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Peter Fabian 1919-2015

The London School of English is very sorry to announce the death of Peter Fabian. Peter was the principal of the school from 1960 until the 1980s, and the owner until his final retirement in 1997. Some long-standing friends may remember seeing him at our centenary celebrations in 2012. He was 95.

When Peter acquired the school it was a large general purpose operation near Oxford Circus. Feeling that its size and its style were unsuited to effective learning, he radically downsized and moved to Holland Park Gardens in 1969. He was a maverick, a visionary, a bit eccentric, passionate. Long before they became the norm we prioritised oral skills and the use of everyday language and situations. He was a strong believer in the importance of learning by doing, and indeed certain activities deliberately removed the teacher altogether, since Peter believed that students could quite often learn better without one.

His beliefs were partly based on his personal history. Peter was German, born in Berlin just after the First World War. Detesting the Nazis he left Germany as a teenager and moved to England and passionately assimilated into life here. Studying French and German at Cambridge after the war he rebelled against the highly academic, literature-based approach he found there. He retained a life-long aversion to too much formality in language acquisition.

These days Peter’s views are no longer controversial, but we retain many of his core priorities: language must be real, and taught in ways and situations that relate to real life and real needs; oral skills, and listening in particular, are fundamental; you learn by doing things, not by being told about them; an organisation must trust and reward its staff.  

We honour his memory and take inspiration from his life and his work.

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