A year in linguistics: Graduate Jihyun Lee blogs about her studies in 2012

Jihyun Lee has recently graduated with a BA in Linguistics from UC, and will join our honours programme next year. As we approach the end of 2012, Jihyun blogs about her experiences so far.

jihyunWhen I first decided to study Linguistics at Canterbury University, I was worried about several things. Not only had I not yet written proper academic essays in English before, when I previously studied English Literature and Linguistics in Korea, but also I had never done proper research driven by myself before. I was also worried that what I studied in my bachelor’s degree would not be good enough to understand what I would learn here at UC. I first planned to do post-graduate study in 2012 at UC but I thought better of it and changed the plan to do a one year graduate diploma after I talked to Dr. Heidi Quinn who very kindly helped me to find the right academic path for me.

Once the first semester started, I had a better idea of what the courses would be like. Still, it was quite different from what I did at an undergraduate level in Korea. For example, courses in Phonetics and Phonology at my university in Korea were much more based on textbooks and mostly concentrated on English sounds. The classes involved a lot of looking at pictures of what happens when we speak or at what a spectrogram looks like when we pronounce /f/. I found it difficult to distinguish how different sounds work only in pictures. My interest moved away from Phonetics and Phonology and towards syntax and semantics. However, my Phonetics and Phonology classes at UC stimulated my interest in these fields very much. For example, we used a computer programme called ‘Praat’ in Ling 215 to demonstrate what the acoustic signal looks like when we make different sounds. Also, we used an ultrasound machine to see our tongue and vocal cords move when we speak. In Ling 307, we carried out research about a language we chose, Korean in my case, and how the sound system in the language associates with another sound system. It was very practical and I really enjoyed studying Phonetics and Phonology because language is all around me. The syntax journal we had in Ling 217 also encouraged me to be more interested in Linguistics. We had to write what we found interesting about sentence structures in any languages. Because I am a Korean, I wrote about so many differences between English and Korean that I found interesting.

Learning how to carry out research and write an academic essay was very helpful to me. In Ling 307, I was in a group with 3 other students and we carried out research together. The research was guided by Professor Beth Hume who was the lecturer of the course but also we were instructed how to write an essay regarding the research. With little experience, I was very glad to learn about the process of doing academic research and writing an essay. This was particularly useful when I took Ling 310 in the second semester. In Ling 310, we carried out individual research and wrote an essay on the results of our research. As I had previous experience in Ling 307, I was more confident than before. The lecturer on the course, Dr. Kevin Watson, offered everyone lots of advice because this research was done alone and not as a joint project with other students. Now that I look back on it, it worked out very well for me learning gradually about the process of doing academic research and writing in the courses I took this year.

I always thought studying Linguistics is just about language and how it works. However, I learned so much more than just how a language works. I learned how to think objectively and critically, how to manage a task scientifically and how our language reflects our mind, ideas and culture.

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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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