UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Language Engineer Case Study


Language Engineer


Academic career

After a degree in Computer Science at QMUL and a career in Financial Services Technology, I left to do the MA Linguistics at UCL. I have had a lifelong interest in languages and linguistics and I enrolled on the MA course to pursue my interest not because of any long-term career plan. During my MA, my CS background came in handy for logic, syntactic trees, recursion, ML etc. and I became aware of the crossover between the two disciplines in fields such as Computational Linguistics and Natural Language Processing. However, I didn't get a chance to explore careers in either field as, at the end of my course, I had a baby and decided to take time out to raise a family. Eventually, after two kids and a break of eight years since completing my MA, I was wondering what kind of work I could possibly do and how I would go about finding it, when an invitation to the Linguistics Alumni party popped into my inbox.

Linguistics Alumni and LinkedIn

I hadn't gone to previous Alumni events as I was afraid I had no success story to tell, but I made the effort to go to this one and I'm really glad I did. I met some great people and I wanted to keep in touch with them, so after the party I created a profile on LinkedIn and connected with them.

Soon enough I started to receive messages from employers based on my LinkedIn profile. Most of them weren't quite right for me, so I didn't pursue any until I got a message from a major Technology company. The recruiter wanted me to interview for a Systems Engineering role. I was interested but I needed a few months to prepare for the interview. In the meantime, I was invited to an event at the same company where I met another recruiter. I explained my background to him and he told me about opportunities in their Text-to-Speech team for candidates with CS and Linguistics knowledge. After the event, I interviewed for a contract position as a Language Engineer and I got the job.

Language Engineer

I've been working there for one week and I'm in at the deep end learning about the various processes involved in parsing text, mapping the results to words in the lexicon and then generating realistic sounding speech. My work requires a solid technical background as it involves investigating faulty sentences using debugging tools and then implementing code or configuration fixes and it also requires linguistics knowledge as I need to have a good understanding of phones and phonemes and their characteristics.

I'm lucky to have found this particular niche of Language Engineering and I'm very interested in learning more about it. After my contract is finished, I'll consider my options and either continue in this field or return to Systems Engineering which I also enjoyed. I'm very grateful to the Linguistics Dept at UCL, firstly for my MA, and then for organising the Alumni events which triggered the chain of events leading to my job offer, and also for giving me access to some online resources so I could brush up on Phonology in preparation for my interview.