As parents, we want the best for our children, including a strong education that prepares them for a world with many ecological problems. At Helen Doron English, we teach English and help students care about the environment. In this blog post, we’ll talk about eco-linguistics, which studies how language and the environment are connected.
Language influences how we think and act towards the ecosystem. This can sometimes cause harmful effects. For example, we use words like “beef” and “poultry” when talking about food from animals. This makes it easier to forget that these foods come from living creatures, which can lead to harmful farming practices.
In this post, we’ll demonstrate how learning English and caring about the environment is important for building a better future.
Eco-Linguistics: Connecting Language and Environment
Eco-linguistics looks at how language affects the way we think about nature. It’s important to choose the right words when talking about the environment.
Researchers have found that places with many different languages often have a large variety of plants and animals. Some native cultures have special ways of talking about nature, showing their close relationship with the environment.
One of the most well-known examples in eco-linguistics is the idea that Eskimos have many words for “snow”. While this claim has been debated and may be oversimplified, it still shows how language and the environment can influence each other. The numerous snow-related terms in Inuit and Yupik languages highlight the interconnectedness between language and the environment, which is a key focus of eco-linguistics.
To be responsible world citizens, we must understand and care about nature. Realising that all living things are connected, we can become more caring and responsible for our world.
Greenspeak: How We Talk About the Environment
“Greenspeak” is the language we use when talking about environmental issues. Sometimes, the words we use can make the problem worse. For example, talking about “fighting pollution” or “battling global warming” may suggest that humans are not responsible for these harmful acts against nature and that somehow nature is working against us, and therefore we must fight it. When we use more accurate terms like “stop industrial pollution”, we are being more honest about the problem’s source and also give people a chance to come together and help solve such ecological issues.
Our language choice has skewed our thinking about human advancement’s cost. We often think that “economic growth” is good because growth – like a blooming flower or a towering tree – is good. It’s natural. But when we apply this term to economics, it can lead to harmful effects on nature. Our society grows at the expense of rainforests, blue oceans, and thriving wildlife.
How we talk and think about the environment includes metaphors we use to describe nature. Dome people talk about nature as if it is a machine. This means they believe we can control nature and replace parts of it, just like a machine. However, this idea can lead to harm because it might make us think we can use nature however we want without facing any consequences.
A better metaphor is considering nature as a “web of life” to remind us that everything in nature is connected, like the threads in a web. When we do something that hurts one part of nature, it can also affect all the other parts. A great example of this is the problem we have right now with bees. Bees are very important in nature because they help plants grow. They do this by moving pollen from one plant to another, which is called pollination. This process is vital for trees, flowers, and many of our food crops. Unfortunately, bees are disappearing because of problems like habitat loss, climate change, and harmful chemicals. If we lose bees, it won’t be good for all the plants they pollinate and the animals that depend on those plants. This shows just how interconnected everything in nature is.
English is a global language, and as such, it can change how people think about the environment. It can help us work together to find better ways to discuss and solve environmental issues. We must start with our young to change how people think and speak in English. At Helen Doron English, we teach students ages 0-19 to use language that encourages teamwork and community-based efforts to protect our shared habitat. This helps them become better advocates for a sustainable future.
Using English to Help the Environment
Helen Doron English students can use their English skills to connect with others around the world and work together to protect the environment. Learning English allows them to read, research, share ideas, and work with people from different backgrounds. They can become leaders who can make a difference in the world.
For example, our Teen English classes include a course titled “It’s Always Debatable,” where students explore topics like fines for not recycling, becoming vegan, and having pets. By teaching students the art of debate, we equip them with the skills needed to advocate for values they acquire during their time at Helen Doron English, including environmental protection.
Greta Thunberg is a good example of how English (and debate) skills can help spread an important message. By speaking English, Greta has inspired people worldwide to take action to protect the world. Our students can do the same by joining international discussions on environmental issues.
Teaching English and Environmental Values
At Helen Doron English, our environmentally-focused learning materials and activities integrate environmental protection with language learning. Students are introduced to eco-conscious vocabulary and phrases, enabling them to express their concerns and advocate for change.
For instance, our nature-themed “World Of Wonders” programme is designed to help learners develop English language skills while instilling a sense of responsibility towards the environment. By incorporating environmental themes into engaging and interactive lessons, we aim to cultivate a generation of environmentally-aware English speakers.
