Breadth courses helped graduate Chris Kassner to discover the joint major in Linguistics and Computing

October 01, 2022

How did you end up in linguistics and what was the journey like for you?

I ended up in Linguistics through my love of language. I've always loved learning languages & travel, so when I was deciding which major to apply for at SFU, the first one that stuck out for me was Linguistics. The journey was fantastic. I started with LING220 and 160 during my first semester, and really enjoyed both courses. I then continued forward with LING222, 221, and by the start of my third term I took my first upper level Linguistics course. I really enjoyed all of the courses and I think the Linguistics department specifically has some amazing professors, so it was an enjoyable journey, although there were some courses I struggled with more than others.

Why did you decide to go into the joint major?

I knew I had to take 2 B-Sci courses to graduate and wanted to take something that I might find useful, so I took CMPT120 with absolutely no programming background, and then CMPT165 the following semester, and fell in love with the major through those courses. It was a difficult journey at times, but it really helped me grow as a person and I have no regrets about doing the joint major.

What were your favourite classes and why?

There were many of courses I enjoyed, but my favourites were definitely LING480 (Language Learning & Technology), LING324, CMPT413, CMPT383, & CMPT310. I found all of these courses highly interesting and not only learned a lot from them, but got the chance to use what I'd learned about natural language processing, machine learning, etc in these courses during my 8 month co-op with Ontario Power Generation, so I found them to be highly pragmatic as well.

What are your plans now that you have completed your B.Sc.?

I've gotten a return offer from Ontario Power Generation to start full-time in January, but I'm also looking at various remote jobs in the U.S. I really enjoyed my 8 month co-op with Ontario Power Generation doing web app development with Python/Django, and I'm thinking about going into web app development either with my previous co-op, or with another company in the future.

Do you have any advice or tips for current undergrads who are just starting in linguistics or are thinking about specializing in computational linguistics through the joint major?

My main tip would be to explore as many different areas of linguistics as possible and find what you enjoy the most. Personally, it was semantics. For students interested in specializing in the joint major specifically, I'd recommend taking CMPT120 to start and seeing if you enjoy the course. If you enjoy it, I'd recommend taking MACM101 or other courses in the major and slowly dipping your toes into the water to see if you feel it's the right decision for you or not.


  • LING 324: Semantics
  • LING 480: Topics in Linguistics - Language Learning & Technology
  • CMPT 310: Introduction to Artificial Intelligence
  • CMPT 383: Comparative Programming Languages
  • CMPT 413: Coputational Linguistics