Blogging resumes

4 01 2013

Hi there… after an extended break in which I have been putting together an ebook of some re-worked past blog posts (should be available in February from The Round), I’m resuming blogging as of Sunday January 6th and hope to post weekly thereafter. I hope you’ll join me!

On a sadder note, I was shocked to learn of the death of Leo van Lier last month. Those of you who have followed this blog, or have read books of mine like Teaching Unplugged, or have been students on my MA TESOL courses, will know that Leo was a kind of spirit guide for me. I think I have every one of his books, all heavily underlined and annotated, and I know whole extracts practically by heart. He introduced me to such concepts as ecolinguistics (see the blog post E is for Ecology, for instance), emergence, affordances, sociocultural learning theory, scaffolding, and a lot more. His capacity to move beyond the relatively narrow confines of TESOL and explore parallel universes was astounding. And yet he always came back to the language classroom. This brief for an action research project (on page 1 of Interaction in the Language Curriculum [Longman, 1996]) captures something of the spirit of his intellectual endeavor – his vision, even:

Standing with both feet firmly planted on the classroom floor, what are the theoretical issues in linguistics, education, and other fields, that are relevant, here and now, to the teaching job and the learning job?

His untimely death will undoubtedly diminish the intellectual vitality of our field.

The last time we connected was in Northern Cyprus in May 2010, where this photo was taken.  Rest in peace, Leo.

Leo van Lier and me



29 responses

4 01 2013
Adam Simpson (@yearinthelifeof)

Great to have you back in the Blogosphere, Scott. I’ll once again have something good to read of a Sunday morning.

Sorry to hear the bad news, BTW

4 01 2013
Willy C Cardoso

I’ve cited van Lier in all of my talks in 2012 (also thanks to you Scott), and my first 2013 talk will be on ecological perspectives of language learning, and I was hoping I could one day meet the man in person. Very sad… And as you said, a loss to the intellectual vitality of our field.

4 01 2013

very sad to hear of Leo’s death Scott, he gave so much to our field…

4 01 2013

first came across him in Lancaster 20 odd years ago and have enjoyed reading his work ever since

4 01 2013

Admire your blogging energy Scott. Will make a renewed qualitative difference to Sunday mornings!
I hadn’t realized Leo van Lier has died so many thanks for bringing this sad news to our attention. His work has also been influential for me – just as an example, his take on IRF which ‘may be beneficial in securing students’ engagement and building a bridge towards more contingent forms of instructional interaction’ (Interaction in the Language Curriculum, p.156) struck a major chord with me in how language develops in the primary classroom with young learners, and in particular with very young learners, and how this needs exploring and ‘pushing towards a participation orientation’ (same page) rather than automatically dissing for all the reasons we know (display, regurgitation, repetition, shutting down communication etc.) Of course van Lier was not particularly talking about children but the relevance and the way it resonates with me as a teacher and trainer were and are still huge. His work will live on long I’m sure.

4 01 2013
Marisa Constantinidesm

I am so shocked to hear about this; Leo Van Lier was one of my heroes, too, and my dissertation was greatly informed and inspired by his work in ethnographic monitoring.

A great loss to our world and am sure there are many more colleagues who feel indebted to his research and the depth and breadth of research in the same way.


4 01 2013
Carol Goodey

Very sad news. I’m grateful for Leo van Lier’s influence on language learning and teaching and his insights which have informed and justified my practice, and also for the access to many of these insights that your blog and other publications have provided. May his influence continue to grow and may he rest in peace.

4 01 2013

Scott, it’s great to hear that we’ll have your blog posts to both brighten and deepen our Sunday mornings again. And sad news indeed about Leo van Lier. We have all learnt and understood so much thanks to his ‘intellectual brilliance’ and forward-thinking ideas. His influence is huge, and will live on in classrooms for many years to come.

4 01 2013

Very sad news. Reading his ‘From input to affordance: Social-interactive learning from an ecological perspective’ in the MA course was one of enlightening moments in my study. Sited him in every work. RIP, Leo Van Lier 😦

4 01 2013

I’m very happy to have the blog back and sorry for the bad news

4 01 2013

Very, very sad news. Another one of the brilliant minds in our field is taking flight. Godspeed Leo!

