Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Obituary - John Trim, 1924-2013: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Obituary - John Trim, 1924-2013: News

Article excerpt

Unlike many of his contemporaries, John Trim saw language as a tool for communication and cross-cultural understanding. The Cambridge academic's legacy can be seen in classrooms across the country.

John Leslie Melville Trim was born in October 1924. An East London scholarship boy, he developed a keen interest in German language and literature, going on to study the subject at University College London (UCL). After the Second World War he felt that an ability to speak German was vital if a new Europe was to be built. Only by comprehending each other's languages would people be able to understand one another.

In 1949 he was offered a position researching and teaching phonetics. After nine years at UCL he became a phonetics lecturer at the University of Cambridge. When he retired in 1978 he was director of the Cambridge linguistics department.

But he also had a significant impact on language learning in schools. When he began his career, languages were taught purely as an accomplishment. Dr Trim, however, felt that their role should be communication and cross- cultural understanding. This attitude trickled down into schools and colleges.

From 1971 to 1997, he was a leading member of the Council of Europe's modern languages project, mapping out the stages of language acquisition. According to his framework, language learners progressed in stages, from basic to proficient user. Translated into 30 languages, this structure enabled teachers to plan, teach and assess more effectively.

With twinkling eyes and broad smile, he made a point of taking the same time to listen to inexperienced students as to eminent colleagues. …

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