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F.L. Billows, 1992
(Photograph by Hans-Joachim Lechler)
GREAT BRITISH Harold E. Palmer * Michael West * F.L. Billows *
A.S.Hornby LANGUAGE TEACHERS
"Since 1974 IATEFL Conferences have been enlivened by a rather colourful
character who sees himself 'primarily as an entertainer' and whose
personal life would necessitate an article in itself. Though modern-day
EFL may seem well-established and flourishing, it has not always been
the case. Lionel Billows has not only seen EFL develop worldwide but has
played a significant part in that development."
"Lionel is one of those grand old characters of whom it is always said
that 'they don't make them like that any more'."
"A man of many parts: teacher, trainer, author, poet, but above all an
(From: Lionel Billows: EFL pioneer, IATEFL Newsletter, around 1980) Read the whole article.
"It was not until 1962, when I had been teaching EFL for some years in
Spain and South America, that I attended a short course in London given
by the charismatic F.L. Billows. I found this valuable and exciting, but
would not have done so to the same extent if I had not been able to
relate it to previous experience."
(John H.M. Butler in a letter to the editor of the IATEFL
Newsletter, Dec 1996/Jan 1997, p. 27)
Eine ehemalige Studentin erinnert
Im großen Hörsaal der Erziehungswissenschaftlichen
Fakultät war eines Tages eine Schulstunde zu sehen. Eine 5. Klasse sollte
die Präpositionen in, on, under, among, between, etc. verstehen und am Ende der Stunde anwenden
Mr. Billows gelang es, die ca. 20 Schüler in Bann
zu halten, obwohl ca. 200 Studenten als
Zuschauer anwesend waren. Er hüpfte auf die Schulbänke, kroch unter Tische,
arbeitete mit Gestik und Mimik - am Ende der Stunde konnte jeder
Schüler diese besagten
Präpositionen anwenden, richtig aussprechen
und Sätze damit bilden. ...
Er schauspielerte gerne ... Der Merchant of Venice wurde von ihm in allen Hauptrollen dargestellt
und interpretiert. Wir Studenten hatten im Literaturseminar unterhaltsamen
Unterricht, der uns das Englischstudium mit viel Schmunzeln verbinden
Und wer kennt einen Englischdozenten, der einer
frierenden Studentin im Hörsaal sein Hemd leiht?
Er selbst unterrichtete im Unterhemd
What a man!
... und man stelle
sich vor: In einer 7. Hauptschulklasse wurde in zwei Englischstunden pro Woche
und das ca. zehn Wochen lang der vereinfachte Merchant of Venice
gelesen. Die Schüler verkleideten sich dazu und ließen sich nach der gelungenen
macht das zum Thema ihrer Zulassungsarbeit Shakespeare in der
and other writings
Billows, F.L. (1961), The Techniques of Language Teaching, London:
Longman (unfortunately out of print -
however see note on Richard Smith doon belaa)
One of the best books that have been written about language teaching -
if not THE best. A classic - and more modern than some which have been
published since. An eye-opener for a whole generation of English
teachers all around the world. Still a must for any language teacher who
wants to enjoy teaching and make his or her learners enjoy learning. An
enjoyable and fascinating read, never dull, full of practical advice and
sound theory, bursting with life - like his author.
"On rereading Billows' The Technique of Language Teaching (1961), one is
immediately struck by its modernity and by the freshness of its
insights. Much of what has occurred in English language teaching since
it was written is foreshadowed in its pages. Billows' ideas, submerged
in the structural trough, have resurfaced in the communicative wave."
(Alan Maley (1990), Visuals and imagination, Cross Currents CVII (2), p.
"I have always thought Lionel's book was a trail-blazer and deserves not
to be forgotten. When I was starting out in 1962, it was about the only
really useful thing on the shelves. Parts of it have retained their
freshness and vitality, and still have something important to say,
especially to new teachers, I think." (Alan Maley (1998), Personal
[I have been informed by Richard Smith that 'out of print' is only half true. Dr Smith has republished the book together with Michael West's Teaching English in Difficult Circumstances (first published in 1960) in
Smith, R.C. (ed.) 2005. Teaching English as a Foreign Language, 1936-1961: Foundations of ELT, Volume 6: West and Billows. Abingdon: Routledge. ISBN: 978-0-415-29969-5]
Apart from 'the book', F.L. Billows has published
numerous articles, he has written several hundred (autobiographical)
stories, and poems in English and German. There are also several
chapters from two planned books, one on teacher training, the other on
the need for political education in schools.
