By Davut Nhem, M.A. (TESOL), Institute of Foreign Languages, Royal University of Phnom Penh, Cambodia

What is Applied Linguistics?

The term “Applied Linguistics” has been discussed by scholars and has gained its popularity over decades, especially after its emergence in 1941 in the United States. Commonly it is considered as a “parent discipline”. Nordquist (2017) states that the diverstifications of disciplines such as Language Acquisition, Language teaching, or literacy and others are the study of Applied Linguistics. Another explanation of Applied Linguistics is basically to deal with practical issues among interdisciplinary issues and other related aspects, especially in second language education in classroom and outside classroom. Similarly, Burns (2009) elucidates that Applied Linguistics refers to the use of language and its theories as the intergral framework for communication purposes and solve the problems of language in applications in specific context. According to Schmitt and Celce-Murcia (2002, cited in Davies & Elder, 2009), Applied Linguistics is the study of what we know about the language, how a language should be taught or learned, and how language is used in communication purposes in the real world. In brief, Applied Lingustics basically invloves the study of using, analyzing, and solving issues of language both in classroom and in the real world in diverse contexts.

However, how does Applied Linguistics help a language teacher or practitioner in her/his teaching? This can be traced to many explanations by scholars in this field. Davies (2005a; cited in Davies, 2007) states that copicous entries in the Glosary of Applied Linguistics are in relation to language euducation. With this sense, langauge teachers who study Applied Linguistics could advance their profession to conducting research in teaching and learning. In addition, the outcomes of MSc program in Applied Linguistics at the University of Oxford and The University of Edinburgh (2017) have been clarified that those who study Applied Linguistics can develop in-depth knowledge of theorical and praictical framwork and research skills in language education and real life issues of language in application. Applied Linguistics also allow practitioners to comprehend which sources, methods, or practices can be  used to teach students a  new language . For example, in Cambodia over decades language teaching mothod has been colored by Grammar Translation Method (GTM) which now is losing its popurity due to the fact that most teachers now have learnt Applied Linguistics in their BEd in TEFL. Based on these intepretations, language teachers or practitioners who have a better knowledge of Applied Linguistics can effectively develop their teaching methods, techniques and assessment on langauge learners. They can also address other related issues of a langauge both in classroom and outside practices. For example, Mackey (1966) explains that one perception on the common errors produced by second language learners are because of the influence of their native language. However, with the help of Applied linguists, Mackey (1966) claims that the view is untrue. The mistakes made by students are sometimes not in agreement with their native language and are just the additions of languages which do not exist in the language (“I said him so” in stead of “I told him so.” This could be supported by the researchers that Applied Linguistics allows practitioners to apply the known research and thoeries of linguistics and analyze linguistics application in certain situation such as langauge teaching, translating, or intepreting.

References Edit

Berns, M., & Matsuda, P. K. (2010). Introduction to Applied Linguistics. In M. Berns, Concise Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics (1st ed.). Elsevier Ltd.

Burns, A. (2009). What is Applied Linguistics? Cambridge University Press.

Davies, A. (2007). An Introduction to Applied Linguistics: From Practice to Theory (2nd ed.). Edinburge University Press.

Davies, A., & Elder, C. (2004). General Introduction Applied Linguistics: subject to discipline. In A. Davies, & C. Elder, The Handbook of Applied Linguistics (pp. 1-15). Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Department of Education, University of Oxford. (2017, October 19th). MSc in Applied Linguistics. Retrieved February 22nd, 2018, from Department of Education, University of Oxford:

Hrehovcik, T. (2005). What Do We Teach: Applied Linguistics or Language Teaching Methodology? Theory and Practice in English Studies, 214-219.

Mackey, W. F. (1966, May 1st). Applied Linguistics: its meaning and use. ELT Journal, 20(3), 197–206. Retrieved from

Nordquist, R. (2017, April 18th). Applied Linguistics: using langauge-related research to to solve problem. Retrieved February 22nd, 2018, from ThoughCo.:

Royal University of Phnom Penh. (2016). Institute of Foreign Languages, Department of English. Retrieved February 23rd, 2018, from

The University of Edinburgh. (2017, November 22nd). Postgraduate Study: Applied Linguistics. Retrieved February 22nd, 2018, from The University of Edinburgh: