Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Alexander Guiora - Requiescat in pace

Last month the field of language teaching and language sciences lost a great friend, colleague, researcher and theorist, Alexander Guiora, retired Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan. To those of us in English language teaching, his early work into the concepts of empathy, "language ego" and second language identity, the famous "alcohol" study and others, were foundational in keeping mind and the psychological self foregrounded in the field. As Executive Editor of the journal, Language Learning, he was instrumental in elevating it to the place it holds today, the standard for research publication by which all others are to be measured.

Working with him, doing research as a doctoral student was a unique experience. His research group, composed of faculty and graduate students from several disciplines over the years, met every Friday morning. There was always a project underway or on the drawing boards. Several important, seminal publications resulted. Shonny was an extraordinary man. I recently shared the following with his family:

I think the great lesson we learned from him early on was how to be brutally honest--and yet still love and respect our colleagues unconditionally. All of us, recalling when were newbie grad students, "cherish" memories of being jumped all over for making a really stupid mistake-- which we would surely never commit again! And then, minutes later, he could just as well say something genuinely complimentary about an idea or phrasing in a piece that we were responsible for. Talk about cultivating and enhancing "language researcher ego"! He taught us to think and argue persuasively from valid research, how to not take criticism of our work, personally. Few of us did not develop with him a lasting passion for collaborative research.


  1. Alexander (Shonny) seems like a wonderful mentor! It must be difficult to blend brutal honesty with genuine compliment in a way which does not crush the students. What a legacy - not so much the Journal (although that also is great) but the students into whose lives he built the keys to language research and development!

  2. No doubt, he was very proud of the legacy that you continue in fostering that passion for collaborative research!

  3. Here is the University of Michigan piece: http://ummentalhealth.info/2015/11/02/the-u-m-department-of-psychiatry-mourns-the-passing-of-alexander-shonny-guiora-phd-professor-emeritus-of-psychiatry/