Hi Emily, my question to you is looking into the future, how do you think a Trump Administration will handle environmental issues, such as climate change and the rapid loss of biodiversity? I am a huge fan of your program, keep up the amazing work. We need people like you more then ever right now. -Olivia


Hi Olivia, thank you for your question.

Today, I have no solid answers – I have a lot of feelings, only some of which I can process right now. My initial thoughts are that it’s likely federal science programs and institutions will see a decrease in funding and support as that money will be reallocated/redistributed. If that happens, then universities that depend on federal grant support could suffer… smaller, more competitive grants, fewer positions supported, fewer students incentivized to pursue these programs… But I don’t know. I’m conjecturing. 

When I made our ‘Go Vote For Science!’ video, I meant every word. I mean it when I want our viewers to understand that politics isn’t just about people arguing in D.C., it’s about policies made in D.C. that are carried out and enforced throughout the country and our world. But we elect the policymakers. We elect who we think will best represent our interests. 

I fear that supporting science in a meaningful way is not a true interest for the majority of people, and in a way, that fear was realized last night.

Science needs champions to speak up for its processes, which aren’t perfect, but the field is held up to its own accountability. It’s a field that is meant to be deeply examined and its work replicated, even encourages replication, testing, and a perpetuation of question-asking and answer-seeking. But often, that process comes off as unduly rigorous, pedantic, in some ways ‘old-fashioned,’ and the questions being asked are often seen as trivial, or inconsequential by those unfamiliar with science research practices. I fear the perception that science has outside of its own community is that it only serves itself, which is not true. And I spend every fiber of my being attempting to open up those misconceptions and share how brilliant, guided, resourceful and imaginative scientific inquiry truly is, and how – thanks to the field and its scientists – we have a more coherent, better illuminated understanding for how our planet works, what it needs, and what brings it harm.

I do not know how Trump and his administration will handle environmental issues. I do know he does not have a strong history of even believing that such current issues and events – climate change being a major one – are… real. Or that they are really caused by human actions, which are really having truly negative impacts on our planet and its inhabitants. Frankly, I don’t even know if he cares. 

But here is what I do know: I will not give up my goal of helping people better understand and appreciate our terrifically wonderful planet. I will not begin to entertain the idea that the work of scientists and those communicators dedicated to sharing their research is somehow unimportant or lacking in meaning. I will be vocal about issues which will negatively impact the support and funding for science, especially when it comes to topics dealing with biodiversity. I will continue to create well-researched content about these topics in a way that is easy to understand and share. I will continue striving to keep you involved, in whatever way I can. 

Knowledge empowers people, and it can mobilize them in a way to take action for those causes they believe in. It’s my hope that we don’t forget the power that such knowledge and information contain, and that we don’t allow for that to be taken from us because suddenly we have a person in one of the most powerful leaderships positions on the planet who perhaps will not use that same knowledge or information to make changes for the better. We have to keep working. We have to keep seeking that knowledge, even when it’s hard, and even when it’s getting harder. 

In whatever small way I can help, I will. For whatever small, positive impact I can make, I’ll make it. These are the core values I hold now, and will always hold. That is the most I can do, and even so, it’s a lot. I hope you will do the same. And we’ll take this a day at a time. 

AP linguistics course planning begins


A really exciting initiative from the Linguistic Society of America! The LSA has announced that it’s formed a committee to create an Advanced Placement (AP) course in linguistics: 

This will be a long term project requiring many years and tremendous effort. Nonetheless that effort, if successful, has the potential to transform our field. Among other things, Linguistics could go from being a “discovery major” to a field high school students have heard about, and perhaps even sampled, before arriving on campus.

As this document makes clear, AP proposals require many elements that are challenging in the current context, including a well-developed college intro level curriculum, documentation from 250 US High Schools saying they are willing to offer it, documentation from US universities saying they would be willing to award college credit for it. AP Linguistics will plainly need HS teachers trained to deliver it, it will need an accompanying exam, and it will require funding to support its initial offering.

Recognizing that such demands will require the efforts of professional linguists and High School teachers in programs and schools from across the country, the ad hoc committee (APLC) has been charged to oversee and coordinate the work. APLC foresees four major subareas of effort: Curriculum Development, Outreach to High Schools and Universities, Teacher Training, Fund Raising. 

Of course, not all schools have AP or may offer a future AP linguistics course, but it would still a fantastic increase in visibility for linguistics at the high school level. General high school courses are typically approved by the school board, so at the moment anyone trying to create a high school linguistics course has to first explain to their school board what linguistics even is (as Suzanne Loosen did in her excellent article for Language). Being able to say “we should have linguistics, look, it’s already an AP course” would make this argument much easier. 

So if anyone is at a high school, knows high school teachers, or can get in touch with your former high school, helping to form that list of 250 high schools that are willing to offer the course would is one area in particular that would be really helpful, although you can also contact Richard Larson with offers to help in any area

At the moment, for anyone interested in doing linguistics at the high school level before the AP course gets going, I have a list of ideas for integrating linguistics into high school classes

Yes!!! Awesome! Three cheers for AP Linguistics!

We at The Ling Space have always had as part of our passion and our mandate the notion that linguistics – the study of this amazing thing each one of us does every day – is something that should be accessible and available for anyone as part of scientific literacy. Having high schools offer it as an option would be phenomenal, and I’m really excited to see how this project develops. 

