Volunteering – Creating UWE Linguistics Society

Contributor: Tom

Which Society?  UWE Linguistics Society

Why did you start the society? I tell people who I want to impress that I set it up because I passionately wanted to spread the good word of linguistics and increase student participation in extra-curricular academic events.

In reality I read this language log post about Edinburgh’s own LangSoc and thought “oh that’d be so cool if we had a society like that at UWE” and got a bit depressed that UWE didn’t have a linguistics society. A few days later I remembered that I was a lazy student who had loads of time to set up a society. I asked some students if they thought a linguistics society should exist, got some friends together to form a committee, a month later we were a proper official society!

What was your position? I was elected as president. To start with this meant I was responsible for nearly every aspect of running a society, but it got a lot easier as the committee grew.

Good things: We had some fantastic lectures and we went on some really fun trips. And I got to work with some brilliant mates and made even more brilliant mates too.

Also, because I ran a linguistic society, I was contacted by David Arnold, a student of the University of Edinburgh, who invited the society to the first Undergraduate Linguistics Association of Britain conference … but that’s another very long story… (click the link to find out!)

Bad things: People kept expecting me to be some kind of linguistics whizz-kid – which was a pity because I’m actually quite stupid. They’d be all like “Tom, you run the linguistics society, do you remember all the rules on Sanskrit morphology” and I’d be all like “no!” then they’d be all like “what about a brief history of marxism in linguistics” and I’d be like “how would I know that?!” then they’d say “oh but you’re the president of the linguistics society, surely you’d know” and then I would have to run away and hide in shame.

Also running a society (*cough* especially a twice-award-winning society *cough*) takes a lot of time – so you need to ensure you stay organised and not let it take over your life!

Anything else: If you’re at university studying linguistics and there isn’t a linguistics/language society near you, set one up! Make sure you’ve got some good people who are just as enthusiastic as you are to work with, and you’re good to go.

And if there is a society near you, get involved in any way that you can – it’s a great way to meet people and have fun, all while pretending you’re only doing it to beef up your CV.


Manchester and Salford New Researchers Forum in Linguistics – Careers Panel

Contributor: Claire

Two weekends ago  I attended ‘Manchester and Salford New Researchers Forum in Linguistics’, or, ‘#mancsafil’ as it was known on the social networking communities. I was a little daunted when I arrived as being one of only three graduates, who were not currently on postgraduate study but felt welcomed and accepted by all. The one aspect, apart from the research of course, is the networking and meeting people who are enthusiastic as you about your field.

After not encountering much Linguistics in the past 6 months, since graduating as I am focusing my attention towards Speech and Language Therapy, it was quite lovely to indulge in some of my favourite fields of linguistics, namely phonetics, phonology, sociophonetics and sociolinguistics!

This post  focuses on the outcomes of the Careers panel, consisting of the plenary speakers, all either recently finished their PhD, or in the finishing stages, and with recent teaching positions. Sam Kirkham (Lancaster University), Ingrid Lossius Falkum (Post Doctoral fellow at the University of Oslo), Laurel MacKenzie (University of Manchester), and George Walkden (University of Manchester) all discussed their experiences in job applications, interviews, publications, publishing PhD work, Conferences, Post Docs and Lectureships.

I must reinforce that this post is based on notes written two weeks ago – if I have gotten something wrong, it’s probably due to my bad handwriting and bad note-taking abilities, if anything should be changed or I’ve represented things incorrectly – please contact me!

How to present your PhD and long term future research while applying for jobs

George: Your future research should feed on from your PhD, but not directly

Laurel: There’s always unanswered questions that stem from your research, or others ways you could address your research question.

Sam: You should have a balance between short and long-term research aims, so that you have something concrete that you can achieve in the not so distant future.

Ingrid: Her PhD concentrated on polysemy, and as its such a huge subject, you cannot consider covering it all at once, you should always be looking for the next step.

