Linguistics department seeking more students

Linguistics professor Sean Fulop teaches his class at the lab school at Fresno State on Monday, Feb.3, 2020.(Larry Valenzuela/The Collegian)

The linguistics department is in need of more majors. Of more than 24,000 students on campus, fewer than 80 are linguistic students. 

The department offers four major options: general linguistics; teaching English to speakers of other languages/second language acquisition and teaching; computational linguistics; and interdisciplinary language studies. Currently there are nine linguistics professors on staff. 

The cognitive science program is currently the only B.S. degree that is offered by the College of Arts and Humanities.

Senior general linguistic student Evan Stone notices the lack of knowledge about this topic any time he mentions his major. 

“At my work, people will ask what I do. When I say I’m a linguistics major, they are confused,” Stone said.

Department chair of linguistics, professor Sean Fulop points to high school being a potential cause for the lack of linguistic majors. 

“I think it comes down to the things that people are experienced with in high school,” said Fulop. “Everyone goes through high school, and you hear about things there– linguistics is usually left out of this learning process.”

Linguistics is defined as the study of language, but there’s more to it than that.

“Language is a defining characteristic of the human species. Without language, there would be no civilization, no culture, no scientific or technological development, none of the achievements and capabilities distinctive to the human species,” according to the department’s website. 

The department at Fresno State is equipped with a computer lab, and a phonetics lab that assists with language learning for language study.

For the teaching English second language aspect, there is an Act Like a Teacher Program, where students are trained in movement, voice, improvisation and classroom management using acting techniques.

Some of Fresno State’s faculty members are also part of a group called the indigenous languages group. The group works to document and continue to use dying languages.  

General linguistics majors also have the opportunity to work with Chukchansi, supported by a grant from the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians.  There are only a handful of Chukchansi native speakers still alive, and time is running out to fully document their language so it could be properly taught to future generations.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2018, various types of social scientists, including linguists, earned a median salary of $81,340. There is an expected job growth of 11 percent from 2018-2028.

Fresno State also has a Master of Arts program that has two options: the general and teaching English as a second language.

Graduates receiving their degree in linguistics can expect to find jobs in education, translating or interpreting, language consulting with medical or law fields, publishing or editing, and a variety of other fields. There are opportunities for major companies like Google or Facebook, as well. 

Computational linguistics student Ethan Velez says that linguistics can be a benefit before taking any language class.

“Having a background in linguistics will help you when you are taking a regular language class,” said Velez, who was taught both Spanish and English at his dual immersion elementary school. 
More information about the linguistics department can be found through a counselor or on Fresno State’s website.

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