What jobs are linguists good at, and who will give me one for the summer?
November 23, 2008 4:45 PM   Subscribe

What jobs are linguists good at, and who will give me one for the summer?

I'm two years into a Ph.D. in linguistics, and I'm weighing my options for the coming summer. One thing I'm wondering about is the possibility of getting some kind of internship.

Now, there aren't many companies out there that are explicitly looking for linguists. (The LINGUIST list has an internship board with all of three posts anywhere in the world; my department couldn't give me any leads at all.) But I have a hunch there are lots of individual ones out there that I'd be good for. Software company doing internationalization, or working on a natural language processing project? Big-ass library cataloguing books in umpteen languages? Hearing-aid manufacturer doing R&D? I don't even know — I'm pulling these out of my ass — but I'm sure someone on MetaFilter does.

So — where should I be looking?

The fine print: aside from English, I don't know any one language well enough to translate, teach or do bilingual customer service. I can program well, but neither brilliantly nor quickly. I'm a US citizen, but a job someplace out of the country would be totally fucking badass.
posted by nebulawindphone to Work & Money (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
What area of linguistics are you most interested in / working on?
posted by amtho at 4:57 PM on November 23, 2008


The FBI ♥s linguists.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 5:06 PM on November 23, 2008


Hearing-aid manufacturer doing R&D? - You may have pulled this out of your ass, but it happens, especially with your programming background. The companies that I ran into who were hiring people like you actually do voice recognition e.g. for phone menus, accessability. Centigram is the name I remember best, but I think they were bought up by something bigger (nom nom) and are still around.
posted by whatzit at 5:10 PM on November 23, 2008


Anecdotal data: I've been working with my uni's natural language processing research group for the past year, and I don't think there's much call there for linguists per se simply because all the computer scientists there are crosstrained to a reasonable degree in linguistics. (As in: I'm pretty sure you could out-linguist all of them, but they know enough for their purposes.) Too, internships there tend to go to computer science undergrads.

So that might perhaps not be quite so good an idea. But you could try your luck, if your uni's CS department has a NLP group.
posted by Xany at 5:11 PM on November 23, 2008


I've heard there are grants out there that allow you to travel to remote corners of the world and record dying languages. Not really an internship, but might be a cool thing to do for a few months.
posted by c lion at 5:28 PM on November 23, 2008


Perhaps try some place like Nuance, the company that makes Naturally Speaking voice recognition software? AFAIK (but my knowledge is from two years ago, with respect to their Montreal office) they hire many undergrad co-ops and summer students, so they are probably interested in having grad students join their team for internships.
posted by thisjax at 7:29 PM on November 23, 2008


Thanks for the suggestions so far!

What area of linguistics are you most interested in / working on?

The work I'm doing is in semantics and computational linguistics.

(FWIW, I'm interested in all of it, and I'd rather spend the summer doing something fun-but-unrelated-to-my-research than miss out because I cast too small a net. But I also recognize that people doing work too far outside my area might not want to hire me.)

Anecdotal data: I've been working with my uni's natural language processing research group for the past year, and I don't think there's much call there for linguists per se simply because all the computer scientists there are crosstrained to a reasonable degree in linguistics. (As in: I'm pretty sure you could out-linguist all of them, but they know enough for their purposes.) Too, internships there tend to go to computer science undergrads.

That's the impression I get too, but I'm hoping there are some exceptions if I think far enough outside the box.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:06 PM on November 23, 2008


Semantics and computational linguistics? Seems to me you'd make an excellent corpus compiler or a lexicographer. Either of those appeal? Corpus linguistics is pretty hot in the UK atm. I don't know much about dictionary/thesaurus research, maybe contact the relevant UP's? The head of my department's wife is an editor for Collins dictionaries, but I don't think they are hiring right now because of the recession. Obviously Oxford would be the cream of the crop here in the UK. Erm... yeah, library would be good too. There must be SOME unis hiring somewhere in the world!
posted by meosl at 10:43 AM on November 24, 2008


Regarding the FBI, note that when the FBI (and the military and maybe most of the U.S. government) talk about "linguists", they are almost always talking about translators. Which is not to say that they don't have, say, computational linguistics, things going on; it's just that in those neighborhoods, linguist = translator.
posted by mhum at 11:58 AM on November 24, 2008


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