What is an Applied Linguist?

How many languages do you speak? We hear that question a lot as instructors and researchers in the field of applied linguistics. Many people assume that in order to teach English (or any language) that the instructor must also be fluent in the language of their students. This is not the case. Applied Linguists are highly trained professionals who use scientific methods to study the use of language in real world situations. In our case, we study how English is used in different contexts, analyzing the language choices and cultural conditions that drive communication transactions. We can then compare this information to features of the students’ native language to find gaps in communication skills. This focused observation targets our instruction to the specific needs for each learner.

Our needs analysis leads to carefully chosen methods, resources, and simulations to address the real world needs of various professionals. Sometimes we focus on vocabulary and grammar, sometimes pronunciation, many times though, we strategize what they want to say, how they want to say it, and how they can maximize understanding for their audience. Professionals in any field learn the deep cultural norms and cues in their native language over a lifetime merely by exposure and sometimes targeted training in the form of workshops or professional development events.  However, when working in a group of international professionals where English is the default language, those professional development courses don’t often address the underlying cultural and linguistic challenges that occur.

Applied Linguists are skilled at assessing the communicative situation and offering specific advice about which language choices will result in successful communication, one that includes all members. With English being the accepted language of science and research, Applied Linguists can assist researchers, clinicians, and scholars to strategically improve their English communication skills for success in the workplace. In industry, millions are spent on this kind of training - what is your brand? how is it communicated? what does your audience want to hear? what language choices create buy-in? In the competitive world of scientific research, these communication skills are also of utmost importance. Applied Linguists are the experts who can create specific training for these specialized English users. We can help usher in success to those who want to take their cutting edge research and important work to the world.