Announcing that I study English Language and Linguistics immediately sparks the misconception that I am studying literature, and results in the question ‘what books are you reading?’. The answer is not Austin, Brontë or Hardy, and if you have time to read anything other than a linguistics textbook or a journal on Strawson’s ‘ground-consequent’ theory, then you can't be doing the degree properly.
I chose English as it’s a strong, valuable degree, keeping many possibilities open after graduation. Although, after weekly reading lists of ten books, a three paged essay on the word ‘if’, and attempting to explain what ‘meaning’ is in 500 words, there have been numerous moments when I’ve screamed ‘WHY?’ and considered transferring to politics, media, forensic computing… anything that doesn’t require syntactic tree structures, truth tables and the phonetic alphabet. Or explaining what linguistics is to every person who asks what I do at university.
I often describe linguistics as the ‘science’ of language, where you dissect sentences, not frogs. Semesters are spent analysing the English language, focusing on each word and its individual meanings. Whilst English may be considered an ‘easy’ subject compared to statistics or chemistry, it’s refreshing to be challenged in a subject I love, through the structural approaches of language, language acquisition, morphology, and syntax. What mathematician can explain a monophthongal vowel? Lectures read off powerpoint slides are compensated for by professors married to their subject, and willing to offer any length of their free time (when they’re not re-reading the entire library section on linguistics ‘for fun’) to helping you with essay techniques and understanding of modal logic and a descriptive theory which determines the existence of Santa Claus.
Without doubt, uni is an experience not to be missed, with its carefree whirlwind of life-long friendships, after-parties and a drinking habit verging on alcoholism. Nothing will be as poor quality, mould-ridden, or shoddy than student housing, and with your bank balance so far in the red that you’re reduced to living off toast. It’s the three years of battling with landlords, housemates from hell, days spent procrastinating and then realising the art of discipline and time-management when it’s too late, to appreciate life after uni.
Despite wanting to strangle Chomsky, and the awkward moment where you make the glare-inducing mistake of saying ‘preposition’ instead of ‘proposition’ in front of an entire lecture hall of linguists, you discover the importance of independence; how to use the washing machine, and the horrible truth that the cleaning fairy doesn’t exist (although Russell’s descriptive theory would prove otherwise). It’s like a holiday, but without the great weather. The work hard, party hard lifestyle is an important passage before ‘growing up’ that an apprenticeship or badly-paid internship won’t achieve. If you’re smart, you’ll use your holidays for internships and work experience, whilst still remembering the times where you crawled home at 5am and woke, hungover, with a 30kg Buddha statue in your wardrobe (don’t ask, but it’s happened).
the crazy happenings in my life