Daan van der Weijden is a student
"I think Linguistics is the perfect combination of alpha and beta. We focus on both the social part of languages and on their theoretical background. That combination is what attracted me. Before this I have studied Artificial Intelligence. That way I came in contact with Linguistics and because it was actually the linguistic part of artificial Intelligence that I liked best, I realised that that was what I wanted to do.
I love semantics, which is the part of linguistics that studies the meaning of words, because it is a super abstract way of looking at language. I really enjoy the logic behind it. Semantics is really straight forward: something is either true or false. For instance, when someone says: “It is raining”, you can assign a truth value to that sentence. But it is especially the combination of this logic and the theories we learn about during the social courses, like Sociolinguistics, that makes Linguistics so interesting. Because although we studied the same subject during both courses, we did it from really diverse perspectives.
The other way around, I also really enjoy courses that are closely related to artificial intelligence, because it gives me the opportunity to put the theoretical knowledge into practice. For instance, this year I wrote a program that automatically detects the language of a text. For that I have used a lot of theories from other courses about how to get the basics of a certain language. This program was based on the most common two-letter and three-letter combinations in languages. I enjoyed doing this so much, that it made me realise that this is something I would love to do for the rest of my life."
Bas Diender is a student
"Physics was my favourite subject in secondary school by far, and I actually only went to open days for technical study programmes. Ever since I was a child, I had always been drawn to foreign languages as well. Once I realised that I couldn’t pursue that interest in a technical programme, I started looking for a way to do something with language during, or even alongside, my studies. That’s how I ended up in the Bachelor’s programme in Linguistics, where you get to take a scientific approach to language.
Beforehand, they often said that the programme would be a cross between the humanities and science subjects. I think that was a little exaggerated, to be honest; especially since I was used to chemistry and physics at secondary school. But outside the regular courses, there’s a lot of freedom of choice in Linguistics from the second year on, which I used to make my studies more technical.
But no matter what, there are always going to be some courses that you find less interesting than others. I myself never looked forward to the courses without much of a technical aspect. But that didn’t turn out so bad after all, because the different parts of linguistics are related closely enough that there’s always going to be something in every course that you do find interesting.
Even though I personally would have liked to have seen somewhat more of a science angle, I’ve never regretted my choice of study programmes. The programme really appeals to me, and the many activities organised by student society Babel are always great fun."
Lucienne Keizer is a student
"When I was younger I always wanted to do something with numbers, preferably at a bank. In secondary school, I already had my heart set on going on to study economics, even though I’d always been fond of languages too. Gradually, I found out that I actually didn’t like numbers and economics at all. I was in two minds for quite a long time, considering studies like Pedagogical Sciences, Educational Sciences and General Social Sciences. I finally decided on Linguistics because it starts off with a broad basis so you can still figure out what you really want to study in the following years. I myself discovered that I find the brain really interesting.
Before I began, I was expecting a very broad programme in the first year that would introduce me to the different sides of linguistics. That was true: the social, biological, psychological and mathematical aspects of language were all covered.
What I was certainly not looking forward to was the scientific side of linguistics, as I had always found that rather difficult. But, as it turns out, I really liked it – such as what I learnt during phonetics lectures. So it was really not so bad after all.
Halfway through the first block I knew I had made the right choice of programme. I was always happy to attend the daily lectures; I learnt things that I found interesting and which I was keen to learn more about. Ultimately, I’d like to find a job with a company where I can work with language and speech development and disorders in children."
Elise Prins graduated in 2015
"It was in secondary school that I realised that I had a lot of different interests: language was my thing, but I really liked biology too, for example. I was actually a kind of cross between someone who likes humanities and someone who likes science subjects. I found that combination here in the Linguistics programme.
Linguistics is a broad programme; all aspects of language are covered. You learn about the social side of language, such as how people use their language to create an identity. You also learn everything about the phonetics side, the sound and pronunciation of language, which also teaches you how the speech organs work. I see this broad approach as a real plus for the programme in Utrecht.
You also learn about the brain, such as what can go wrong with language if someone has a stroke, or how the brain processes language when you read or hear a sentence. Aspects like multilingualism and child language acquisition are also covered. And much, much more, of course!
And what’s really important: you’ll look at lots of languages around the world – not just English or Dutch. So, sometimes you’ll work with examples from Swahili, Hindi or African click languages.
There’s actually still a lot that we don’t know about language. Which is why our lecturers are still engaged in a lot of research. That makes it exciting!
My advice to you in choosing a study programme: be a Student for a Day and talk to students. If you’re trying to decide between two programmes, remember that you’ll have a lot of freedom to take classes in other subjects too. And even though they all say nowadays that you should choose a programme with good job prospects, it’s also important to do something that you like. Good luck!"
Jet Broeken works for VanDoen Academie
"It was during my Master’s year in Language, People and Society that I decided to do a work placement. By combining my thesis with my work placement, I was able to spend 20 weeks, instead of the usual 10, at the education support service in Rotterdam where I had been placed. I spent my time there in the R&D department, researching and developing reading methods for children with serious learning problems. After my work placement, my colleagues at the Centre for Educational Services (CED) gave my name to an educational publisher that they often worked with. They offered me a job developing teaching materials right after graduation. I developed and worked on the didactics for courses (assignments and e-learning) for socially vulnerable target groups (NT2, extremely low education, work rehabilitation) and was given teacher training.
Now, I work for the VanDoen Academie. I develop e-learning, exams, practice-based assignments and assignments for the subjects of Dutch and maths for senior secondary vocational education (MBO). We mainly deal with pupils for whom Dutch is a second – or even third – language. Even though I myself don’t develop language programmes, I still take this into account by looking at average sentence length, words with a high frequency and glossaries for difficult words. The connection to linguistics is that I am good at putting myself in the place of different target groups and writing at different levels of language.
My advice is to do a work placement if you get the chance. It hooked me up with people who were willing to give me a job straight out of university!"
Bas Evers is a consultant at a design agency
"I worked at a call centre on the side during my studies. After graduating, I made a career for myself in commercial services. I started in database management for a recruitment and selection agency and for a market research firm. After that, I spent half a year working for the Language Studio, which ‘translates’ what we know about linguistics for society. It was there that I discovered my passion for online communications. After that, I decided to become a content specialist – first working for myself, and now working for a design agency.
Now, I advise organisations (such as the government, banks and insurers) about web content that serves their own purposes and the interests of users. And I do so using a sustainable approach that fits in with the organisation.
Linguistics is a fascinating programme, but bear in mind that you will be trained as a researcher. When you graduate, the chance is great that you’ll have to find a job in the business world, where you’ll just have to see what part of you background in linguistics you can actually apply. But no matter what, training as a critical and self-directed academic always comes in very handy."