Brief biography

Piers Messum

At school, I took mathematics and science A-levels. I studied mathematics for one year at Clare College, Cambridge and then changed to law for two years, graduating in 1983.

I worked as a computer programmer in London for 18 months, then spent 18 months in Japan teaching English at a boys high school in Osaka. Returning to London, I became a software salesman at Comshare Ltd, selling financial modelling tools to banks, insurance companies etc.

In 1993 I decided to investigate Caleb Gattegno's ideas on teaching and learning, following my experience of learning Japanese by the Silent Way and attending various seminars given by Gattegno and others. I started to teach English again, using the Silent Way, doing my best to subordinate my teaching to the learning of my students. As I explain in appendix B of my thesis, a combination of Gattegno's ideas and my own experience lead me firstly to question whether children really learn to pronounce by imitation, and secondly to see that more plausible alternative mechanisms of replication exist.

In 1995 I began to evaluate these ideas more rigorously in cross-disciplinary PhD research at University College London. I was supervised by Michael Ashby, a phonetician, and Brenda Cross, a respiratory physiologist. During my studies I continued to teach English, including a year spent teaching English phonetics at La Sorbonne Nouvelle (Paris III). I also worked for Laryngograph Ltd, a company that produces equipment for voice research and the diagnosis of speech pathologies.

I submitted my PhD thesis in June 2006. It was examined by Mike MacMahon (Glasgow) and Marilyn Vihman (York). They approved a revised version in April 2007.

Most recently, I have set up two companies, with Roslyn Young. The first, Duo Flumina Ltd, publishes books about work done within Gattegno's Science of Education. See for information about our first book, a summary of Gattegno's model.

The second company, Pronunciation Science Ltd, publishes materials to support teaching English pronunciation and does teacher training. See