This free course, Language in the real world, explored what we mean by ‘language’, by contrasting ‘language’ and ‘languages’, and comparing the features of human language with features of (other) animal communicative behaviours. The course also introduced the field of applied linguistics and outlined a number of different scenarios in which knowledge about how language works can usefully inform decision making.
Of course, such decisions are also influenced by other (often cultural, political or economic) factors, which might mean that the applied linguist’s advice, however well-informed, is not taken up. Not much can be done about that. What is crucial, however, is that applied linguistic advice is based on systematic analysis and careful consideration of all contributing aspects of context. In addition, it is important that applied linguistic perspectives on particular issues get communicated to interested parties in an intelligible and engaging manner. As you can see, applied linguistics is serious business.