Study Linguistics for a Career in AI


Artificial intelligence (AI) lies at the cusp of man and machine. While it utilizes the machine intelligence element, it applies human intelligence concepts such as language and profile assessment to deliver its desired “intelligence.” As a result, the skills required to succeed in an AI career are an uncanny mix, and anyone aiming at such a career will do well to start off with a course in linguistics. 

AI is largely based on Natural Language Processing (NLP), a science that amalgamates machine language and human or natural language into useful value-adding algorithms. A thorough understanding of programming languages, data, as well as day-to-day human languages, thus goes a long way in building a stronger foundation for AI experimentation. It is no surprise that companies in the AI arena are increasingly turning to people with linguistic backgrounds. So much so, that some AI-core companies have appointed the position of “chief linguistics officer,” as in the case of Inbenta, a conversational search technology company. This means that the career avenues for linguistics graduates now number many, and will open up further.

Earlier, graduating in linguistics meant a career in academia, professional writing, or translation. Today, the gateways are open for a career in the booming technology sector too. 

So how does linguistics add value to AI? Better understanding of language helps to better understand users and how customers communicate with brands. Brand communication can then be modeled on these data inputs that have been derived from earlier customer interactions, making them more customized and need-based. Other areas where linguistics professionals can provide an added edge are voice recognition and search and automatic language translation, which form the basis for voice and personal assistants. These are fast gaining popularity, and the opportunities for the future are immense. 

Of course, AI lies at the interface of linguistics and programming. It is therefore necessary that linguistics grads hone their technical skills to make the cut for an AI career. The good part is that programming skills can be easily acquired—people can generally be easily trained in programming, often with basic investment of time and effort. A foundation grounded in linguistics with the add-on of software development training can prove to be a winning combination for AI success. The dual-fold skill helps a person to represent human language in a way that complex computing systems can understand, which is the core of AI. It is all about making computers understand, interpret, and reproduce human interactions so that they can self-learn. AI involves modeling human communication, i.e., how humans acquire information by talking, setting it into a context, and learning from it on an ongoing basis. This means that an AI professional must know how languages work, both in text and orally. Identifying the minute features of the written or spoken word, and its changing meanings in varying contexts, is very important—something that linguistics graduates generally excel at. 

The bottom line is that even seemingly traditional professional fields such as linguistics are opening up to new possibilities. The boundaries between life and technology are blurring to such an extent that career opportunities are becoming more fluidic in nature. It is all about identifying these shifting trends and honing your skills to suit the market demands.