15 Linguistic Interview Questions and Answers

Prepare for the types of questions you are likely to be asked when interviewing for a position where Linguistic skills will be used.

When it comes to job interviews, there are a few topics that are sure to come up. One of those topics is your experience with language. Whether you’re applying for a job that requires bilingualism or you’re simply looking to show off your language skills, you need to be prepared to answer some linguistic interview questions.

In this guide, we’ll give you some tips on how to answer common linguistic interview questions. We’ll also provide some sample questions and answers to help you get started.

1. What is Linguistics?

This question is a basic one that an interviewer may ask to see if you have the necessary knowledge of linguistics. Your answer should include a definition and examples of what it means to be a linguist.

Example: “Linguistics is the study of language, including how languages are formed, their structure and how they change over time. I’ve always been interested in learning about different cultures and languages, so when I was looking for my first job as a linguist, I found this position with your company.”

2. Can you explain what syntax is in the context of linguistics?

This question is a great way to test your knowledge of syntax and how it relates to linguistics. When answering this question, you can define syntax in your own words and then explain what it means for the field of linguistics.

Example: “Syntax is the structure of language that determines how sentences are formed. It’s important because it helps us understand how languages work and communicate meaning. In my last role as a translator, I used syntax to determine which words or phrases should be placed together within a sentence. This helped me translate documents from one language into another.”

3. What’s the difference between syntax and semantics?

This question tests your knowledge of two linguistic concepts. You can answer by defining each term and explaining how they differ from one another.

Example: “Syntax is the structure of a sentence, while semantics refers to the meaning of words. Syntax is important because it helps us understand what’s being said in a sentence. For example, if I say ‘The dog ate my homework,’ syntax tells me that there was a dog who ate something called homework. Semantics tells me that the dog ate my homework, which means he destroyed it.”

4. How do you think linguists study language?

This question can help an interviewer understand your knowledge of the field and how you approach it. Your answer should show that you have a strong understanding of linguistics, including its methods and techniques. You can also include any specific skills or tools you use in your own work to highlight your experience.

Example: “I think linguists study language by analyzing speech patterns, studying grammar rules and identifying different dialects. They also look at how languages change over time and how they relate to one another. I’ve used these same approaches when working on my own projects, such as my thesis on the evolution of American English.”

5. What are some examples of syntactic structures in natural languages?

This question is a continuation of the previous one, and it allows you to show your knowledge of linguistic concepts. You can answer this question by listing several syntactic structures that are common in natural languages.

Example: “There are many syntactic structures in natural languages. Some examples include noun phrases, verb phrases, prepositional phrases, infinitive phrases, gerund phrases, participle phrases, relative clauses, appositive phrases, adverbial clauses, conditional clauses, causal clauses, concessive clauses, temporal clauses, purpose clauses, result clauses, subjunctive clauses, interrogative clauses and exclamatory clauses.”

6. What are the different types of syntax used for programming languages?

This question tests your knowledge of syntax and how it’s used in programming languages. You can answer this question by naming the different types of syntax that are used for programming languages, such as context-free grammar, regular expressions and unification grammars.

Example: “There are three main types of syntax used for programming languages. The first is context-free grammar, which uses a set of rules to define the structure of a language. Regular expressions use a series of characters to define a pattern or sequence of characters within a string. Unification grammars use a set of rules to describe a language. These rules are then applied to a string of symbols.”

7. Are there any formal grammars that can be used to describe computer languages? If yes, then what are they called?

This question is a continuation of the previous one, and it tests your knowledge of formal grammars. It also shows that you can apply what you know to practical situations.

Example: “Yes, there are several formal grammars that can be used to describe computer languages. The Backus-Naur Form (BNF) is a language for describing context-free languages. Another grammar is the Extended BNF or EBNF, which is an extension of the BNF. This grammar is used to describe programming languages. There’s also the Chomsky Hierarchy, which classifies formal grammars into four types based on their capabilities.”

8. Can you give me an example of a real-world application that uses linguistic processing or analysis?

This question is a great way to show the interviewer your knowledge of linguistic processing and analysis. It also shows them that you can apply what you know in real-world situations. When answering this question, try to think of an example that relates to the job you’re interviewing for.

