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I plan to do my PhD in Computational Linguistics in the near future. As one would imagine, it requires a bit of knowledge in Computer Science as well as Linguistics. Particularly, I enjoy French and Japanese.

The problem is that I want to teach too many topics at the university level. In my imaginary world, I would teach courses in Computer Science that overlap with Computational Linguistics (e.g. Structure of Programming Languages, Artificial Intelligence, etc.), as well as French and Japanese.

As far as I know, we have only one professor at my university who overlapped topics - the Russian department needed a temp, and one of the Computer Science professors was a Russian native; he filled in for a semester.

Presumably I would only teach courses that overlap with my research (the Computer Science courses I listed, French/Japanese Syntax/Morphology, etc).

Granted this is pretty specific to my case, so how about I generalize: how plausible is it to teach multiple subjects that are inter-departmental at the university level? If it is indeed plausible and is something that I can specifically work toward, what steps are necessary to be able to do so?

Edit: To clarify, this would be teaching as a postdoc, not particularly during my PhD. I think my brain would explode if I tried to take on that kind of workload.

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    At your institution are language courses taught by linguists? This sounds like a silly question but I ask because at my undergrad university, linguists taught linguistics courses but the actual languages were taught by (mostly adjunct) faculty in the respective departments e.g. a native Spanish speaking adjunct professor, not an American linguist with a research emphasis on Spanish. – Tim Jun 1 '15 at 8:48
  • @Tim In fact it varies greatly. At my university, the Japanese courses are taught by 2 Americans and 1 native Japanese; the 2 Americans don't have any particular linguistic experience: 1 did a PhD in Japanese theather, the other I'm not so sure. In the French department, it also varies. The Advanced French Grammar course is sometimes taught by an American French linguist, sometimes by a native French person. The French Linguistics course is usually taught by the aforementioned American linguist. – Chris Cirefice Jun 1 '15 at 13:36
  • Unless you have absolutely no prior teaching experience, i'd advise against this. Your job as a postdoc is to publish. Teaching will only get in your way. – Paul Jun 1 '15 at 14:00
  • It sounds like fun, but teaching is hard work. At the very least, start with one course, judge how it goes, and adjust your schedule. – Compass Jun 1 '15 at 16:07
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As someone who is doing my PhD in Natural Language Understanding I first of all recommend you are careful what you wish for. Undertaking a teaching post while doing a PhD is very time consuming and I have found that it has got in the way of my research. So much so in fact that I limit myself to no more than 6 hours of teaching a week.

In my imaginary world, I would teach courses in Computer Science that overlap with Computational Linguistics (e.g. Structure of Programming Languages, Artificial Intelligence, etc.), as well as French and Japanese.

I'm sure it's different depending on the university, but whatever department is paying your PhD stipend most definitely has first call on where and what you teach. Although I'm a mathematical linguist, I spend all of my time teaching programming and artificial intelligence. Another reason for this is because my background is mathematics and computer science.

Granted this is pretty specific to my case, so how about I generalize: how plausible is it to teach multiple subjects that are inter-departmental at the university level?

Taking on a PhD project is about becoming a specialist, not a generalist. Everyone is arguably a generalist. If you are a Computational Linguist, just take on modules such as Intelligent Systems, Computational Linguistics, Mathematical Linguistics, Logic Programming, Math for Computer Science, etc.

If it is indeed plausible and is something that I can specifically work toward, what steps are necessary to be able to do so?

I think it is possible. However, you would need to get explicit permission from your project advisors which I imagine would be difficult. You would then have to discuss how you can help with the other departments such as Linguistics. However, be prepared for rejection if you are not classically trained in the subject and hold some sort of academic merit.

When you start your PhD you will not become a lecturer most likely. You will be encouraged to take on a teaching assistant or demonstrator role, aiding a lecturer. This is still good as it's the next best thing and sometimes you can get loads of marking. It will also give you loads of time to reflect and decide what you want to teach.

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    This is a good answer, but I think that I hadn't made something clear previously; I don't intend to try anything like this during my PhD, that would be quite the workload. This is teaching as a postdoc :) – Chris Cirefice Jun 1 '15 at 13:42
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Regardless of the stage of career at which you would teach, the basic issue is the following: at least in the US, faculty and teaching staff are normally hired by individual departments, and approved up the "food chain," as it were.

Consequently, your teaching duties are expected as much as possible to be a part of that department's work—since you're being paid by them, you should teach their classes. If you want to teach classes in multiple programs, you'd need to find a way to secure a joint appointment, in which you could teach in multiple different departments.

An alternative—although this would be harder to do as a postdoc—would be to look for a smaller school in which several of the programs are lumped together. Obviously, this is much easier in your case to do with the languages (French and Japanese), rather than CS. I would be hard pressed to think of a case where someone would get a joint appointment in CS and a modern languages department. (CS and linguistics is another issue, but linguistics staff wouldn't teach modern languages.) The reason it would be hard to do this with a postdoc is that schools small enough to lump lots of languages into a single department probably aren't big enough to support large numbers of postdocs (or in some cases, any postdocs at all).

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Postdocs are short-term and hard to get, and I don't think it's wise to make such restricted plans (at your current stage stage). It might be for example that if you get a postdoc, they will have in mind a specific course that they want you to teach, and it almost certainly would not be a language course. On the other hand, such planning could land you a first job (not a postdoc) somewhere that had multiple instructional needs. Setting aside the postdoc restriction, it is plausible and potentially advantageous to be in a position to teach multiple areas, even in multiple departments.

Speaking as a linguist, I know a number of linguists who are also in language teaching. Sometimes the language (modern) is taught in the linguistics department (which may be a "languages and linguistics" department), and sometimes this is via a joint appointment. In the latter case, the person usually is hired in one department and later splits the appointment. I doubt that you could get an initial position in a French department with a degree in CS or Linguistics, but if you had an appointment in Linguistics, that could be split later. Though if you spoke something "exotic" (in some contexts, that could be Japanese), you might actually get your first appointment in language teaching.

In R1 institutions, such arrangements probably exist for 5-10% of appointments, and for smaller colleges I expect it would be much higher (because they might only have need for a half of a Japanese instructor).

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