Linguistics degree at UH Hilo a smart choice for 21st century

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Date: Thursday, November 8, 2007
Contact: Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 974-7642

For Immediate Release

The ongoing evolution of information technology and economic globalization has created opportunities for the prepared. Among those poised to benefit are linguists, the people who facilitate the multilingual and cross-cultural communications that result from and globalization. The scientific study of languages also holds the key to unlocking many mysteries of both the diversity and the commonality of humankind.

The University of Hawaii at Hilo is one of the few colleges or universities offering a baccalaureate degree in linguistics. Two instructors in the program, Dr. Scott Saft and Dr. Yumiko Ohara, who are also husband and wife, say that UH Hilo’s program has a multitude of applications.

“Basically, anyone who has wondered how language works and how people can engage in effective communication should consider taking linguistics courses and maybe even becoming majors,” Saft said. “Also, people interested in teaching languages should look into linguistics as well as people interested in studying or spending a significant amount of time abroad.”

“An undergraduate degree in linguistics also prepares students well for graduate work in anthropology, communication, sociology, psychology, and computer science since linguistics cuts across many disciplines,” Ohara added. “We have anthropological linguistics, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, computational linguistics to name just a few areas of specialization.”

There are currently about 40 linguistics majors at UH Hilo. Perhaps one of the most attractive features of the linguistics program, from a student’s point of view, is that there are no prerequisites for becoming a linguistics major.

“Our introductory class is Linguistics 102 and students will usually start with that and then move on to upper-division classes,” Saft said. “Students receiving a B.A. in linguistics can become teachers of individual languages or they can pursue the teaching of English as a second language in the U.S. or in foreign countries. This is currently a popular and fairly lucrative area. Also, they can become translators/interpreters and they can go into the editing/publishing business.

“Linguists who specialize in the study of language in communication can also be valuable in marketing and business because they have a keen sense of the effects of different uses of language on people,” he added. “Finally, we have a number of grads who have gone on to graduate school to become professors of linguistics.”

For more information on UH Hilo’s linguistics program, call Ohara at (808) 933-3191.

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