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Remembering Mike Long

Mike long talking with someone at the Second Language Research Forum conference in 2010It is with deep sadness that we mark the passing of Mike Long, who died on February 21st. Mike was a Professor of Second Language Acquisition at the University of Maryland for the past 16 years. 

Mike came to the University of Maryland in 2005 to lead the newly unified School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, and to found a new graduate program in SLA. His arrival was also closely tied with the growth of the Center for Advanced Study of Language (CASL), and he played a key role in the emergence of the broad UMD language community that we know today. A generation of SLA graduates owe their success to Mike’s mentorship directly or to the rich environment for SLA research that he helped to put in place.

Mike was a towering figure in the field of SLA, with an unusual ability to straddle the boundary between cognitive science and pedagogical research. He was especially influential in the area of Task Based Language Teaching (TBLT), and received worldwide recognition for developing the theoretical core for the field. His work was enormously influential in his field, with 17 of his publications garnering over 1,000 citations. He was rarely shy about his opinions, but always modest about his achievements. His colleague Prof Kira Gor said: “Mike combined intellectual rigor with extreme modesty—he would never bring up his enormous impact on the field of SLA to argue his position. He was always energized by talking shop with his students, peers, and everybody interested in SLA.”

Prior to coming to Maryland, Mike spent over 20 years at the University of Hawaii, where he was instrumental in developing one of the world’s leading SLA programs. Prior to that he did his first degree in law at the University of Birmingham in the UK. After that he earned a postgraduate teaching certificate at the University of London, then an MA in Applied Linguistics from the University of Essex, before moving to the US for a PhD at UCLA, followed by a brief time as a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Kira Gor said: “We are struggling to accept that we will not hear his witty commentary on all things in life, from current events to art, soccer, movies, food … He had a brilliant way of talking about everything that mattered to him and a unique talent for appreciating life. And above all, a lot of generosity, in spirit and in action.”

We are grateful to have had Mike as a colleague for so many years, and we send our condolences to his many family, friends, colleagues, and students.