A career in Linguistics: For the love of language

Are you fascinated by written and spoken language, the study of various languages, translation, and how and why people interact and interpret each other? Well, then a career in Linguistics or translation jobs might just be right for you. Before you decide, read through this short Blog post and familiarise yourself with Linguistics first to see whether it is something you should pursue or not.


The differences between a Linguist, Translator and Interpreter

A Linguist is a person who studies language and the various aspects of it. This includes the nature and structure of, as well as the psychology behind language and communication in general.

It also investigates the commonalities amongst languages of various large groups of people, their different dialects (language variations) and how language has evolved over time periods. These language experts are also interested in how the brain processes and stores language, particularly in small children.

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Sub-categories a linguist would typically study include:

  1. Syntax – sentence structure
  2. Phonetics – hearing, production and acoustics of speech sounds
  3. Semantics – meaning
  4. Phonology – sound patterning
  5. Morphology – word structure
  6. Pragmatics – language context

Translation and interpreting are very closely linked disciplines that fall within the broader field of linguistics. Translation jobs involve writing words and converting it from one language into another language, on paper, whereas an Interpreter is a professional that would translate speech in oral form or into sign language.


What are the career opportunities within Linguistics?

There is such a vast amount of career opportunities lying within Linguistics, both locally and internationally. Along with translator jobs or interpreter jobs, you could work in an academic environment, either as a language teacher or at a university, tertiary institution or research laboratory.

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Within the public sector, Human Resources Management, Industrial Relations, Publishing, Media, Public Relations and Tourism industries all require the services of Linguists in various capacities.

One of the obligations and commitments of the South African Government is also to protect and establish language rights in the country, therefore Linguists are welcome to apply for jobs at the Department of Education and Development and other Government subsidiaries.

Becoming a Linguist, Interpreter or Translator in South Africa

If you love the study of language and this field sounds like the perfect career choice for you, then consider your education options. There are many institutions in South Africa offering great related courses and these are just some of them:

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Image Source: Business Insider.

The University of South Africa (UNISA) offers a broad spectrum of courses in Linguistics as well as Modern languages such as French, Portuguese and Mandarin Chinese. You will have to start off with a Bachelor of Arts (Communication Science or Creative Writing), and from there progress to an Honours degree qualification with specialisation in either Linguistics, Applied Linguistics or Translation Studies, which in turn prepares you for translator jobs. If you want to continue your studies, you can then move on to a Master of Arts and do a dissertation in fields such as Sociolinguistics and Applied Linguistics. A Doctoral qualification in the Philosophy of Languages, Linguistics and Literature (Translation studies) would be your next step at UNISA opening a wide door of opportunity when it comes to linguistics jobs.


If you live in the Western Cape, the University of Cape Town’s Humanities department has a School of African and Gender Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics offering a range of undergraduate and graduate courses for language lovers. Their undergraduate program provides a proper introduction to language and applied language studies in the first year, and delves deeper into the skills required by a linguist in the second and third year. Graduate programs at UCT include a Masters in Applied Linguistics and African Languages, a two-year Honours or MA in Linguistics, a MA dissertation in Linguistics as well as a Doctorate in Linguistics.


For those in KwaZulu-Natal, consider the Programme offered at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. This programme offers six compulsory undergraduate modules as required access into a major in Linguistics. This major can then be further pursued within the BA (General Studies), BSocSci (General Studies) or BA (Multilingual Studies). The Multilingual Studies route is great for those wanting a good practical training on dealing with language issues socially as well as in the workplace. Should you decide to go postgraduate, this institution offers an integrated Honours and Masters programme covering all the main aspects of linguistics theory such as Theoretical, Psycholinguistics, Sociolinguistics and Applied Linguistics.


So, are you convinced that a career in Linguistics is for you? If you are already trained as a linguist, Job Mail can assist you in finding the right job. Visit www.JobMail.co.za, register your CV and apply for translation jobs and linguistics jobs in your area. Be sure to download the Job Mail Android app as well, for easy, on-the-go job hunting.

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