Now that the work and the exhilaration of TIRF’s spring meeting is over, I can pause and reflect a bit on what has happened.

We have just finished a year-long celebration of TIRF’s founding. It was voted into existence by the TESOL Board of Directors in June 1998, and over the next several months, the original TIRF Trustees worked to get the Foundation recognized as an official charitable organization under U.S. tax laws. That status was granted in 1999 – twenty years ago. tells me that the origin of the word twenty comes from these sources: “before 900; Middle English; Old English twēntig; cognate with Old Frisian tw(e)intich, Old High German zweinzug (German zwanzig ), Gothic twai tigjus two tens.”

Thus, the word twenty has a much longer history than does the Foundation itself.

Think about it. What was the world like when you turned twenty? Where were you? What were you doing?

I was a sophomore in college when I was twenty years old, studying English literature and planning on a career as a high school English language arts teacher. A few years later, an immersion experience in Uijongbu, Korea opened my eyes to the amazing experience of learning a language through naturalistic experiences rather than formal classroom instruction. For the first time in my life, I had to get food, arrange transportation, and interact with my neighbors in a language in which I was illiterate and had only the most rudimentary of skills.

At the same time, I was teaching remedial reading to U.S. Army soldiers who had not graduated from high school. That was also an eye-opening experience, particularly since I was not trained as a literacy teacher. As much as I love Shakespeare, knowledge of the plays and sonnets was not very helpful in that context.

That year in Korea made me change my career path and enroll in a degree program to learn to teach English as a second language. I have never regretted that change (though I still enjoy English literature). As an MA candidate I discovered that research was just as exciting as teaching, and that these two essential pursuits could (and should!) work together to inform language learning.

Recounting this bit of my own history makes me wonder what changes lie ahead for TIRF, now that the Foundation is twenty years old. I hope that the next decade will see increased financial stability for TIRF, as well as increased outreach and influence.

While in Atlanta earlier this month at TIRF’s anniversary events, which are detailed in this March issue of TIRF Today, the Foundation’s leaders shared ways in which TIRF is working to achieve financial stability and increase its outreach and influence. One way to help achieve these goals is through offering professional services to individuals and organizations in language education.

Via these new activities, TIRF is offering services such as program reviews for international language centers, speaker services for like-minded organizations, professional development opportunities for language educators around the world, and others. These programs are guided by our research-oriented mission, consistent with our vision, and will help to ensure TIRF’s viability for decades to come.

While the past twenty years of TIRF may have been something of a coming-of-age experience for the Foundation, I am steadfast in my belief that TIRF is positioned to blossom in ways so many individuals do in their thirties and forties. I invite you to get involved in our work and be part of the TIRF community for decades to come.

As Dr. Seuss pointed out, it’s exciting to imagine the places we’ll go!