Careers in Computational Linguistics
Computational linguists develop computer systems that deal with human language. They need a good understanding of both programming and linguistics. This is a challenging and technical field, but skilled computational linguists are in demand and highly paid. Computational linguists build systems that can perform tasks such as speech recognition (e.g., Siri), speech synthesis, machine translation (e.g., Google Translate), grammar checking, text mining and other “Big Data” applications, and many others.
For more details on what it’s like to work in this industry, see this presentation by Vita Markman.
There are also linguistics jobs in the software industry that do not necessarily require much programming background— for example, speech data evaluators, linguistic data managers, annotators, and localization specialists.
How to get into computational linguistics
CSULB does not have a program in computational linguistics, but you can choose courses that will prepare you for this field. Here are the areas you should concentrate on:
- Programming. The department of Computer Engineering and Computer Science offers a series of courses beginning with CECS 100 (Critical Thinking in the Digital Information Age) and CECS 174 (Introduction to Programming and Problem Solving). For self-study, try programming books specially aimed at linguists, such as Michael Hammonds’ books on Perl and Java, or Bird et al.’s book on Python. There are also many free online courses such as EdX’s Python course.
- Math and statistics. Computational linguistics often uses statistical methods. LING 301 (Research Methods) provides a basic introduction to statistics; there is also more advanced coursework available in other departments. In addition, programming requires some math background; CECS 174 has the prerequisite of MATH 113.
- Linguistics. The most relevant courses for computational linguists are those that deal with structural aspects of language (syntax, semantics, phonology, phonetics), usage patterns and variation (sociolinguistics, discourse), psycholinguistics, and research methods (including corpus linguistics).
- Natural language processing Online courses are available from Stanford (see also their machine learning course), Columbia, and UT Austin.
California universities offering programs in computational linguistics include:
- SDSU (Basic certificate in computational linguistics)
- CSU Fresno (B.A. option in Computational Linguistics)
Finding jobs and internships
Sites with job and internship postings:
The following are a few companies that employ computational linguists:
- The usual tech giants: Google (including the NLP research group), Microsoft (including the NLP research group in Redmond), Yahoo, Apple, etc.
- Appen Butler Hill
- Expert System
- Mitre Corporation
- North Side
- SRI STAR laboratory
- Vantage Linguistics