Climate Change and Foreign Languages
Climate change is the most serious threat humankind has ever faced. It has a number of impacts on humans and natural environments today and particularly in the future. Climate change is due to human activities but a severe catastrophe can still be avoided. Mitigation requires global cooperation and sharing knowledge, skills and strategies. In this, fluency in foreign languages is a valuable asset. Also, media literacy plays an important role in becoming an active citizen, and stories about climate change provide excellent material for practicing a critical approach.
Language Teachers as Climate Change Educators
Language teachers convey ideas through texts, recordings and conversations. This means they play an equally important role as climate change educators as their colleagues. Taking climate change into account in the teaching strategy and encouraging students to discuss topics related to climate change can be effective tools to make a difference in the classroom. Honing conversation skills and putting them into practice helps students to become active citizens and have their say.
Climate Change will be Solved Through International Cooperation
Climate change causes major changes in natural environments, but from the human point of view it is above all a social issue. Humans have caused climate change collectively, so cooperation is the only way to solve the problem. Personal life choices matter, but more important are decisions on energy production methods, urban planning, train routes and wages.
In Finland, the national curriculum puts emphasis on understanding cultural diversity through languages. For instance, students discuss values linked to different languages. This is an important factor to take into account if we want to tackle climate change through international cooperation.
Climate Education Includes Media Education
Every possible media is full of stories about climate change. The topic is widely discussed in social media, news, talk shows, scientific publications, Internet forums, novels and NGO campaigns. In the midst of all these news and opinions, an active citizen needs to adopt the role of a critical receiver and competent producer and distributor of texts in different channels. Language teachers play a key role in teaching such skills.
For climate change education in language class, you need material about the topic, e.g., newspaper stories, radio interviews and video clips. Unfortunately, this guide cannot provide this type of material since so many different languages are taught in schools. However, here are some suggestions on how to use the materials: