Leo van Lier: A scholar and teacher, a mentor and friend

Carolin Fuchs

Abstract


A scholar and teacher
In the summer of 1996, I started the TESOL program at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, and Leo was my professor in a number of courses, such as Language Analysis and Classroom Observations. His book Interaction in the Language Curriculum: Awareness, Autonomy, and Authenticity, which became known to us as the “AAA book,” had just come out. He quickly captured us with his wit, fairness, and wisdom. As a novice teacher from abroad, I was clueless about his impact on the field at the time.
In addition to drawing sentence trees in his Language Analysis class, Leo introduced us to his Introducing Language Awareness book, which everyone loved. By means of Leo’s “Grammar Stick de Luxe,” we rated native-speaker sentences on a scale in terms of what would be grammatically acceptable in what contexts: “It’s ten minutes in front of eight o’clock,” “There’s a big meeting ongoing right now.” Or: “The sporting neneks sang and ‘mengalaid’ through the night” (van Lier, 1995, p. 85). It was hilarious and eye-opening in that this went beyond the grammar books I had seen before, and it stuck with me. To this day, I still get giggles from my students whenever I introduce them to this exercise.
Leo’s curiosity and playfulness as a teacher were contagious. He was never dismissive of our questions or suggestions, and there was never a bad idea. He supported each and every one as fully as he could. I was blessed to have him as a post-graduation mentor.

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