Helen Doron English students also participate in initiatives that raise awareness about endangered species, such as the orangutan conservation campaign. Through these projects, students learn about the importance of protecting the environment while improving their English language skills. In Italy, our students participated in a national “Green Future Day”, an event that teaches them about eco-friendly practices.
At Helen Doron English, we believe in eco-linguistics’ power to help create a greener future. We want to teach a generation of students who care about protecting the environment and can speak English well.
We use a curriculum that emphasises environmental themes, eco-friendly vocabulary, and critical thinking about ecological metaphors. This helps our students develop the language skills they need to advocate for change. By giving them the tools to express their concerns and the knowledge to make responsible choices, we help them become active participants in the global effort to protect our planet.
Our dedication to eco-linguistics shows our belief in the power of language to create positive change. By teaching our students about environmental protection and sustainability, we’re confident they will grow into responsible, eco-conscious adults working towards a brighter, greener future for everyone.
5 English Phrases That Downplay the Human Connection to Nature
Language is important for shaping our attitudes towards the environment. We should think about English words or phrases that make it harder to see the connection between humans and nature. For example, the term “Tree Hugger” can be used positively or negatively, depending on how it’s used.
By understanding the different meanings of words like “Tree Hugger,” we can choose language that shows respect and a positive attitude towards the environment and those who work to protect it. Using terms like “nature lover,” “wildlife enthusiast,” “eco-friendly,” or “friend of the earth” can help change the way people think about the environment and promote a more responsible attitude.
1. "Natural Resources":
This term frames nature as a collection of commodities for human use. An alternative term could be "natural gifts" or "earth's bounty," which emphasises the interconnectedness between humans and nature and encourages gratitude and stewardship.
2. "Battle Global Warming":
This is a commonly used phrase, but it may not be the best approach to the issue. The term "battle" suggests a combative stance against an opponent, when in reality, global warming is a complex and multifaceted issue that requires collaboration and innovative solutions. Instead, we could use more proactive terms, such as "solving global warming" or "slowing down global warming." By emphasising the need for solutions and progress, we can shift the conversation towards positive action and inspire individuals to take steps towards a more sustainable future.
3. "Man vs. Wild":
This phrase often reinforces the idea that humans oppose the natural world, leading to a mindset of competition and conflict. Using more positive alternatives can promote harmony and interconnectedness between humans and nature. Expressions like "Nature Lover" emphasise the importance of respecting and caring for the environment and its inhabitants.
4."Taming the Wilderness":
This phrase suggests that nature is something wild and unruly that needs to be controlled by humans. Instead, we could use terms like "embracing the wild" or "living in harmony with nature" to emphasise the importance of appreciating and adapting to the natural world rather than trying to dominate it.
This term implies that nature is an adversary to be vanquished by human ingenuity. An eco-friendlier alternative might be “coexist with nature”, "working with nature" or "partnering with nature," which encourages collaboration and mutual support between humans and the environment.
By adopting alternative terms that foster an eco-friendlier perception, we can support the development of a healthier and more sustainable relationship with the natural world, both in our everyday lives and in the values, we instil in our children through education.
Abram, David (1996): The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World. pg.267. New York, Pantheon Books.
Boas, F. (1911). Handbook of American Indian Languages Part 1. Washington: Government Printing Office.
Crystal, D. (2003). English as a global language (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Halliday, Michael A. (April 1990). New Ways of Meaning: the challenge to applied linguistics (Speech)
Hulme, M. (2009). Why we disagree about climate change: Understanding controversy, inaction and opportunity. Cambridge University Press.
Mühlhäusler, P. (1996). Linguistic ecology: Language change and linguistic imperialism in the Pacific region. Routledge.
Nettle, D., & Romaine, S. (2000). Lost Words/Lost Worlds. In Vanishing Voices: The Extinction of the World’s Languages (pp. 94-137). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Stibbe, Arran (2021) Eco-linguistics: language, ecology and the stories we live by (second edition).
Thunberg, G. (2018, December 13). You are stealing our future: Greta Thunberg, 15, condemns the world’s inaction on climate change. The Guardian. Retrieved from :