It is with great sadness that the Editors of the Journal of Home Language Research note the passing of Professor Bernard Spolsky who was one of the members of the Editorial Board of our journal. Bernard was a giant both in terms of his academic contribution as well as his notable warm-hearted personality.
From the academic perspective Bernard was a leader in many aspects of bilingualism, most especially the fields of language revitalisation and language policy. Although he wrote on many language situations he was particularly noted for his work on two languages which were very important to his own identity: Hebrew and Māori.
Bernard was born into a post-war Jewish family and community in Wellington, New Zealand. He encountered the Māori language when he was teaching English at a high school in a predominantly Māori area after finishing his undergraduate degree and a teaching qualification. In observing his Māori students he realised that those who could speak Māori tended to do better academically. It was this experience which began to shape many of the ideas which Bernard would later research and write about in great depth.
After this brief teaching stint Bernard travelled to the new state of Israel where he observed the very rich multilingual environment which included Yiddish, Hebrew and Arabic. He would also go on to write about these languages as well as the many aspects of cross-cultural communication. After doctoral study at Montreal University Bernard returned to Israel in 1980 to become a professor at Bar-Ilan University. Over the years he kept up his contact with New Zealand where he was warmly respected by those involved in the burgeoning language revitalisation movement there.
Perhaps Bernard's most influential work was his 2004 book Language Policy, published by Cambridge University Press which has the distinction of being cited nearly 4,000 times. Notably this seminal work was published after his retirement in 2000. But this wasn't the end of the story, he continued to work on his ideas and in 2021, just a year before his death at age 90, he published Rethinking Language Policy with Edinburgh University Press.
Those who met Bernard could not help but be impressed by his personality; he was gentle, open, warm, and generous with an understated demeanor which encouraged people to interact with him. Even in retirement as a Professor Emeritus Bernard continued to travel to attend conferences, keen to interact with academics and the latest research. In this respect he was an exemplar of academic collegialism.
For all these valued contributions he will be greatly missed.
Haere atu rā, e te rangatira, ki te okiokinga o ō tūpuna. E kore koe e warewaretia.
Esteemed colleague, we bid you farewell, as you travel to the resting place of your ancestors. You will not be forgotten.
Professor Jeanette King, University of Canterbury, New Zealand