My favourite parts of first-year Linguistics
There were so many things I enjoyed about studying Linguistics this year – but a few projects and moments have stood out to me. In this blog, I’ve written about the academic side of my year, but it’s worth noting that the social aspect of Linguistics Department also played a part in making this year, despite the circumstances, enjoyable (thanks, LingSoc!).
Small classes and interactive approach
Linguistics is a small cohort. This means that, despite the mostly virtual nature of this year, it still feels like first years in Linguistics managed to connect and build up a community. Many of us may not have met in person yet, but after a year’s worth of break-out rooms and small virtual seminars, it’s almost impossible not to make at least some friendships. The small community also means that lecturers get to know you, and that seminars are highly interactive. This approach and style of teaching suited me perfectly, because we learn through discussion, interaction and working closely with those around us.
Individual research projects
One of my main highlights during first year was the individual research project we carried out during Term One, in our Research, Academic and Professional Skills module. It felt like a ‘learn by doing’ kind of approach, where we were taught the foundations of research whilst conducting our own project. I loved that we could tailor our project to suit our own interests; I studied the language of the abortion debate in the US 2020 election, which meant that, whilst building up linguistic research skills, I could develop my interest in American politics. I was fortunate enough to present my work at the British Conference of Undergraduate Research, which gave me the opportunity to hear from other undergrads in different disciplines present their research too. It was an invaluable experience, and I’m really looking forward to the research module in second year.
Language in Society module
I thoroughly enjoyed all of my modules, but Language in Society was definitely my favourite – not only because of the content, but because of the assignment style. Both assignments focused on coming up with a solution for a language-related problem in society, but the first was a group project, and the second was individual (and counted as our grade). Again, in both, we were able to tailor our projects to our own interests, and develop a small research project as part of it. I loved the freedom and independence to focus on our own interests, as well as being encouraged to focus on real-world problems, rather than floaty theoretical stuff. In fact, I didn’t even really think about what grade I’d get, because I was so genuinely invested and interested in the area I’d chosen to work on.
Learning about language policies
Unsurprisingly, we wrote a lot of essays this year. Sometimes, I found that one particular essay would really – and often unexpectedly – grab my attention, and this happened in my History and Spread of English module. We were able to choose three countries for our assignment (based on what we’d learnt previously), to compare various aspects of their language policies. I looked into Nepal, Hong Kong and Ukraine – countries that I didn’t really know anything about, initially. However, I found this to be one of the most fascinating – albeit most challenging – essays to write, and it definitely compounded my interest in language and politics.
There’s no getting away from the fact that this year was challenging – because online learning and lockdowns are hard. But the fact that I was able to study things I’m passionate about in the midst of this year’s chaos made it just a little bit easier.