Laurel: You should have plans for future work. Not for the rest of your life but where you want to go in the next few years. You should look at the broader implications of your study.

Sam: Had lots of ideas throughout PhD -> keep them for future research

Laurel: Keep a research journal and future project ideas.

George: had some insane and some brilliant ideas, he got some other publications out during his PhD because he couldn’t concentrate on one, but they were all related to his PhD somehow.

Laurel: If your PhD is not done while applying, you should have some concrete, just write something, like a chapter or a related topic, in a paper and send it somewhere, so at least you can say that it is under review.


Sam: Completing a PhD would be quicker without any publications, however he made a planned effort to submit a journal article to get a publication out and leave his PhD a little longer. He used his masters as a source for publication.

George: Getting something published takes a long time, he submitted something in the summer of 2010, and it is being published in Summer 2013, you may not hear anything for 6 months to a year.

Ingrid: You need one publication at least in the job market.

Sam: He made an effort not to go to a journal, but to go for  special issue, because it was quicker.

Publishing PhD Work

Laurel: would write working papers, then turn it into a chapter and then turn it into a conference article and then an expanded chapter.

George: Would write two standalone articles and turn them into chapters and then fit it into the grand scheme of the PhD.

Ingrid: Working papers are good – you’re forced to write a paper and then you make it into a chapter.

George: Working papers are not ideal, as they are not recognised everywhere, but you can get your research down and start to get recognised.


Sam: went to too many conferences and submitted a lot of undergraduate and Master’s work, and because it was all so different, people thought that he did different things. It’s not always helpful to resent.

George: If he hadn’t gone to conferences and networked, he wouldn’t have gotten his teaching job. You should ask yourself: what am I getting out of this conference?

Laurel: Her CV has formal and theoretical conferences, but also sociolinguistic conferences, it’s good to cross boundaries.

Sam: agrees with Laurel.

Ingrid: Went to too many conferences, but found it better to go to specialist conferences, because you get much better feedback.

George: Suggests going to LAGB because it gives you a landscape of the job market, and other research, also an excellent place to network and cross discipline.

Job Application Process

Laurel: Each job has different requirements. Regarding statements, you need to sit down, write down everything and then find your theme – the basis of a research statement should have a unifying theme.

Sam: You should have a consistent agenda, who you are and how it relates to your teaching and how you would fit into the university you’re applying to. There should be a coherent and consistent thread.

Ingrid: (regarding her post doctorate research proposal) she wrote different research proposals and contacted the staff, and collaborated together on a unified Research Proposal. It should be inline with staff interests.

Interview Process

Laurel: Used a lot of resources – careers centres etc., did a lot of research, didn’t do a practice interview, but wrote out answers to typical interview questions – LSA tips for job seekers, sample questions.

George: Questions he had: ‘Tell us your main ideas you’ve been researching and how can they be falsified?’, ‘How would you spend a grant?’, if all your work is in one theoretical framework: ‘what other frameworks could you use and how?’

Laurel: You’re asked, ‘Could you teach this’; do researching on funding groups, and what kind of money you could realistically get.

Sam: Was asked to give a teaching demonstration

Ingrid: Research the background of the committee members. Questions about a Research Proposal might be, ‘how would you do this from this point of view’, and it would be the point of view of one of the committee members.

Sam: Be realistic with timescales, such as when asked, ‘when will you finish you PhD’. Think about how you would prepare undergraduate and postgraduate work. What would you teach? Check what is on offer.

There were some questions asked and answers given, but notes on this part are even more wishy-washy!


Graduate Traineeship – Elizabeth Gaskell Library, Manchester Metropolitan University

Contributor: Emily

What? I’m a Graduate Trainee at Elizabeth Gaskell Library, Manchester Metropolitan University.

Why did you choose this place? I wanted to get experience of working in an academic library before starting an MA course in Librarianship – most universities stipulate that you must have had at least a year’s experience in a library before beginning your study.

