As many people will be by now aware, Mike Long passed away in February of this year. Mike was one of the most celebrated of applied linguists, an inspiration to many colleagues and young researchers. He had been Professor in the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at the University of Maryland since 2003. Previously he held appointments at the University of Hawai’i and the University of Pennsylvania. He published widely in applied linguistics generally, but perhaps is most well-known for his work in second language acquisition. He is the author of the highly influential Interaction Hypothesis, a theoretical framework which has stimulated a huge volume of research advancing both second language theory-building and practice. He also made leading contributions to our understanding of age effects in second language acquisition, needs analysis, and task-based learning and teaching (TBLT). Indeed, he was an inaugural recipient of the Distinguished Achievement Award awarded by the International Association for Task-based Language Teaching (IATBLT).
Websites honouring Mike’s considerable contributions are appearing. In this short piece we do not want to duplicate what is contained in these sites. We would only like to celebrate where it all started. Although Mike was frequently thought of as an American applied linguist, he was British, and his early career developed in the UK. He started with a law degree at the University of Birmingham. Then, making one of the career switches endemic to our field, he became interested in language teaching. He completed a PGCE (Post-Graduate Certificate in Education) at the Institute of Education (now part of UCL) in what was then called the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) department. Indeed, that course, in addition to providing his first exposure to applied linguistics and teacher education, led to one of the most important geographical loves of his life – Catalonia, generally, and Barcelona, in particular. The Institute organised a teaching practice in Barcelona for PGCE students at that time. Mike later did an MA in Applied Linguistics at the University of Essex. Amongst others, he was taught by Dick Allwright, who has spoken about how meticulously prepared he always was. Subsequently, Mike taught in Mexico, and from there went on to complete a doctorate at UCLA. Then he took up his North-American career.
Although Mike spent most of his professional life in the US, he retained some good memories of the UK. As a Londoner, he fondly remembered art galleries, the extensive range of Indian restaurants, good football matches, and excellent theatre. After a recent visit to London, he talked with friends about spending 1.5 days at the National Gallery and enjoying some real BBC TV, hard copies of the Guardian, and a Crystal Palace-Manchester City game. We also remember him here with great fondness and respect; his legacy is enormous. His contributions continue to serve as an inspiration for the research of several members of staff and students at the Institute. We work on topics such as interaction and corrective feedback, task-based language teaching, and age effects. There are few sessions (if any) in our module on second language acquisition, where his work is not mentioned. We will cherish his memory and do our best to carry forward his immense legacy.
We encourage you to explore this site honouring his career: iatblt.wixsite.com/mikelong/
Andrea Révész and Peter Skehan