Linguistics at UC: a graduate’s view

Gina Scandrett, graduate from the UC Linguistics department and an Arts Intern in 2010, blogs about her degree and her new job.


As a first year back in 2008, I started at Canterbury with no real clue about what I wanted to do with my life. I picked up LING101 in my second year and enjoyed it enough to add Linguistics to my Arts degree as a minor. By the end of my University days, I felt that I had worked a good balance of subjects into my degrees – the Linguistics minor complemented both my Sociology major in my BA and my Psychology major in my BSc. Now that I have graduated, I find that I use what I learnt in my Linguistics papers in real life.

The large variety of Linguistics papers that Canterbury offers means that everyone can find something to study which they enjoy and which complements their other papers. I found that by including Linguistics, and especially Sociolinguistics, into my degree I learnt both skills and knowledge that added value to my studies as a whole. I found that Sociolinguistics is where my interest lies, as opposed to the more traditional papers of syntax, morphology and phonetics.

I was lucky enough to receive a position as an Arts Intern in 2010. I was working for the Howard League for Penal Reform – a not for profit group who advocate for prisoners’ rights. My project consisted of research surrounding what prisoners most often complained about to the Howard League using over 1,000 handwritten letters as the data source. I found that what I had learnt in Linguistics was very apparent in prisoners’ language – different sexes, regions and ethnicities used different vocabulary and the syntax of those that had limited educated was apparent. This made me realise that Linguistics is a subject that can assist you in the real world – always something to keep in mind when choosing what to study!

I am now working for a district council in the North Island in a role of Community Development. A large part of my role is interacting with different community based groups and individuals. I find that I am much more aware of how people use language as a tool – often I find that people are saying one thing verbally but their body language is implying something completely different! Knowledge such as body language, gestures, vocabulary variation, and pronunciation all assist me when I am working with different people.

I think it is important to try out all different subject areas when you first begin your tertiary training as you may find that you love a subject that you never would have imagined!

Make sure you take advantage of the exceptionally knowledgeable and welcoming staff in the Linguistics Department to find a mix of papers that will suit you. So, give Linguistics a go – at the very least you will learn about our everyday language that we all take for granted.

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About uclinguistics

Welcome to the blog of the Linguistics programme at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.
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