Professor Michael Sharwood-Smith (European Second Language Assocation Distinguished Scholar)

Honorary Professorial Fellow


Educated at King's School Canterbury, England,  he graduated with M.A.(Hons) in French and German at St Andrews University, Scotland. He taught English as a Foreign Language for one year at the Centre Pédagogique Régional in Montpellier, France and then, for two years years, with intensive pre- and in-service teacher training, for the British Centre, Sweden (secondary school and Folkuniversitet adult education courses), did a postgraduate Diploma in Applied Linguistics at Edinburgh University, Scotland in 1979/70 and taught English as a Foreign Language and Applied Linguistics for 4 years as British Council Senior Lecturer at the Uniwersytet im A. Mickiewicza, in Poznan, Poland, where he set up a four-year writing programme and completed his PhD in English Linguistics on the psychologically motivated design of pedagogical grammars illustrating this with an account of future refernce in English. During this early period, his publications mostly covered such applied topics as pedagogical grammar, the teaching of writing and (applied) contrastive linguistic studies.

Between 1975 and 1999, he worked in the Netherlands, at the English Department of the Faculty of Letters at the University of Utrecht There he taught courses in English Language, and second language acquisition theory and also at University College, Utrecht (part of Utrecht University providing three-year B.Sc and B.A programmes entirely in English). During this period, he began publishing on topics in the new field of second language acquisition and founded, together with James Pankhurst, two international journals, the Interlanguage Studies Bulletin, Utrecht and Second Language Research), the last one fully refereed and ranked in the top category of international linguistic journals,  ran a long series of international research symposia (LARS), became Covener of the AILA Scientific Commission on Second Language Acquisition, Vice-President and then Secretary of the European Second Language Association  (EUROSLA) and completed well over a hundred publications in TEFL, applied linguistics and theoretical second language acquisition including 10 books, seven of them as editor. In the absence of a non-regional international association of second language acquisition, he  set up the web-based International Commission on Second Language Acquisition.

From 1st September 1999 to Dec 31st, 2009, he worked at the School of Management and Languages, Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland.  In 2003, together with Antonella Sorace (University of Edinburgh), he organised the 13th international EUROSLA conference in Edinburgh. In 2010, he was appointed Professor Emeritus at Heriot-Watt University, and then Honorary Professorial Fellow of the Moray House School of Education at Edinburgh University. Between 2011 and 2014 he was also Professor Ordinarius at the English department of the Social Academy of Sciences (SAN) in Warsaw, Poland.

Research summary

His major research interests are in cognitive processes underlying second language development and bi-/multilingualism in adults and childen with a focus on broadening and enriching the conceptual basis for empirical research in multilingual ability.  


He has also been involved as UK Principal Investigator in pioneering international IT project on distance learning, ALLES, and its follow-up project AUTOLEARN, both funded by the European Union. The UK contribution to a further follow-up project (ICE3:Integrating CALL in Early Education Environments) is currently being run from this department (Principal Investigator: Richard Easton). 


Mike Sharwood Smith is founding editor of Second Language Research, and its precursor the Interlanguage Studies Bulletin

Current research interests

MODULAR ON-LINE GROWTH & USE OF LANGUAGE He is currently working on a long term project with John Truscott (National University of Tsing Hua, Taiwan) developing their crossdisciplinary framework called the Modular Cognition Framework with special reference to diverse aspects of language acquisition and language processing . This has already produced a range of publications on different topics (references and downloads available on the MCF website at Specific research interests include consciousness (attention, noticing) and its influence on learning, crosslinguistic influence in acquisition and performance, language attrition (loss), language processing in bi/multilinguals, cognitive processing in general.

Past research interests

Developing intelligent feedback inf computer-aided language instruction