How did you find the application process? It was just like most other job applications – application form, interview, references – nothing too complicated. In the application and interview I had to give evidence of skills such as customer service, attention to detail and organisation, as well as demonstrating that I’m serious about a career in librarianship. The whole process probably took two months from start to finish, but they were very quick in offering me the job, which I appreciated.

The competition for GT jobs is very fierce; I heard from one employer saying they’d had over 100 applicants for the post, and considering there are probably 30 jobs advertised on the CILIP website throughout the year, that’s tough. The areas in which jobs are advertised are also very limited – most of the posts available are advertised by colleges at Cambridge or Oxford, or are based in London. Regional posts are few and far between, which can be a challenge. The other thing to keep in mind is that most of the posts (but not all) are in university libraries, so there’s not much opportunity for training experience in legal, school or public libraries, for example.

What do you do here? The job is intended to give an overview of all the different types of work that library staff do, and so it’s very varied. I work on the issue counter on a rota basis, issuing and discharging books and dealing with fine payments, and once a week I deal with enquiries at the helpdesk. I spend the rest of my time in the workroom, working on various projects. I recently created a podcast explaining how to use a database and I’ve also created various helpsheets and guides for use in the library. I am responsible for receiving new books and making sure they’re added to the catalogue and reading lists. I’m also involved in digitisation, which is where we create PDFs of chapters or articles and upload them so people can read them online. This is what takes up most of my time, as scanning a chapter from a book can take ages! I also help out with general library duties such as straightening and shelving books, as well as satisfying reservations. My work is also very tangentially related to linguistics – our library caters for speech pathology and therapy students among others, so I’m often working with books on phonology, pragmatics, speech disorders and the nature of language.

There are six other GTs at MMU, spread out over the various library sites, and the library team have set up a training programme for us with various sessions throughout the year. Topics include presentation skills, teaching and customer services, as well as behind-the-scenes tours of library support services, special collections and other libraries.

The good things: Librarians are by nature very friendly and approachable, and so I’ve settled in really quickly. There’s loads of stuff to learn and the training programme is really varied. I’ve had a lot of hands-on experience in dealing with customers which is invaluable and looks great on CVs and MA applications. I’ve become familiar with library management software and several databases and have had lots of opportunities to develop all sorts of skills. I’m even going to help teach an information skills session in the spring! It’s great preparation for a librarianship course and a great start to my career. I’ve also seen what sort of things a subject librarian gets up to, which is what I want to do – I could potentially end up as a Linguistics librarian, which would be brilliant.

The bad things: It can sometimes be incredibly boring – the workloads ebbs and flows, as does the number of students coming in to the library. Despite having a lot of projects, there are still days when there aren’t any new books or any digitisation requests and I’ll be twiddling my thumbs. There’s only so long you can straighten books before your eyes go funny! Also in a more general sense, now is not a brilliant time to be going into librarianship, what with the extensive government cuts to libraries and public services. Even academic libraries, which are probably a lot safer than other types of library, are working on very tight budgets thanks to cuts to HE funding, and there’s no guarantee of me walking into a good professional post after my MA. However, that’s a bridge I don’t need to cross for another 18 months!

Anything else we should know: Librarianship might not be an obvious choice for someone who’s studying linguistics, but a lot of the skills and knowledge you pick up are transferable – for example, if you’re the type of person who enjoys studying syntax, then you probably have the logical mindset that’s useful for cataloguing. I’ve also used my linguistic knowledge when helping speech pathology students think of search terms for databases.

If you want to get into librarianship, a Graduate Traineeship followed by an MA is only one of the routes into the field. CILIP has a comprehensive guide to the sorts of things you could do to get into libraries, and the Library Routes Project and Library Day in the Life Project are good resources too. If you’d like to ask me more about my work, feel free to contact me on Twitter (@heliotropia) or leave a comment on my blog.

