My life as a Linguistics student

by Sonia French

Hi, I’m Sonia and I am in my third and final year studying a BA (Hons) Linguistics degree. I studied English Language in my college years and my interest in Linguistics stemmed from there.

What’s Linguistics?

... the typical follow up question to, “what do you study?”. Normally people tend to say, “Oh so what language do you study?” Well I studied French and German when I was younger but unfortunately my knowledge in languages stopped there. In my different modules, different languages are used, for example to help understand concepts such as structures or looking at the varying sound systems across the world, but you don’t have to have knowledge of a second language - if you do though that’s a great bonus!

Overall, I love my subject. It’s definitely not your typical subject so it’s fun explaining what my degree involves which people always find interesting.

So, what does a day in the life of a linguistics student like?

From first to third year I have studied a variety of topics, some of the modules I study this year include: Forensic Linguistics, Corpus Linguistics and Topics in Phonetics and Phonological Theory.

Some of my module work this year has included one lecture and one seminar a week, an essay at the end of the term and also group presentations. Like most degrees it comes with a lot of work, so staying on top of lecture and seminar content as well as my reading and assignments can be a bit of a balancing act - however, with good planning and organisation anything is possible! I like to write up a physical (colour-coded of-course!) timetable of when my lectures and seminar are. As a visual learner this really helps me in organising my time effectively.

My lecturers provided course outlines at the start of term so I know what each of my lectures are on, it’s also helpful knowing what readings I need to have done before what classes. Each lecturer works differently, sometimes I need to read book chapters before my lecture, other times they are needed for discussion in seminars. Writing notes as I read and compiling these in one document, means I can always access my notes and look back at them as and when I like. This is always helpful when it comes to writing essays or completing activities in seminars.

What does the student society do?

Lancaster Linguistics and English Language Department has its own society – LAEL. In my first year I attended revision sessions run by the society for my exams and essay help. They’re also really good at hosting social events like karaoke nights, quizzes but also events to help you in your career. They have held talks from external visitors, and workshops too!

What does a linguistics degree involve?

Linguistics focuses mainly on the phonetics/phonology, syntax and morphology, lexis and semantics and discourse and pragmatics of language. But what do they mean? Phonetics and phonology involves the patterns and production of sounds, syntax and morphology is more grammar based focusing on the inner workings of language. Lexis and semantics looks at the actual words and their meanings. Discourse comprises of the structure of language, and pragmatics is the underlying meanings of language.

The department at Lancaster offers the chance to study abroad which I was lucky enough to do in Canada during my second year providing new modules to learn about. Other opportunities include placement years to help gain more experience in a particular field.

I have also been lucky enough to use different softwares such as Praat for Phonetics and LancsBox for Corpus Linguistics, where I can look at huge databases of language for various purposes. Studying a Linguistics degree has provided me with a number of skills, including analysis of both written, spoken and numerical data, teamwork, and confidence in presentation skills and own ideas.

In addition to my five modules this year, I am working on a dissertation which involves researching a topic of interest to me, with support from a supervisor in my department. My dissertation is looking at phonetic variables in emotional speech for forensic linguistic purposes.

Whatever your interests, I’ve found that studying a linguistics degree at Lancaster can help you find what you love and discover areas you may not know existed! You also get to learn from some very talented, knowledgeable lecturers and professors in the field.


Sonia is a third year undergraduate at Lancaster University, and is studying Linguistics.

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