Language = More Than Just Words (Linguists Know Best)

Let’s start off with the Top 10 most spoken languages in the world.

1. Mandarin—1.026 billion total speakers
2. English—765 million total speakers
3. Spanish—466 million total speakers
4. Hindi/Urdu—380 million total speakers
5. Arabic—353.5 million total speakers
6. Russian—272 million total speakers
7. Bengali—250 million total speakers
8. Portuguese—217 million total speakers
9. Japanese—123 million total speakers
10. German—111.8 million total speakers

The list of languages above has, for a couple of years now, been known to be the top spoken languages in the world, especially in the business world. These 10 languages are used the most out of a total of 7,000+ languages in the world. Companies may ask for a translation thinking that by simply asking for a language is enough. However, as Linguists know, it is also important to specify the dialect to be used either for the translation or interpretation.

A language is defined by as “a body of words and the systems for their use common to people of the same community or nation, the same geographical area, or the same cultural tradition.” The definition for a dialect may be very similar but distinguishes the difference in the phonology, grammar and vocabulary used by a group of speakers who are set off from others geographically or socially. For example, a country can have a national language, such as English in the U.S. (the de facto national language), but the dialects depend on the geographic location, such as a southerner saying “Y’all,” which is the use of the English language but a different style of pronunciation and spelling. Also, don’t confuse accent and dialect; accent refers solely to how the language sounds, while dialect includes both the accent and the grammatical way that the person speaks. If a company’s target market is southern U.S., then they will most likely use the southern dialect in their marketing materials to connect with the southerners, but they would not use the same dialect if marketing in New York.

Let’s discuss the Portuguese language as another example. If an interpreter is needed for English to Portuguese interpretation, does the client want Brazilian Portuguese or the Portuguese used in Portugal? Although most in those countries can understand both, there is a huge difference especially when doing verbal interpretations. There are different accents and expressions used, as well as the same words used yet with different meanings. The Portuguese language has about 9 different dialects and is officially spoken in 9 different countries, including Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, and Cape Verde. Dialects become even more complicated when considering the differences of the language depending on location within the same country. Portuguese in Northern Portugal is spoken differently than Portuguese in Southern Portugal; the terms, expressions, and idioms used in the different locations within Portugal are different, which makes it important for companies to know exactly where within the country they are trying to reach.

There are thousands of languages used worldwide, around 7,000 to be more precise, but there are 5x that amount in dialects. The Chinese language alone has about 9 different varieties of the language, and each variety has several different dialects. Specifying the dialect along with the language for the translation and/or interpretation is important, especially when selecting the ideal Linguist for the task.

Being a Linguist is Cool!

There’s more to a linguist than meets the eye. Linguistics is, in fact, a science that opens up many opportunities to ones who learn it. This blog post will be an informative eye-opener as to what goes into the nitty-gritty of becoming a linguist.

As mentioned, there is an incredibly common misconception as to what linguistics actually involves. First and foremost, rid your minds of the notion that a linguist is one who is competent in many languages. Although that may be correct, the correct term for such is a polyglot, not a linguist. On the other hand, a linguist’s work entails the study of language and how it works rather than the study of a language.

Linguists are pretty impressive people as their studies award them with many skills. According to Monica Mccaulay and Kristen Syrett of Berkeley University, a linguist is well equipped with the following skills consequently relating to their studies: analytical reasoning, critical thinking, argumentation, and clarity of expression – basically a master of the major cognitive functions. Furthermore, Syrett and Mccaulay explain how these skills incline one to, “make insightful observations, formulate clear and testable hypotheses, generating predictions, making arguments and drawing conclusions, and communicating findings to a wider community” (Mccaulay, Syrett 2). Due to these acquired skills, the career playing field for linguists consists of a wide variety of professional careers.

But don’t just take my word for it, here are some examples and perhaps the TOP 5 Coolest Jobs that a linguist can have:

1)      Become an actor or train actors

2)      Work for the government

3)      Work for an advertising company

4)      Work as a translator or interpreter— This is obviously one of the best ones because our linguists love working with thebigword.

5)      Work with lexicography (which is a fancy way to say compiling dictionaries)

Safe to say, evidently, that being a linguist is really awesome!