Applying for courses – UWE BA English Language and Linguistics, UCL MSc Speech and Language Sciences

Contributor: Amie

What? I studied english language and linguistics at UWE and I am starting a masters in speech therapy at UCL next year.

Why did you choose this place? I chose UWE as it was the best university that provided this combination. The linguistics dept at that time was very strong with great staff. As for UCL, it is one of the best universities in the world. Although I’m dreading moving out of Bristol I am really excited to study there. I was very impressed with the facilities and staff there when I went for my interview. The student support in the SLT dept at UCL has also already been exemplary.

How did you find the application process? The application process for my undergrad was simple, and stress free. The masters was a lot harder, a lot more work, and expensive, which I did not expect. I was lucky and had a lot of support but I think it would be very difficult for someone who doesn’t have support from a person with experience in SLT.

What do you do here? When I graduated I worked in the English department of a secondary school, at TESOL summer schools, and then as an assistant speech therapist in a brain injury rehab unit. I now work as a learning support assistant in a special needs school with adolescents with profound and multiple disabilities.

The good things: intellectually challenging, linguistics can lead to many careers, SLT marries linguistics, medical science and public service perfectly

The bad things: linguistics can  lead to many careers!! slt is very competitive with a lack of universities offering the course, application process to SLT masters.

Anything else we should know: get work experience in anything that you feel could be relevant to your future career. This is the most important thing, more than the uni you go to, your degree mark (within reason), more than anything.

Internship – Research Intern at the Department of Experimental Psychology (Speech and Brain Research group) – University of Oxford

Contributor: Shyla

What? I spent the summer at the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford. I was working with the Speech & Brain Research Group.

Why did you choose this place? The group, as the name suggests, does behavioural and neuroimaging research on speech within the brain. I am currently doing my undergraduate degree in Psychology & Linguistics, so the group seemed like a perfect introduction to research in neuropsychology and psycholinguistics. On a more personal note, the thought of living in Oxford and experiencing a British summer really appealed to me (never mind that it ended up being the wettest summer in British history).

How did you find the application process? There was no formal application. I took the initiative to email a member of the group to ask if there was space for an undergraduate intern. Through a series of emails, I was accepted, and began preparing for work by reading some literature that the group had produced.

What did you do here? Most of the work I did is still ongoing, so I cannot disclose too much, but I will try to provide a general idea. I did a multitude of assistant work, as my goal was to learn as much as I could about the research process in relation to psychology and linguistics. One of the experimental devices I became familiar with was used for trans-cranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). This is a non-invasive technique which conducts electricity to stimulate the cerebral cortex, and we used it for a word-learning experiment. I also personally experienced trans-magnetic stimulation (TMS) as a participant for a group member’s study on brain function and speech perception. The group members that worked in the fMRI lab also took some time out to show me the machines and explain how they analyse scans. My major endeavour investigated and compared speech perception in fluent speakers and people who stutter. For this experiment, I prepared auditory and visual stimuli, which was presented at the British Stammering Association’s Open Day in London. My mentor also guided me through the process of analysis and interpretation of results. Near the end of my internship, I presented the results at one of the regular lab meetings and wrote a journal article-style report about the experiment.

The good things: There are many different aspects of researching language in the brain, and I am glad I was able to learn about several different focus points. I gained insight into the life of a researcher, felt the excitement and pride of running an experiment program I had written myself, and experienced what Oxford had to offer. The research team was absolutely amazing and very willing to guide my thoughts and answer any questions I had. As a team member, I was able to contribute to the group in various ways. It was gratifying to know that my efforts and contributions were considered and appreciated on an equivalent level to the rest of the group, rather than as a mere student looking for something to fill her time. The group made every effort to include me in their activities, both inside and outside of the lab. Oxford’s campus is also quite majestic and I enjoyed walking through the University Parks every day on the way to work.

