevent them from exploring the process of learning English as a first or foreign language. Of course, there are researchers who know several foreign languages. But this is nothing more than a good addition to the resume, and not a prerequisite to be a linguist. After all, linguistic education in the USA is provided mainly in English.
Linguistic education in the USA, namely Master’s and doctoral (PhD) programs in linguistics in the American system of higher education, are of two types: theoretical linguistics (Linguistics) and applied linguistics (Applied Linguistics). Applied linguistics is often equated with programs for teaching English for speakers of other languages (Teaching English to the Speakers of Other Languages) and includes such subjects: methods of teaching English as a second / foreign language (English as a Second / Foreign Language), theory Mastering the second language (Second Language Acquisition Theory), teaching grammar, writing, reading and other language skills. Applied linguistics programs also include theoretical subjects: syntax (Syntax), phonetics (Phonetics), semantics and pragmatics (Semantics & Pragmatics). Psycholinguistics, Sociolinguistics, Neurolinguistics, Computational Linguistics and other related disciplines are important for understanding the structure of a language and its functions.
For admission to a magistracy or doctoral program in linguistics, applicants need to collect a “standard” package of application documents: a motivation letter, letters of recommendation (usually three), a resume, a bachelor’s / master’s diploma in related subjects with an application (transcripts), the results of the TOEFL or IELTS language tests and the standardized GRE test. In order to receive funding that is provided in the form of research or teaching assistantship, the applicant needs to write about his teaching philosophy and have a written work on academic writing (academic writing sample). The vast majority of applicants go to graduate schools to improve teaching skills and professional development after several years of teaching. Those who are interested in conducting the study continue their doctoral studies. Although for many, the practical knowledge gained at the magistracy is enough to become more competitive in the labor market.
Despite the misconception that a linguist can only be a teacher or a tutor, the range of employment opportunities is extremely wide. A linguist can work as a translator, coordinator of a language center, methodologist for teaching languages, designer of online courses, author of books and manuals on language learning, proofreader, editor, or testing specialist. And thanks to such soft skills as critical and analytical thinking, solving problem situations, developed communication skills, and the ability to decipher text content, applied linguistics specialists are often hired by police departments, courts, and other government agencies.