Most people instantly assume that a linguist speaks a variety of different languages. In some cases that is true; however, the field of linguistics is really the study of language in the general sense. It covers the whys and wherefores of language, attempting to define how we use it, why we use it, and the factors that make one language different from another. As a result, linguist jobs are many and varied.
Linguistics is broken up into an enormous number of fields and subfields, which leads to a plethora of specialized linguist jobs. The first areas of career opportunity would lie in teaching and education. Linguist jobs exist in teaching English as a second language, in teaching foreign languages, in establishing curriculums and tests, and in linguistic research. This is merely the tip of the semantic iceberg though, for linguist jobs tend to branch out into a wide range of business and government applications.
Some linguists choose to work in the world of computer and software design, devising speech recognition programs or applying the precepts of linguistics to search engine efficiency. Governments frequently offer linguist jobs either in the diplomatic realms or intelligence services. As of 2009, particularly in the United States, there were many government career possibilities for those fluent in Middle Eastern languages and dialects. In the same vein, hospitals, news outlets, large banks and financial organizations, and international legal establishments seek capable translators and interpreters worldwide.
The entertainment industry also provides linguist jobs. For instance, linguists are often hired to work with actors who are required to perform with a foreign accent. To help the actors make their role believable, the linguist will train them in pronunciation, grammar, elocution, and colloquial expressions. Yet another realm for the linguist, one that can have major financial ramifications, consists of appropriately naming products that will be sold in a variety of countries. For example, soon after Coca Cola was introduced into China it was learned that the literal Chinese interpretation of the brand name translated to “bite the waxed tadpole.”
Some of the more traditional linguist jobs involve lexicography, the task of creating and updating dictionaries. Many linguists are also heavily engaged in fieldwork with obscure or endangered languages. In this latter field, the goal is to preserve important elements of history and culture. Such linguistic researchers may also work with “dead” languages, translating documents, scrolls, or books so that knowledge of times past may be retained for future generations.