Environmental English looks at English and nature

Front page of Linguetic website

There are thousands of business English courses, to support industry.
It's time we had more environmental English courses, to support nature.

Environmental English has some specialist vocabulary, but English is English. The grammar and syntax are always the same.

An environmental English course can be:
For anybody with an interest in nature and the environment, because a motivating course is more effective.
For national park staff, to help them welcome visitors. That's like 'English for Tourism'.
For people who intend to study biology, zoology or environmental sciences at university. That's like 'English for Academic Purposes'.



Course themes are motivating

Learning English should be fun. Yes, really.

I was a lawyer for 20 years, I've been a teacher for 5 years, and I know the difference between learning that's fun and learning that isn't!

Every good English teacher wants his or her students to communicate with confidence. That means finding something they want to talk about; a class of silent students is probably not learning to communicate. That's why every good English language course has a course theme to motivate the students. If you have a great theme, everybody in class suddenly wants to talk.

The usual course theme is "general English", with lesson themes like holidays, friends, FaceBook, music, health, sport and leisure interests. Then there's "business English", with lesson themes like negotiation, contracts, disputes, deadlines, meetings, HR and e-mailing. These don't motivate everybody.

The lesson themes of an "environmental English" course are things like identifying trees, counting beach invertebrates, camouflage and hibernation, metamorphosis and microclimates, macrophotography, eco-blogging, and health & safety in the real world. Does that sound more interesting?

Most English courses (general, business, tourism, etc) have the same grammar, the same pronunciation, the same skills, and basically the same vocabulary. It's the course themes that are different.


Compare business English with environmental English

The point of any English course is for you to go home feeling that you can communicate in English.

There are three differences between a business English course and an environmental English course:

  • First, about 50 words of vocabulary. We don't need "quorum" and "turnover", they don't need "habitat" and "diet". However, business speaks in metaphors, and many business expressions come from environmental English or are shared with it. And an environmental NGO has the same communication needs as commerce and industry - meetings, minutes, reports, emails, telephoning, presentations, compliance, impact assessments, risks and opportunities.
  • Second, real activities. An environmental English course can have real, useful activities where a general English or business English course has unreal activities. There are very few real activities that a language school can use with business students during a two-week course. Market research is one. Otherwise, schools can offer only unreal activities such as role plays, presentations of imaginary products, and debates on priorities for non-existent construction projects. However, during a two-week environmental English course it's possible for learners to complete real projects that are useful for the community, for environmental science, and for the natural environment. And they're great for your English. If you think "oh, no ...." when you hear a teacher say, "I want you to imagine you're a ..." then you'll like doing real activities. Real is more motivating than make-believe.
  • Third, the values that the course promotes.


Course values

Language is culture. Everything we say, and everything we write, develops certain values. The values of a business English course are the values of business and industry: The desire to get more resources, to make those resources more productive, to generate more wealth, to have more personal power and more money to spend. Efficiency and competition built the world we live in today. However, it's now clear that we need a new economic model for the future, and that means new personal values.

There's another point, too. We live in an urbanised world. Many people today have never touched an animal, climbed a tree, or gone more than 200 metres from a car or building. Many people have never used a tool that doesn't have a keyboard. They can't maintain their home or repair their car. Naturally, they feel anxiety or fear about unfamiliar things, things that are beyond their control. Many people now feel dislike, disgust, fear and anger when they encounter animals, bugs, trees and the rest of the natural world.

An environmental English course promotes the following values: Seeing nature (we usually walk past things without really seeing them); enjoying nature; understanding more about it; understanding our relationship with it; and understanding the impact of human activities. Result: More interest, more tolerance, less anxiety, more people who think the natural environment is important, less loss of biodiversity, and a better world for our grandchildren.

" We love the things we marvel at, and we protect the things we love. " - Jacques Cousteau


How to study Environmental English

If you like the articles on OnePlanet, an environmental English course may be the most motivating way for you to improve your English.

Where can you do an environmental English course? Well, you can study with me, if you like.
To find out more about my English courses, please visit my Linguetic website.

Linguetic offers the Wild English summer school on an island in Scotland.

Sea, sky and forest; eagles, seals and deer; and adult learners who are all interested in nature. And they're all nice people, too.

Linguetic puffin logo

On the Wild English course, we spend half the day "in the field". Sometimes it really is a field, and at other times it's a beach, or woodland, or a marsh, or a cliff. We observe wildlife and we collect data for "citizen science" projects. Also, we get some fresh air and exercise. That's better than sitting in a classroom all day, and a total change of scene is very good for your English.

This is an intensive English course. We use English - and nothing but English - when we're in the field. We spend the other half of the day in class, where we discuss project methods, we consider health & safety, we blog our results, and we do traditional lessons as well (intensive grammar, pronunciation, etc).

It's fun; it's fast (you do it right because you don't have time to think "Am I doing this right?"); it makes us think about the environment and learn amazing things about it; and the data from our citizen science projects is useful for real scientists and for the community.