Automatic translation is not yet perfect but very nicely illustrates the power of applications based on current linguistic knowledge.
Everything starts with observing that the world around us varies: people use different words to convey different meanings, expressions with the same content have different form in different languages, use of language varies in different conversations. This is not yet linguistics, but enough reason for linguistics, that is the science of language.
Linguistics is the science of language: the ultimate target is to develop a theory about the nature of language, starting with the foundational cognitive mechanisms that explain how human languages work. Based on linguistic theory, linguists try to assess:
the way children or adult learners acquire languages;
the universals and the differences between the languages of the world;
the way languages change over time;
the way language is used in real communication, including written text and conversation;
the psychological reality of language, including the cognitive processes of speech production and comprehension.
Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft: Info für Studieninteressierte von Georg Höhn
Sprache und Sprachen; Zur Sprachwissenschaft; Studium der Sprachwissenschaft.
For this purpose, linguists employ a variety of methods:
they use analytical methods to develop theories about the nature of language;
they analyse texts with hermeneutical procedures;
they conduct experiments to test hypotheses about grammar and cognitive processes;
they work in communities of indigenous languages of the Americas or the Caucasus - discovering unexplored phenomena;
they employ computational methods to archive and analyze their data.
Skills of a linguist
A linguist acquires a manifold qualification combining
core qualification in the philologies and humanities, knowledge of the languages and cultures of the world and methods to analyze linguistic facts, understanding the structure of different languages, analyzing texts;
key skills in analytical methods, experimental work, data management and computation
which can be employed in a large array of professional fields beyond the core applications of linguistics...
languages of the world
Ancient Indo-European languages
languages of the Americas, Caucasian languages, African languages
endangered languages of Europe
Grammars of Ancient Indo-European explained for students of linguistics. Project of the Institute for Linguistics in Göttingen.
Course offered by a network of experts at the Universities of Bamberg, Cambridge, Göttingen, Moscow, Nicosia, Paris.
Sprachverwandtschaften im Germanischen, von Paulien Veenstra