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Help! Want to be a foreign language teacher, but maybe I’m in the wrong grad program?...


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Hello, all!


I currently attend a linguistics MA program.  At the school I attend, they have a very lovely program that’s especially strong in historical linguistics, which I was highly interested in after I graduated with my BA in Classics.  In undergrad, I had all A’s/A-‘s, was a Latin and Greek tutor, and so forth.  I graduated in May2012, 1 ½ years ago.

My senior year, and after I graduated, I was very eager to learn even more about languages beyond Latin and Greek, how language worked in general, and why we all speak and write the way we do today.  I wanted to be a foreign teacher, but I wasn’t sure of what language, so I thought linguistics would expose me to a variety of languages, how they work, their histories and interconnections.


However, now I’m in my dream program, and I’m a few weeks into class, and right now, I’m struggling to become acclimated with a new set of terminology and methodology.  I don’t believe I’m alone in my struggle (I’ve formed study groups and talked to older students, who say they are or were in the same place), but I’m wondering if the struggle is worth it for what I want to do, which is become a foreign language teacher.  I’d hate to abandon ship so soon after I’ve joined this lovely program, and come to regret it later, if I’m just being scared by all the new information.  Plus, what if I joined a new program…and the same exact feelings came up!  I can’t imagine it would look good, hopping from program to program, ha ha!  But at the same time, I want to utilize my time, money, and current skills to their greatest advantage. I’m also not feeling drawn to my studies as I was in undergraduate, even when they were tough, but again, maybe I’m just feeling intimidated by all the new information I need to learn.  I do plan to at least stay through the semester, or year, if I can get over this ‘hump’!

I would love to be a language instructor one day—probably middle school or high school (maybe college, but, I’m not sure about that yet!).  My dream job would really be to teach multiple foreign languages in a small private school – that would be so neat, although, I’m not sure if it’s feasible!  I’m wondering, should I stay in my current program, and just power through, until I understand?  Or should I abandon ship and start applying for other types of programs, such as an MAT or an MA in Classics, even though I don’t want to be limited to learning and teaching Latin and Greek?  Any and all advice is appreciated!  If I can clarify anything, as well, I would be glad to do so.

Thank you!!

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Wherever you end up, there is a good chance you'll have to become acclimated with new terminology and methodology. If you go into Classics you will (literary theory and linguistic terminology); if you do an MAT it'll be worse (BS educational theory). If you're in a place that is strong in historical linguistics (UGA?), you're probably in a good place. You can learn a lot about Latin and Greek, and even take some other languages. To teach Latin and Greek in a school (private probably since that's where most Latin and Greek jobs are, you really just need an MA (any MA). I'd stay in the program, stay on top of your Greek and Latin, and when you graduate apply for private school jobs.

If you can teach Spanish or French as well as Classics, you'll be real demand.

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As heliogabalus says, Latin PLUS Spanish or French (ideally with state teaching certification) would give you a decent shot at high school jobs.  Virtually no high schools offer Greek, aside from the rare elite places like Boston Latin School.  An MA in historical linguistics, though, is not (I don't think) what high schools are looking for.  They need to see courses in the subject area on your transcript.


But is this the first semester of your MA?  If so, give it time.  It takes a while to become acclimated to grad school.

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heliogabalus and Petros - thank you for your insight!  I've been asking around my current and former teachers and peers, and I've heard conflicting opinions all over the board.  I'm going to ask the opinions of several more people, and go in to the career center this week, as well.  I'll post my findings, in case anyone else is in the same situation or considering a similar career path.


- Dr. Jared Klein (at heliogabalus - yes, I'm at UGA! :) It's a wonderful and kind department) said that he thinks a Linguistics MA would lead well to private school teaching in a foreign language. 


- A friend of mine from undergrad, who teaches Latin to home-schooled students, said if I want to teach more languages, I should get a postbacc in Spanish or French with teaching licensure instead.


- My boyfriend did some research for me, as well, and he said much of what I'm taking now (Syntax, Morphology, Phonetics) are some basic requirements for foreign language degrees, anyway.

- My mother (who doesn't teach languages but has a PhD in Ancient History and taught as an adjunct professor) says I should get an MA in Classics instead and that there's often some small private school looking for teachers. 

Bit all over the place! I'll see what else I find. :) I would also love to hear more opinions.

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UGA has a Latin MA that you can complete in your summers. Get the Linguistics MA and the Latin MA, if you want to teach Latin. Check ACL's page for jobs. I teach high school Latin and Greek, and a historical linguistics MA will help you getting a teaching job at a private school in that it's an MA, and lots of schools will only hire people who have an MA, but it's not a shoe-in like your prof makes it sound. The historical linguistics, might make you a little interesting to Classics profs, but they'd probably prefer a Classics MA. Don't worry about it, though, just take any grad courses you can on Vergil and Caesar. I'm guesing you can probably minor in Latin with your MA.

I think it's too early to dislike grad school--remember grad school should be much more like a job than undergrad, it's not as much fun, but you should be learning a lot, mastering the subject.

(If you can do some Second Language Acquisition work, and then get a job teaching Latin, you may very well be able to use that to later head a World Languages Department.)

More than anything, though, get into a class and see how you do. Latin teachers have a reputation for being dry and stuffy; if you're a dynamic teacher that knows how to eplain what a gerundive is, then you'll do well. That's the only thing that got me the job I have.

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