Many of the stories seem suitable for classroom work, in fact, they
have been written with adult advanced learners in mind. So far they have
not been published in print. With the author's consent (given on 26
December 1997) a number of them will be published for the first time on
this Webpage - see Stories.
On 5 April, 1992, F.L. Billows (then 83) was interviewed on BBC Radio 4. Listen here to the interview. (The mp3-file was taken from a cassette which Mr Billows kindly sent me at the time.)
The Glass and not the Wine
MP3-File (13 MB - 14 minutes)
Frederic Lionel Billows
F.L. Billows lived in Neuhaus, Pegnitz (Germany).
- Born: 14th August 1909, Croydon, Surrey, England
- Educated at Monkton Combe School, Henley, near Bath, Somerset
- 1928-29: Teaching Rossall Preparatory School, Cleveleys, Lancashire
- 1929-32: University education: Christ's College, Cambridge, BA - (see "a sketch of my university life")
- 1936: MA
- 1932-34: Army Officer
- 1934-35: Advertising copy-writer
- 1935-37: Prep school teacher (English and history)
- 1938: Social work in boys' clubs
- 1938-39: Berlitz School, Mannheim, Germany
- 1939-40: Riiklik Kollej, Tallinn, Estonia, also radio broadcasts
- 1939-65: British Council Officer
- 1940-41: English teacher in Cairo, Egypt, and Larnaca, Cyprus
- 1941-43: Turkish Staff College, and Air School; textbook (English for pilots)
- 1943-44: Turkey; Director of the British Council centre in Bursa
- 1944-45: American University Beirut, Lebanon
- 1945: England; teacher at Raynes Park County School (English, German, Latin)
- 1946-48: British Council, Zürich, Switzerland; meets C.G. Jung, Bertrand Russell, Benjamin Britten
- 1948-49: British Council, Ankara, Turkey
- 1949-52: Turkey, Travelling Teacher Trainer; later official inspector of the Turkish Ministry of Education
- 1952-60: Saidapet Teacher's Colleges, Madras, India; later Education Officer of the British Council for the whole of South India
- 1956-57: Writing the first draft of "The Techniques of Language Teaching" To shorten the book took three more years.
- 1959-60: "The Madras Snowball campaign" (to prepare for the introduction of English into the Madras Primary Schools)
- 1960-61: British Council, London, Head of the English language section
- 1961-63: Uganda, University of East Africa, Makerere University College
- 1963-64: Teaching and lecturing in Bavaria, Germany - Cracow and Warsaw, Poland - Rhodesia - Bangor, Wales - Sudan - Zimbabwe. Makes four TV-films (for South East Asia)
- 1964-65: Cologne, Germany, British Council, English Language Officer
- 1965 or 1966 asked to go to Iran, but refused
- 1966-70: University of East Africa, Makerere, Uganda, Faculty of Education, Head of the Language Methods Department; Dean
- 1970-75: Germany, Pädagogische Hochschulen Heidelberg and Ludwigsburg,
University of Trier (Applied Linguistics), University of Heidelberg, University of Erlangen-Nürnberg
- 1974-: Working on a textbook (English) for a German publisher (Westermann, Braunschweig) - only two volumes were published
- 1975-80: Professor of the Didactics of the English Language and Literature, Faculty of Education, University of Erlangen-Nürnberg
- 1980 April: Retirement
- 1986-: Writing the "Stories"
- after 1989: Official advisor to a project for re-training teachers of Russian to be teachers of German in the Czech Republic
- Died: 1st April 2004, at the age of 94
(Main sources: Two Curricula Vitae; Letter to Helm von Faber, 7.3.89)
See also the detailed essay on Billows' life by Dr Richard Smith at
Don't miss Mark Andrews' Edublog on Billows, his book and his admirers:
Between 1974 and 1995 F.L. Billows repeatedly gave
lectures and demonstrations at the Reutlingen and Schwäbisch
Gmünd Colleges - fascinating and inspiring students and teachers
alike. The last time he came to Schwäbisch Gmünd was in June 1995.
(see the invitation poster)
Last updated 25.9.2013