What Is Applied Linguistics?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 02 October 2019
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Applied linguistics is a particular field of linguistic exploration that not only studies linguistics in a theoretical manner, but also examines how language has an actual impact on society and on people’s lives. This type of study can be conducted and utilized in a number of different ways, and may overlap with research in some related fields such as sociology, psychology, communications, and multicultural studies. Applied linguistics examines human language, or languages, and applies the understanding of human thought and behavior gained through such examination to real world problems and applications that can be utilized in different ways.

One of the primary ways in which applied linguistics differs from other linguistic fields is that the information gained through research can be relevant to other disciplines. A linguistic scholar might, for example, study how different language sounds or phonetic differences have developed in a language over hundreds of years. While this may be useful for greater understanding of linguistic evolution, it may not necessarily have a direct use for someone in another field or for practical linguistic understanding. Someone working in applied linguistics, on the other hand, might study how different phonetic sounds occur in various languages and use that information in a practical way.


A speech therapist, for example, often uses concepts and knowledge gained through applied linguistics to help someone overcome an accent or difficulty in speaking. Similarly, new developments in related fields such as psychology or sociology may occur through the research and understanding gained through applied linguistics. A psychologist might consider word choice and usage in a letter or spoken recording to learn about the mindset or attitude of a particular person. This type of information could be used by someone to analyze a letter written to a prominent public figure or politician to determine that the writer of that letter may have a violent demeanor.

Similarly, a sociologist can utilize applied linguistics to understand how people who speak different languages can overcome language barriers. This can be used to assist people with learning a new language or to help someone from one culture ensure they do not accidentally offend a person from another culture. Applied linguistics can also be utilized to understand changes and ongoing evolution of a language for various purposes. Someone writing a new computer program for word processing, for example, might utilize certain linguistic concepts to better future proof the program against new developments in language for years to come.


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Post 4

A friend of mine is a speech therapist in a high school. She serves students who haven't been served well in speech improvement in elementary school. She also works with English as a Second Language students.

She told me that she used some of the concepts about language that she learned from applied linguistic classes. She took her native English speakers back in their language and pronunciation development to the point where their pronunciation and language rhythm skills were acceptable and then worked forward. For her ESL students, she devised methods for teaching punctuation, rhythm and intonation to help them sound more like native speakers - that's what they wanted, to minimize their foreign accent.

She was very proud of the success that her students had in improving their speech.

Post 3

I have taken quite a few classes in applied linguistics in preparation for teaching adult ESL classes. There are a number of good books on linguistics that I found very interesting and informative.

One important fact about language learning is that when babies are born, they can utter all the sounds needed to learn any language they hear. I think that's fascinating.

When I taught ESL, I tried to learn something about the various languages of my students. For example, some of the phonetic sounds, pronunciation, word order etc. That way, I could help them to transfer their language through a process to finally being able to "think in English."

For me, learning about similarities and differences among languages was very helpful in my teaching.

Post 2

Has anyone here ever known anyone who was studying applied linguistics? What did they think of the program? Also, do you think it would be a good thing to mix with something else through a duel major?

I have been looking into various courses and really enjoy the social studies but am also a fan of learning languages. I feel like focusing in two areas would be a good idea. Once I read about applied linguistics it seemed like it may be a good fit for me as I enjoy the more theoretical aspects of languages rather than just focusing on the ins and outs of things like grammar.

Post 1

If you are interested in studying applied linguistics but wonder what it can do for you, I have met quite a few people who have used this background to excel in teaching English as a second language. There are numerous universities in Asia that are looking for those that can offer more insight into how language is acquired so that they can improve their ESL programs.

Luckily, working in the field of applied linguistics can be quite lucrative and open up a world of travel if you are willing to work with universities in different countries and teach on the side.

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