Bachelor Basics: Introduction to Linguistics

When I started my Bachelor’s degree in 2008, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Sure, I had read all the leaflets and info pages, been on the tour around the buildings and even saw a student advisor, but I was still clueless. When you don’t know anyone in your field of study, wrapping your head around your classes and the syllabus expectations can be daunting, and my experience was no different.

This is why I thought it might be a good idea to write a series of small posts, each focusing on one of the mandatory courses a Zurich Bachelor student of English (literature & linguistics) will go through, and share some of the things I wish an older student had told me when I started 🙂

It’s obviously possible that some things in the syllabus will change (or have changed already), but I’m assuming that most of the core points will still apply. So here we go with course number one – I picked the very first class I had on my very first day at university: “Introduction to Linguistics”!


Course length: 2 semesters.

Weekly class time: 3 hours. The course is split into class time (two hours) and lecture time (one hour).

Assessment: Final exam (end of second semester), paper, at least one in-class (group) presentation.

Personal experience: As I already mentioned, IntroLing was my 8 a.m. class on my very first day at university – and by 10 a.m., I was ready to crawl into a dark hole and hide with a big bar of chocolate for the rest of the day (which my other classes thankfully prevented me from doing). We were immediately confronted with so much material, so many requirements and such a stern attitude that I wandered through my first day feeling rather overwhelmed. I am, however, happy to report that after I had overcome my initial run-and-hide response to this course, things got better. When you’re a new and inexperienced student, putting your course routine together is very much a step-by-step evaluation process. The key is to stop panicking long enough to realize that you are, in fact, able to meet the requirements; most of the time they sound a lot scarier than they really are.

Favourite part: Learning about both first and second language acquisition 🙂

Recommendations: Stay on top of the material. This is obviously important for all courses, but applies especially when there’s such a load of information you’re required to know about by the end of the year. Key word lists are a big helper when it comes to preparing for the final exam – there’s a lot of theories to keep track of when it comes to even basic linguistics. If you have trouble finding an appropriate subject for your term paper like I did, browsing through some of the more interesting-looking books in the ES linguistics library can go a long way!


If you have ideas for additions or amendments, please let me know in the comments – I’m only one person in a big student body, and I’m sure there are other similar/contrasting experiences out there that might help people out! 🙂

Next week: “Study Skills”!

3 responses to “Bachelor Basics: Introduction to Linguistics

  1. Dear Steph,

    Thank you for sharing your experience about the course! 🙂 When I took this module a couple of years ago, the most difficult part for me was to choose the term-paper topic. However, I managed to get through and beat run-and-hide attitude! (nicely put, by the way 🙂

    Another tip for fellow students – it’s good to start preparing for the exam in Easter break, by end of May with some extra-planning one can get through the material twice.

  2. Steph, great idea for a feature! Looking forward to seeing the next ones 🙂

  3. Thanks guys! Hope the rules haven’t changed too much since I attended the courses. Natalia, sounds like you had an infinitely more organised approach than I did in my first year 😉

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