A group of diverse students

Gain a deeper understanding of language (English and languages around the world) with an English BA with a concentration in Applied Linguistics.

In the Applied Linguistics concentration, you will explore the scientific study of human language and how it is applied to solve real-world problems, led by expert faculty who are innovative and committed teachers. By analyzing linguistic structure and identifying patterns of language use, you will enhance your critical thinking and prepare you to untangle complex problems in any field you pursue after college.

What You Will Learn

By the time you complete this program, you will know how to:

  • investigate how languages function structurally, using methods of linguistic analysis
  • document and analyze language variation
  • think analytically and write concisely
  • collaborate and share ideas with peers

Why Linguistics?

Linguistics is the scientific study of language. In this field, your main focus will be to understand how languages work, and how they are acquired by both native speakers and second language learners. Like in other scientific fields, you will collect and examine data, identify patterns, and create and test different hypotheses. In doing so, you will develop crucial analytical and technical skills, which are directly or indirectly relevant to a wide range of career paths. Here are some examples.

For more information, visit the Linguistics Society of America website.

Career Options Involving Linguistics

Text mining (text analytics): Analyzing text can be extremely valuable to companies, but how do you make sense of thousands of lines of text...? One useful tool is called sentiment analysis, which seeks to identify patterns in text data. Companies often employ this type of analysis to investigate whether customers have positive or negative opinions about their products (this can be done by examining the words that customers use when writing about such products in reviews or blog posts online). This type of analysis provides unique insights into how people feel about services and products, which in turn inform companies' marketing strategies, for example.

Linguistics allows you to have a comprehensive understanding of sentence structure, meaning, words, and their sounds. This knowledge is crucial if you plan to teach any language to children or adults, in the US or abroad. Needless to say, language teaching plays a crucial role in a world where people migrate to different countries and cultures (as immigrants or refugees). Linguistics can also help you better appreciate the building blocks that underlie all languages, which in turn allows you to better understand the challenges that people face when learning a new language—and to predict such challenges on the basis of people’s mother tongues.

More and more tech companies rely on linguistic data. When you start typing certain words on your smartphone, specific words are suggested based on your typical typing patterns: your phone "knows" what you normally type, and it can help you complete your own sentences by predicting the next word(s)—saving you a lot of time in the long run. At the same time, you can talk to your phone and get an answer back almost instantly. Combined with computer science and data analysis, linguistics can equip you to explore domains such as natural language processing, speech recognition, computer-assisted language learning, and many other areas.

Positions involving editing, publishing and writing all benefit from a background in linguistics.

Within the field of linguistics, phonetics deals with how speech sounds are produced and perceived by humans. Among other things, you will understand what makes different accents sound so different sometimes---which is certainly an important skill in acting.

What Can You Do with an English Major?

We’re asked this question all the time. Our answer: A lot. You will learn skills that transfer across hundreds of possible careers and industries—some of which may not even exist yet. Our graduates go on to work in marketing, publishing, non-profit fundraising, speechwriting, as well as in countless other fulfilling occupations.

Explore Careers

A student and a professor working together.

What It’s Like to Study Applied Linguistics

See "Major Requirements" below for some of the specific courses you'll take.

You will learn directly from and collaborate with your faculty members, who offer diverse areas of expertise in linguistics and are actively conducting research in their fields, such as the following:

  • phonology in second language acquisition
  • reading and vocabulary acquisition
  • metaphor in language
  • linguistic politeness
  • environmental discourse
  • discourse analysis in informal learning environments
  • teaching writing
  • development of second language proficiency

Read our faculty bios:

You’ll turn your analytical and writing skills toward the kind of activities you’ll pursue in the workplace after graduation.

Just a couple of the ways we do this include:

Promoting Change

English faculty and students are express their dedication to social and educational justice in many different ways—and you can help. You can work on a young-adult literature magazine that addresses diversity—or the lack thereof. You can learn to teach English to speakers of other languages. You can mentor young writers.

Major Requirements

Our program is designed to develop the critical thinking and analytical skills that come from in-depth study of language, language variation, and speech communities.

You must complete the University Core Curriculum and 36 credits of literature-focused coursework and electives.

Four semesters (or equivalent) of a modern or classical language at the college level are required.

Total Credits

120

Classes

A few of the classes you will take may include:

  • ENG 320 Introduction to Linguistic Science
  • ENG 321 English Linguistics
  • ENG 332 Phonetics and Phonology
  • ENG 436 Theory and Research in TESOL
  • Senior seminars on topics such as Dialects and Code-switching

A current list of course offerings and descriptions can be found on our blog. Course topics may vary per semester.

For a complete list of requirements and course descriptions, consult our Course Catalog.

View Catalog

Paying for Your Education

Department Scholarships

In addition to the dozens of scholarships the university offers its students, our department gives awards to acknowledge the excellence and achievements of our own majors and minors. Learn more.

Application Process and Requirements

Are you interested in pursuing this major? The first step is to review Ball State’s admissions criteria and apply as an undergraduate student.

Want to Learn More?

One of the best ways to understand why Ball State stands out is to come see it for yourself. You can schedule a visit through our Office of Undergraduate Admissions. Make sure to tell them you’re interested in our program. Or if you’d like to speak with someone in our department directly by phone or email, please contact us.