Example: “In my last position as a customer service representative, I had to use linguistic processing when interacting with customers who spoke different languages. For instance, if a Spanish-speaking customer called in, I would have to translate their questions into English so I could understand them. Then, I would answer their questions in Spanish so they could understand me.”

9. What are some popular tools used by linguists?

Interviewers may ask this question to see if you have experience with the tools they use in their department. If you don’t, consider researching what tools are used by linguists and how they can benefit your work.

Example: “There are many popular tools that linguists use for translation, transcription and analysis. Some of these include Google Translate, Microsoft Translator, Skype Translator and Dragon Dictate. There are also several software programs that help linguists translate languages, including SDL Trados, MemoQ and OmegaT.”

10. What are some common challenges faced by linguists?

Interviewers may ask this question to gauge your awareness of the challenges that linguists face and how you might overcome them. You can answer this question by identifying some common challenges faced by linguists, such as:

Difficulty in finding qualified translators
Lack of funding for language research
Language barriers between different cultures
Example: “One challenge I’ve seen many linguists face is a lack of funding for their research. Many government agencies have cut back on funding for language research because they don’t see immediate results from it. However, I think that cutting back on funding could lead to long-term problems if we aren’t able to understand other cultures or communicate with people who speak different languages.”

11. What are some use cases for NLP?

NLP is a broad term that encompasses many different applications. The interviewer may ask this question to see if you can apply your knowledge of NLP in real-world situations. In your answer, try to describe how you would use NLP in your daily work and highlight the benefits of using it.

Example: “NLP has many uses, but I find it most useful for automating processes like data mining and text classification. For example, at my last job, we used NLP to automate our customer service chatbot. This allowed us to scale up our customer support team without having to hire more employees. It also helped us provide better service to customers by allowing the chatbot to respond to common questions.”

12. What are some steps involved in creating your own corpus database?

A corpus database is a collection of texts that are analyzed for linguistic purposes. This question allows you to demonstrate your knowledge and skills in creating databases, which can be an important part of the linguistics field. In your answer, explain what steps you would take to create your own corpus database.

Example: “I would start by choosing a corpus management software program like AntConc or TreeTagger. Then I would choose a text editor that works with these programs, such as JEdit or Notepad++. Next, I would find a large source of free online texts, such as Project Gutenberg. Finally, I would use my text editor to copy and paste the texts into the corpus management software.”

13. What kinds of information can you extract from text using NLP techniques?

This question is a great way to show your knowledge of NLP and how it can be used in the workplace. You can answer this question by listing several types of information you can extract from text using NLP, such as:

Sentiment analysis
Topic extraction
Entity recognition
Example: “I have experience with extracting sentiment, topic and entity recognition from text. I also know that there are many other things you can do with NLP, including word embedding, which allows me to use machine learning techniques to analyze data.”

14. Can you explain how part-of-speech tagging works?

This question is a great way to test your knowledge of linguistic skills. It also shows the interviewer how you apply that knowledge in your work. Use this opportunity to show them that you understand part-of-speech tagging and can use it effectively.

Example: “Part-of-speech tagging is when I assign parts of speech, such as nouns or verbs, to words within a sentence. This helps me identify the different types of words within a sentence so I can better analyze its meaning. For example, if I were analyzing a sentence for subject-verb agreement, I would tag the verb as an action word and the subject as a noun.”

15. What is tokenization? Is it necessary to perform this step when working with textual data? Why or why not?

Tokenization is a process that breaks up text into smaller units called tokens. This allows the computer to understand and analyze data more efficiently, which can be important when working with large amounts of textual information. Your answer should show your interviewer you know how to perform this task and why it’s necessary in some situations.

Example: “Tokenization is the process of breaking up a string of characters into individual words or symbols. For example, tokenization would break up ‘I love my dog’ into three separate tokens—’I’, ‘love’ and ‘my dog’. Tokenization isn’t always necessary because sometimes the entire sentence needs to be analyzed as one unit. However, if I’m analyzing a lot of text, then tokenization will help me get better results.”


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