2021-06-20-Ecological Language Education Michael Brown

Ecological Language Education
by Michael Brown

Climate change, sustainability, and other “environmental issues” have become perennial topics in language education classrooms. The proportion of students who have not had units or lessons based on such issues is ever dwindling. Yet, looking around the web, most resources and discussions for teaching these topics isolate such content into an “environmental niche” and fail to link the content to social, economic, and political realities. This contributes to at least two problems with how ecology-related topics are often presented in language education contexts: 1) Such topics might be raised in the language classroom often, but frequently in only a narrow and/or superficial manner, and 2) In many cases students have heard these things before and may be bored by the repetition or even turned off by the sense that they are being dictated or preached to. Alternative approaches are sorely needed that do not wall ecology off from other topics and that frame the material in ways that appeal to students’ lives, experiences, interests, and intellects.

This talk will introduce ecolinguistics, a set of practices for evaluating and analyzing language and how it interacts with ecological matters, and explore how ecolinguistics can aid language educators in thinking about creative ways to incorporate matters of ecology into their pedagogical practices. Furthermore, the notion of an “ecological-turn” in language education will be discussed and how such a “turn” might might manifest in both classroom practices and the broader social and professional structures in which language educators find themselves. Two core principles that will be emphasized throughout the talk are that ecology-related topics should not generally be thought of as isolated or niche topics and that social activity always has an ecological dimension. The talk will not, however, only focus on abstract ideas such as “ecological thinking” or the nature of an “ecological turn”, but will emphasize, during both ‘presentation’ and ‘discussion’ segments, practical ways to promote ecology and sustainability in the domain of language education.

Michael Brown is a lecturer in the English Language Institute at Kanda University of International Studies and a Ph.D. student at the University of South Africa. He is also a volunteer organizer with 350 Japan, a climate justice-focused NGO. He lives with his wife and two young daughters in Higashimurayama, Tokyo.

Zoom link will be provided on the Gunma JALT Facebook Group

June 20th, 2021
2 to 4:30PM