Linguistics jobs – Interview with a Humanitarian Aid Worker



Welcome to another installment of our linguistics jobs series. Today’s chat is with Hugh, who I met in Poland quite a few years ago. We both ended up studying linguistics and he has also tried many times to teach me the art of doing cryptic crosswords. Hugh has recently returned from Jordan where he spent 2 and a half years with the
Norwegian Refugee Council, supporting their activities, which include helping refugees find and maintain shelter.  

What did you study at university?

actually started reading maths, but hated it. After two years, I
switched to linguistics because I enjoyed languages and didn’t want to
study any one language, which would have entailed having to read and
analyse literature (which I’m terrible at). So the second half of my
degree was a broad overview of linguistics areas, from semantics and
pragmatics through to morphology, phonology and phonetics. I had a much
better time studying something I could begin to understand. 

What is your job?

work in humanitarian emergencies, usually as part of a small team of
people who go to a country shortly after a disaster and set up
humanitarian assistance programmes. So far, I’ve spent a year in Haiti
after the earthquake in 2010, six months in Côte d’Ivoire during the
civil war in 2011, two years in Jordan supporting Syrian refugees, and
various shorter missions elsewhere. Exactly what I do varies from
country to country, but it’s all part of the same sort of activity.

have two specialisations within the humanitarian sector. The first is
shelter and housing programming, which begins with assessing the
situation and working out what people need in terms of housing (both for
immediate relief, and to support them to return to normal living
conditions). Based on this, we then order the necessary materials, and
recruit and train staff to be able to distribute them to those most in
need. I’m normally deployed to manage this process for a
non-governmental organisation.

The other
specialisation is gathering data and interpreting it. Humanitarian
organisations consistently need to monitor what they are doing to ensure
that the projects they are implementing are having the effects that
they intended, and match the needs and wishes of the people affected by a
conflict or a disaster. If we know what the consequences of our actions
are, including any unintended consequences, we can adjust to improve,
and collectively learn for the next time. I recruit, train and manage
staff to support this process. 

How does your linguistics training help you in your job?

education in general, but specifically linguistics, taught me how to
think critically. It’s something I have to remind myself of frequently,
but it’s such an important skill. I’m not as good at it as I should be,
but I am able to reflect back on what I am doing and consider if it is
the approach to doing something, if a project is having some other
unintended consequence, might there be a better way to achieve the same

More concretely, linguistics has helped
me in several ways. It gave me an introduction to social sciences,
which is the foundation of the data gathering and analysis work I do.
Coming at this strictly from a stats background would have been a
challenge, because none of the data quite fit the idealised mathematical
world I was initially trained in.

It’s also
helped with learning bits of new languages, and with working in a highly
multicultural environments, for I’m able to understand why people
don’t understand each other. One example is hedging in English – I often
have to rephrase something in my head to avoid hedging as much as I
naturally do to ensure others who are not native English speakers hear
the same as what I mean.

Unfortunately, my phonetics training still hasn’t helped me pronounce the /q/ in Arabic.  

Do you gave any advice do you wish someone had given to you about linguistics/careers/university?

never knew what I wanted to do. I had clear ideas of jobs I didn’t want
(banking, accountancy, actuary – all the jobs that a maths degree leads
to). So I picked a subject to study that interested me. I’ve taken two
or three significant side-steps in my career since leaving university.
Had I chosen a different degree, I may well have ended up at the same
place, or taken a different path.

If you have a
clear idea of what you want to do, or where you want to go, great. If
you don’t yet, then it’s nothing to worry about.  


Interview with a journalist

Interview with a data analyst

Interview with an interpreter

Interview with a high school teacher

If you studied linguistics, went on to get a cool job and want to talk about it, get in touch

It’s definitely worth noting that there are many jobs that don’t have a single, inevitable path leading to them, especially since the ones that do tend to be more obvious in the education system. 

People often ask me what you can do with a linguistics degree, and instead of the laundry list of possible jobs I usually rattle off, I may begin pointing them to this interview series! 



Black History Month!

My favorite parts of history (as might be obvious from my choice of subject matter when making books) are the ones that fall into easily-categorized genres, genres with associated visual iconographies. This is the sort of stuff I loved as a kid: pirates, knights, cowboys, explorers, romans and Egyptians and flying aces. Stuff you could find featured in a bag of toys or a generic costume.

For Black History Month, I thought I might visit some of these adventure-leaning periods and pick a few historic black people from those eras to draw, just for fun. If you’re doing a project or report in school this month, you could do worse than to tackle one of these toughies.  Feel free to share some of these with youngsters that you know.  And call them youngsters, they LOVE that.

Read More

Reblogging for anyone (youngsters or oldsters) who is looking for some starting points for research, year-round! 

This is awesome! Thanks for making this!

When I was teaching in a Japanese high school they asked me what I wanted to talk about in my classes in February. Valentine’s Day? 

I sort of groaned internally, because, Valentine’s Day. If ever something was trite and overdone. But it looked like my coworkers also didn’t find the idea too inspiring, and it was a high-level school with really engaged kids, so I thought… How about Black History Month? It could be really interesting and informative for them, and also kind of show what a lot of schools in North America do this time of year.

As an activity, I researched a bunch of interesting people from history, from all over the world and all walks of life, like George Washington Carver and Rosa Parks and Alexandre Dumas. This awesome artwork would have been a great resource at the time! So I absolutely love it.