Why Study Linguistics?

What is linguistics?

Simply put, linguistics is the study of language, how it works, how it is acquired, and how people use it to communicate. Although linguists are often interested in and can speak a variety of languages, linguists know more about how language works, rather than having the ability to speak and understand multiple languages. A polyglot is a person who speaks a multitude of languages. So, if linguistics doesn’t teach you particular languages, why study it?

Linguistics helps us understand our world

Every language is like a one-of-a-kind species. It captures unique conceptualizations of the world and has its own ways of constructing words, phrases and sentences for communicating ideas. As we compare the words and structures of various languages, we come to a greater understanding of the world we live in. Apart from simply understanding the intricacies of world languages, this knowledge can be applied to improving communication between people, contributing to translation activities, assisting in literacy efforts, and treating speech disorders. And, of course, linguistics training is also valuable for studying and learning languages.

Linguistics helps us empower people

Because language captures how we perceive the world around us and how we relate to one another, it defines who we are. Our first language, or the “mother tongue” we grow up with, is the one we use to express what is in our hearts; it is our heart language. Many minority-language communities are marginalized because of their cultural background, or because their heart language is not the language of power. As a result, thousands of minority-language communities do not have access to education in a language they can understand. They become trapped in a cycle of poverty and discrimination simply because they are not part of the majority language and culture.

The plight of minority-language communities is changing as a growing number of organizations are coming alongside such people groups. Language development is the series of ongoing planned actions that a language community takes to ensure its language continues to serve its changing social, cultural, political, economic and spiritual needs and goals. CanIL staff and faculty members have been involved in, and continue to be involved in, a wide range of cross-cultural language development work:

  • Linguistic analysis
  • Orthography and writing systems development
  • Literature development
  • Multilingual education and literacy
  • Partnership with governments, churches and non-government organizations (NGOs)
  • Health initiatives

Our graduates are currently working in over 40 countries around the world, serving alongside teachers, health providers, aid organizations, church leaders and local leaders. Our alumni are helping to empower communities by giving them access to more services offered in their heart language. Linguistics helps fight poverty.

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