Linguistics offer insights

Can you read this? Of course you can. I think that now your next question might be: how in the world can I read these symbols? This is one of the questions that linguistics answers.

Linguistics can be defined as the scientific study of language, which is divided into branches such as phonology and morphology. Unfortunately, people usually have a misconception about what linguistics is. Most of the time, people relate linguistics with learning languages. I am not saying that linguistics does not have anything to do with all the languages of the world; on the contrary, all of them are essential, but it is not required to be bilingual or polylingual in order to take and understand the class.

This semester I am taking the class of linguistics, and I have to admit that it has been an enriching experience because it allows me to appreciate more, not only my mother language, but also the second language I am currently learning. For instance, one day the professor told us that all languages are linked by the universal grammar (UG), which are the linguistics rules that all languages share. We see examples in Japanese, French, German, Spanish and other languages that I did not know existed. This information makes learning other languages easier and faster because we already know certain rules that apply to the language.

Another benefit from the class is a better understanding of English. I used to have problems understanding how to produce certain sounds or some grammatical issues. Thanks to the knowledge I am acquiring, my pronunciation has improved as well as my writing skills. I feel more confident talking and writing, and writing in the Threefold Advocate is a good example of it. However, reading is not enough to improve; practice is also necessary.

For instance, when we were in the chapter of phonetics, we needed to know how to produce the sounds of the International Phonetic Alphabet, which are the symbols that I wrote at the beginning of this column. The first activity we needed to do was to know the parts of the mouth and how they work, then we started to exercise our mouth by making funny sounds and doing exercises with the mouth. It was an interesting and unusual experience; I have not done activities like that in other classes, even in my ESL classes. Each time I’m in class, the professor tries to surprise us with simple little facts that involve linguistics, and he always emphasizes the importance of linguistics in daily life.

If you are learning any language I highly recommend you to take the class. Even if you are not learning a second language, I also encourage you to take it. I guarantee that you will be surprised to discover all the knowledge you already have, but did not know about.

Velazquez is a senior majoring in communication. She can be reached at velazquezm@jbu.edu.