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John Trim, 1924 - 2013

last modified Mar 19, 2013 04:49 PM

John Trim, the founder of the Department of Linguistics at the University of Cambridge and its first Director from 1958-1978, died peacefully on 19 January at the age of 88.

Among the many achievements in a long and distinguished career he was Director of the Centre for Information on Language Teaching from 1978-1987, and was one of the co-developers of the now widely adopted Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, which provides benchmarks for the teaching and assessment of languages. He was also one of the founding members of the British Association of Applied Linguistics, of which he was Chair from 1985-88.

In Linguistics in Britain: Personal Stories (edited by Keith Brown and Vivien Law) he writes of his time at the Department of Linguistics in Cambridge; “In general, I tried during the 1970s to develop the Department as a ‘troika’ of theoretical linguistics, phonetics and applied linguistics. I was and remain convinced that theory without practice becomes formalistic and sterile, and that practice without theory becomes dull, stagnant routine. […....] I also tried to cater for a wide diversity of interests (the 11 PhD students I supervised worked in very different fields) and to encourage the interaction of students both undergraduate and postgraduate across Faculty and disciplinary boundaries. I put the whole of my energy into creating a Department which would be a true academic community, within which young scholars could interact and develop in an atmosphere of keen, but many-sided intellectual inquiry, and to act as a focus for concern with language across the University.”

His influence can be seen across the University today, from the "many sided intellectual enquiry" in the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, to the collaborative research carried out by the partners in the English Profile Project, and in the work of the University of Cambridge Language Centre (which houses the John Trim Centre, a resource centre for independent learning).

A series of interviews with John Trim made in 2011 by Nick Saville (Director, Research and Validation, Cambridge ESOL) is available on YouTube.