My name is Rebecca Eiland. I started studying linguistics when I was 12 after reading a book by Steven Pinker called, The Language Instinct, and from there I went on to read as many of his books that I could get my hands on throughout high school. I started studying various languages, mostly Arabic and Japanese. This was also right before I was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder because of sensory and fine motor issues.
When I hear a sound, I see a shape. I cannot not see the shape and I cannot change the shape of the sound. They are one and the same to each other. So at some point, I decided to simply write words by writing the shapes of the sounds instead of using the tradition alphabet to spell the words. That is how I started writing in IPA notation. I did not have to memorize a long list of shapes; they were simply inherent to the sound. They just exist. I didn’t exactly make it up because the shapes and the sounds just are. Until I started reading about how the brain processes language, I did not know that the shapes I see when I hear a sound are unique to me. I thought everybody experienced language the same way.
My ability to communicate greatly improved when I started studying linguistics because I started to understand the overall concept of language as well as the details of language acquisition and production in the brain.
Currently, I am in my 20’s and hold a degree in paralegal studies. However, almost as soon as I graduated, I decided to turn my degree into a career in computational linguistics. I had a good start, not only because I have already been studying linguistics on my own, but because paralegal studies easily ties into linguistics. Now, I go to Drake University where I am enrolled in a dual degree program for a B.A. in digital media production and a B.S. in computer science with a minor in Arabic.
Typically, a degree in computational linguistics is strictly a graduate level degree that requires at least an undergrad degree in computer science or linguistics and often at least two foreign languages with some sort of formal education in mass communication, psychology, or law. I hope that once I finish my studies at Drake, that I will be able to attend the University of Washington for their graduate program in computational linguistics.