The bad things: Changing from a student schedule to a job that kept me busy 9-5 was a big change. I felt tired at the end of the day, and even the pleasant walk back to my accommodation did little to boost my spirits, especially if the day had been mentally taxing. If you think you want to do research, be prepared to be sitting at a desk for several hours. Not every day will be filled with an epiphany, and many hours will be spent rewriting the script for your experiment.

Anything else we should know: Sometimes I feel like the things I am learning in class are not going to be very useful in my career. However, there were several points during the internship when I realised that I was actually using skills that I had been taught, such as using a speech analysis program or understanding the reasoning behind a research question. Doing a research internship like this also helped me develop critical reading skills, which are useful for reading journal articles. Reading scientific literature probably takes up about 75% of a researcher’s job. Before I interned at Oxford, I read articles for class but was not really guided on how to glean the appropriate information from it. Reading papers is a skill that must be practised, and I learned how to use information from previous papers to complete special analyses on my data. Finally, while I was in Oxford, the International Multi-Sensory Research Forum held a conference in the building in which I worked. My mentors encouraged me to attend and listen to various talks on the subject of sensation and perception, which was a huge benefit and offered insight into ideas for future projects. If there is anything you have read from this you would like to know more about, feel free to email me at: shylahossain@gmail.com

Voluntary Position – Volunteer at the Bilingualism Summer School 2012 – Bangor University

Contributor: Callum

What? Volunteer for the Bilingualism Summer School at Bangor (University) 2012.

Why did you choose this place? My reason to assist with the Summer School was down to th experience it would give me, the Summer School had top names in the field of Bilingualism travelling into Bangor and this is something of which I wanted to be part. Names such as, Fred Genesee, Cheryl Frenck-Mestre, Ofelia Garcia, and Bonnie D. Schwartz were to attend, amongst many other experts in bilingualism research.

How did you find the application process? The application process was very easy, by this I mean there were no forms, or references to go around retrieving, Patrick Rebuschat (Summer School co-ordinator) asked students from the School of English Language and Linguistics to help with volunteering, we had around twelve or so helping which was around enough.

What do you do here? Throughout the two weeks of the Summer School the job of the volunteers was to make sure everything ran smoothly, and that visiting guests were content. Being more specific, these duties included helping lecturers set up their classes, escorting guests to lecture rooms, and taking them for lunch post-lectures, assisting with the set-up of events for keynote speeches and poster sessions. Furthermore, a top friend and I were asked to help a partially sighted student for the duration of the Summer School. As you may suspect, we aided this student around, making sure to keep her safe, though we did have her guide dog on hand also! This alone was an entirely new experience for both Fay (aforementioned friend) and I, but we both were able to make a new friend! Agata (said partially sighted student) remarked later that our assistance and care had made her stay in Bangor a very enjoyable one. So that was a very nice reward from the Summer School! The good things: Overall the Summer School was a great thing to have participated in; volunteering meant getting the tuition for next to nothing. Granted we couldn’t attend all advertised lectures, as we had to be in other places helping out and such. However, not just myself, but the rest of the volunteers did a great job, so it all balances out! All the same, to have been able to interact with a whole host of new people, from a vast range of different backgrounds all to unite and discuss and share ideas about bilingualism was a very worthwhile thing indeed! Though some of the talk at the pub may have sometimes strayed away from this, ha.

The bad things: If I’m honest, the schedule for the day was a little packed, which did result in long days, and if you add getting up at eight in the morning it made for a lot of tired people. Though it must be said it was the first time that this Summer School has been run at Bangor, so timing of the day may be altered for any future Summer Schools…that or I simply do not have the stamina to last a long day.

Anything else we should know: One additional thing I feel is worth mentioning is that early into week one I created a Facebook and Twitter page (though the latter was not a great success) to bring everyone together and to keep guests informed of events and ongoings throughout the two weeks. The Facebook page proved quite the success; as people made friends on Facebook as they do and can stay in contact with people they may have otherwise not had chance to see again.

