Linguistics is the study of the structure of language, from syntax to phonetics to semantics. Linguists study the forms that various languages take in their own context and how the meanings of words and phrases in a given language develop over time. If you study linguistics you may even study the nature of language in general and how human communication differs from that of other animals and birds. Linguistics also endeavors to figure out how we use language differently in spoken and written communication. You can also undertake a linguistic study of how our languages compare with other ways that people communicate with each other.
Linguistics is an important discipline of study because language is so crucial to human communication, and linguists attempt to understand how language relates to other forms of behavior. When you study linguistics, you explore the sounds, words, sentences, and meanings of one or more languages, and that knowledge can help unlock how various cultures or people groups interact with each other in unique ways. You can also discover clues to how a language has changed throughout history or as speakers of that language have migrated to new places. You might even be able to gain insight into the unconscious features of language understanding.
If you're looking to parlay your knowledge of linguistics into a career, you can find work as a speech therapist, a teacher of foreign languages, or as a teacher of English to non-native speakers. Your linguistics skills can serve you well in journalism, or as a writer, editor, or translator. There are also plenty of jobs available for teaching and researching linguistics at the university level. You might also find fulfilling work as a lexicographer, helping define words for dictionary publishers or reference websites.
Whether you want to learn linguistics to help you in your current job or you want to build skills for a new career, online courses on Coursera can help give you a foundation in linguistics and then move on to more specific topics like the nature of translation, how bilingual speakers process language, or the links between linguistics and psychology. You'll also have a chance to learn about neurolinguistics, the bilingual brain, and how big data relates to language.