If you have always been interested in the science of language, then a career as a professional linguist is definitely one that you should consider. It’s a fascinating field that not only allows you to help people get the answers they need by shedding light on an unknown language, but also acts as a reminder that although we’re all different, in the end, we all need to communicate with each other clearly and effectively. If you are ready to join the brethren of highly skilled linguists, keep reading to find out how.
First, find out your area of interest.
Because linguistics is such a broad field, there are many career paths you could take. For example, some linguists primarily study the history of language, semantics, and phonetics while others dedicate their lives to improving computational linguistics. Other highly skilled linguists work for governments and private companies as translators or interpreters; so it really comes down to what field appeals to you most and what you will enjoy doing for the long term.
Learn (at least) a second language
One of the best things you can do to become one of the few highly skilled linguists in the market is to study a second language, or even a third or fourth. Consider studying a language that will be beneficial to employers in the area you want to work as well. For example, if you live in the Southwest portion of the United States, learning to speak Spanish would be the best course of action since there is a high demand for translators and interpreters that speak the language so they can better service their Spanish-speaking customers.
Talk to someone that is fluent in at least three languages, and they will tell you that although learning a second language was difficult, learning new languages thereafter is much easier. That’s the beauty of learning a new language: the learning curve decreases drastically for the new languages that you learn.
Major in linguistics
At the very least, take a few undergraduate classes related to the field of linguistics to learn essential skills. This will allow you to learn what you are interested in, and which areas of study you want to avoid. It will not be a waste of time either: if you decide that a career as a highly skilled linguist is something you do not want to pursue, you will still have learned some valuable life lessons that will help you in whatever career you choose.
Consider volunteering as an interpreter and/or translator for non-profit organizations in your area. Especially if there is a large minority population in your area that speak another language; your skills as a highly skilled linguist will assuredly be welcomed. Plus, you will be helping people for a great cause.
Finally, consider freelancing as a translator or interpreter. This will allow you to earn real-world experience as a contractor without having to be tied down to a particular job. It also allows you to learn if a career in this area of linguistics is something you want to pursue, or if you want to focus on another career.