What are the Different Linguist Jobs?

Most people automatically assume that a linguist can communicate in a variety of languages. In some cases, this is correct; however, linguistics is the study of language in its broadest sense. It explores the whys and wherefores of language, attempting to define how we use it, why we use it, and the differences between languages. As a result, linguist positions are numerous and diverse.

Linguistics is divided into a large number of fields and subfields, resulting in a large number of specialized linguist jobs. Teaching and education would be the first areas of career opportunity. Teaching English as a second language, teaching foreign languages, developing curriculums and tests, and linguistic research are all areas where linguists can work. Linguist jobs tend to branch out into a wide range of business and government applications, so this is just the tip of the semantic iceberg.

Some linguists choose to work in the field of computer and software design, developing speech recognition software or applying linguistic principles to improve the efficiency of search engines. Governments frequently hire linguists for positions in diplomatic or intelligence agencies. As of 2009, there were numerous government job opportunities for those fluent in Middle Eastern languages and dialects, particularly in the United States. Hospitals, news organizations, large banks and financial institutions, and international legal institutions are all looking for capable translators and interpreters.

Linguist jobs are also available in the entertainment industry. Linguists, for example, are frequently hired to assist actors who are required to perform with a foreign accent. The linguist will train the actors in pronunciation, grammar, elocution, and colloquial expressions to help them be more convincing in their roles. Another area of expertise for linguists, and one with significant financial implications, is naming products that will be sold in a variety of countries. For example, it was discovered soon after Coca-Cola was introduced to China that the literal Chinese translation of the brand name meant “bite the waxed tadpole.”

Lexicography, the task of creating and updating dictionaries, is one of the more traditional linguist jobs. Many linguists are also working in the field with rare or endangered languages. The goal in this field is to preserve important historical and cultural elements. Linguistic researchers may also work with “dead” languages, translating documents, scrolls, or books in order to preserve knowledge from previous generations.