At colleges and universities around the United States and throughout the world, graduate students and professors in linguistics departments are engaged in intensive research efforts to understand the nature of language. Linguistics—the scientific study of language—aims to explain how the human brain processes speech and why all human languages exhibit certain characteristics. Linguistics can be divided into several discrete subfields. Syntax, for example, is the area of linguistics that deals with phrase structure and how the various elements in a sentence relate to one another.
On the other hand, phonology addresses the way a language’s speech sounds are organized as well as their patterns of distribution within a single language and across all languages in general. While the technical details of the inner workings of human language may seem irrelevant to daily life, nothing could be further from the truth, according to Richard McDorman, Director of Programs and Professional Development at inlingua Florida.
“In fact, the most recent advances in linguistics—especially applied linguistics—touch our students each and every day in the classroom,” McDorman pointed out. Applied linguistics is an interdisciplinary field of study that identifies, investigates and offers solutions to language-related real-life problems, and is particularly relevant to areas such as second language acquisition. inlingua Florida’s Department of Programs and Professional Development ensures that the language school’s instructional materials and teaching methods take advantage of the latest developments in applied linguistics to keep the school’s language programs up-to-date and as effective as possible.
According to McDorman, “in order for our language instructors to be as effective as possible in the classroom, they must know which teaching strategies work and which don’t, as well as the specific linguistic details of the language they teach. For example, our English instructors have learned that, based on the grammatical structure of the English language, students will experience specific difficulties acquiring English as a second language based on the grammatical structure of their native language. Native Chinese speakers will struggle with verb tense and personal pronouns, while native Spanish and Portuguese speakers find the English preposition system particularly frustrating, along with the many phrasal verbs (such as “look up to” and “read up on”) that English relies on to express subtle shades of meaning. Our English instructors encounter and overcome these types of problems in class every day.”
However, McDorman noted that no matter what the student’s native language is, learning any language—including English—is within reach as long as the student’s instructor is well-armed with the proper linguistic knowledge. “New research in applied linguistics is taking place every day. At inlingua, we make sure that our instructors incorporate these important scientific findings into how they deliver the lesson so that our students can reach fluency in the target language as quickly and reliably as possible.”