Second noteworthy thing was that I was able to present my BA dissertation at one of the poster sessions, this was quite a unique opportunity that presented itself and I am very happy that I took it! Though my throat became hoarse from all the explaining that needed to be done, I was very proud to be presenting in the same room as people older than myself who had more years of experience in linguistics/ bilingualism.

Final thing to inform you of was that the second day of the Summer School was in fact my graduation from Bangor University (Linguistics BA; 2;1 for the record) safe to say I was unable to help out with most of the events on this day!

— If there is anything you have read from this you would like to know more about, feel free to email me at, callumrobsonsu@hotmail.co.uk, all the same you are very welcome to tweet me @CallumRobson

Voluntary Position – Peer Guide for the School of English Language and Linguistics – Bangor University

Contributor: Callum

What? Peer Guide for the School of English Language and Linguistics at Bangor University; 2010 – 2012.

Why did you choose this place? My Peer Guide when I was but a mere Fresher did an excellent job of helping me settle during my first ever week at Bangor. By this token, I felt a motivation to return the favour as it were, and wanted to give back so applied to become a Peer Guide.

How did you find the application process? For what I was required to do it was a pretty standard set of affairs, a basic application form with a required reference too. That was not too hard to get together; after all the “Peer Guiding Scheme” and academic schools are just wanting some competent, helpful people to be Peer Guides; so they wouldn’t make the application process too daunting. Additionally being part of a smaller school, we only usually get twenty or so wanting to be Peer Guides anyway, this is usually about the right number for the amount of Freshers we get (approximately sixty to eighty).

What do you do here? The principal focus orientates around “Freshers’ Week” (or Welcome Week as it’s also known), that time when, as a lot of you will have done, landed at your University and needed some guidance to assist with getting around, and otherwise settling in. Through a lot of planning, our school provides a week of events to help welcome and integrate new students to Bangor, this includes from quizzes, trips around the area as well as the occasional trip to the pub. You get the idea I’m sure, like most Freshers’ Weeks at University the aim is fun with a side of reassurance, however this system allows for students to be well acquainted with their course mates, as well as having someone look out for them, before their first year has truly begun. Of course, the work does not stop the minute Freshers Week ends, it is important to keep in contact with the new students during the year, I, for example, usually invite my Freshers out for a few drinks at the end of their first year of study, then once again a few months later, just to catch up, and check they’re in good stead.

The good things: For me, this is all down to the relationships formed between, firstly, working with the Peer Guides as a unit. A team which have a goal to create a successful Freshers’ Week for all involved, and that in itself is a rewarding prospect. I should make mention here that I came up with a ‘mentoring’ scheme
within the Peer Guides, that is to say the ‘senior’ Peer Guides are paired with a ‘junior’ Peer Guide. The idea of this is that, in some way like with the Peer Guide/Fresher relationship, the ‘junior/senior’ Peer Guide relationship allows new to learn from experienced. Of course, this is a two way thing, new Peer Guides
may themselves bring new ideas to the front which are always welcome, and these can initially be discussed with their senior Peer Guide, before being brought
up in meetings, as an example. I must of course make mention of the Freshers themselves, as this is what the scheme is here for! It is actually a very pleasing experience to aid your Freshers through their life at University, helping them settle in, and everything in between.

The bad things: I won’t go into anything specific here, all I’ll say is you’re working with people, so that’s going to be the main source of anything going wrong. All I’ll say is make sure everyone on the Peer Guide side of things, everyone has planned things out and you should generally be ok. Otherwise, Freshers’ Week can be a little tiresome with a lot of running around involved, but this is what you signed up to, so you can’t really complain. And at the end of the day the positives out-weigh the negatives with this sort of things.

Anything else we should know: If your University does not have a Peer Guiding scheme and you feel it would improve Freshers’ Week, bring it up with your respective school/University and make some inquiries! I have found it a fantastic two years’ worth of experience, working with both Freshers and Peer Guides that will certainly be high up on my written CV!