Linguistics Student Profile
Name: Emma Hage
Graduation Year: 2018
How and why did you choose your major?
Growing up, I always loved learning about English grammar. When I started studying foreign languages, it fascinated me to notice the similarities and differences between those languages and English. This kickstarted my interest in linguistics, and I knew I wanted to incorporate it into my college career. My parents and friends voiced their skepticism that I would find a job in the field, and I bounced between multiple other majors before ultimately deciding that I most enjoyed analyzing language and wanted to pursue linguistics as my degree.
Please give a description (in your words) of your major including the things you learn, favorite classes, and any challenges you have faced.
Linguistics is the study of language, but there are lots of different lenses that you can view language through. The core of my major consists of syntax (grammar), phonology (sound systems), and semantics (words and meaning), but there are other important branches too. I especially love learning about pragmatics, or what people are implicitly saying beyond the words they share. I've gotten to do a lot of conversational analysis in Language, Culture, and Power (ANTH 3005W), which is a great linguistics elective for people interested in applied linguistics.
The most challenging part of my major has been my syntax courses. Linguists have been trying for many decades to come up with a template for language, or a Universal Grammar that every language follows. This can be somewhat difficult to conceptualize. Part of the way we analyze language is by studying the patterns, and I don't always know how to articulate the patterns in syntax, but it's like a puzzle—and most of the time I find it fun, even if it's hard.
What types of experiences outside of the classroom have you had relating to your major? (i.e. clubs, jobs, internships, volunteering, study abroad etc.)
I paired my major with a minor in Teaching English as a Second Language because I love critically analyzing English and trying to teach others about the silly patterns that exist in our own language. I have volunteered as an English tutor for nonnative English speakers, and in the Center for Writing I answer lots of questions (from native and nonnative English speakers) about how to use language. I also had the opportunity to study abroad in Norway, where I studied Norwegian through formal instruction and immersion. This experience was extremely formative for how I look at language and the way it is used.
In your opinion, what is one thing, or one piece of advice that other students pursuing your major should know?
Unfortunately, if you express an interest in linguistics, you may encounter some people in your life who question its validity as a field of study, and whether or not it will get you a job. But language is one of the most powerful tools we have, and we use it every day; I can personally see immense value in understanding the way it works. Linguistics has taught me how to be an excellent critical thinker, and to notice and articulate patterns in the world. No matter what profession you find yourself in, these are important skills! Plus, as I've come to understand, your major doesn't equal your career. You don't have to want to be a linguist in order to study linguistics.
In addition, it's important to know that at the University of Minnesota, the linguistics major is not one in which you study a bunch of languages and learn grammar rules. However, if you enjoy being critical of language, you will likely enjoy the linguistics classes that are part of the program.