4 01 2013
Charles Wotton

Very sad news.

5 01 2013

Very sorry to hear the sad news, Scott. Looking forward to some excellent Sunday morning reading!

5 01 2013
Sarah Emsden-Bonfanti

As others have reiterated, sorry to hear of Leo’s passing. Hope that his legacy of finding theoretical underpinning in the practice of ELT lives on in your Sunday morning blog. Life hasn’t been quite as enlightening without them.
RIP Leo and long live your blog. Very best, as ever, Sarah

5 01 2013

Hi Scott,
A very warm welcome Scott, so good to have you back!
Even though your readers knew you were going to be away for sometime, but still they kept on revisiting the A-Z anyway! Some rereading your blogs, other taking notes, yet many, I am sure, driven by nostalgia.

5 01 2013
Scott Thornbury

Thanks to everyone for their welcoming comments – it’s good to be blogging again: of all the ways I communicate with my professional community it’s the one I enjoy most.
Thanks, too, for the kind comments re Leo van Lier. I’ll make sure his family and colleagues are provided a link: I’m sure they’ll appreciate the extent of his impact on people.
See you here tomorrow!

5 01 2013

Welcome back Scott.

Very sorry to hear sad news of Leo van Lier’s death. I met him a few times, and although we had lots of disagreements about research methods and SLA theories, he was a delight to talk to, a real humanist, and, as you say, an inspirational teacher.

Geoff Jordan

5 01 2013
youssef Tirizite

I see his name frequently quoted in your writings. He must have had a great impact on your intellectual orientation. May he rest in peace. I’m glad to hear that you are back on the blogosphere. I am looking forward to your next blog.


5 01 2013
Petra Holtkamp

Welcome back! I’m looking forward to your new blogs.

5 01 2013
Lu Bodeman

Happy you’re blogging again. And sorry about Leo’s passing.

5 01 2013
Lynn Nikkanen

So pleased to have you back blogging, Scott, and so sorry to hear about Leo. He is, and will remain, one of the most distinctive names and thinkers in our field.

5 01 2013
Maria Eugenia

no! so sorry

6 01 2013
Jeremy Harmer

Glad to have your blog back, Scott, for my money the best ELT one around. Many will be pleased!

Oh God, Leo. I hadn’t heard. Dreadful news. Not a great start to (what looks as if it is going to be) a challenging year.

The return of A-Z = a bright spot, however….


6 01 2013
Diarmuid Fogarty (@Imadruid)

Thank you for sharing this piece of news with us, Scott. I hope his family will be able to take great solace from the fact that few people in life leave such a heavy imprint on the world and that Leo’s ideas will ensure that his name lives on for many, many years.

Like many others, I am delighted to see you take up the keyboard again. As well as looking forward to the impending education, it will be great to be reunited with friends and colleagues through your blog.

6 01 2013

Really sorry to hear the sad news but glad to have you back blogging, Scott.

11 01 2013

Horrible news! A really great thinker who brought lots of very complex ideas together with more wisdom than zeal and self-promotion. A very sad loss.

11 01 2013

Leo van Lier’s work has consistently reminded me how vital and liberating the classroom environment really should be. He is one of the giants upon whose shoulders others in our field will continue to stand.

I remember how he entertained a large crowd at the IATEFL conference here in Portland, Oregon, with a quick game of peek-a-boo from behind the lectern. It was an imaginative and playful way to effectively demonstrate the nature of language learning.

Afterwards, he graciously took a moment to chat with me about Scott and Dogme, which, for me, was the highlight of it all.

Thank you, Leo van Lier.

Thanks to you, Scott, for paying homage. Glad to see your blog up and running again.

13 01 2013
Marise Lehto (@finkiwi)

Like many of the people above, Leo Van Lier has made an incredible impact on my professional development over the years. I had the great honour of meeting him in person last year at the Jyväskylä Summer University Applied Linguistics school and hung off his every word in his plenary. What a gentle, intelligent and authentic person he was. RIP Leo Van Lier

17 02 2013

The world of ELT has experienced both a loss and a gain. Sad to hear of such a beautiful human being’s passing, but delighted to see the continuation of this blog.

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