BLOG - How I became a linguist

    Research output: Other contribution


    It took me a long time to realise I wanted to become a linguist. I had a resolutely monoglot childhood in 1960s Canberra, Australia’s ‘bush capital’, and can’t even remember hearing any language spoken but English. Nor was school any better when it came to languages: the teachers were dogmatic types who obviously couldn’t speak the languages well and were irritated by why-questions. So like my fellow nerds at Campbell High School I took science subjects and when it came to uni studied biology and psychology. During my third year at the Australian National University (ANU) I had a spare slot in my degree and decided to take first year Russian – mainly so I could read Russian literature in the original. For the first time I experienced what it could be like to learn a foreign language from a teacher (Prof. de Bray) who could lay out its individual logic. He placed great stock on students getting a good pronunciation, and in week two we had to hand in an account of all the phonetic realisations of Russian vowel letters under different stress conditions. This wasn’t the last time I benefited from a teacher with what many would think were unrealistic expectations – I don’t think any of us had studied phonology before, but somehow that planted a seed in me.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationOnline
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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