This site will look much better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.

globe
GLOBAL ISSUES IN LANGUAGE
EDUCATION NEWSLETTER
December 1996 - Issue No. #25 (p. 16 - 17)

The Environment and Language Education

by Herman Troll

Tokyo, Japan

As a long-time resident of Japan and lecturer of German at several universities in the Tokyo area, I can't help feeling that more teaching on global environmental issues (and local Japanese issues) has to be done in this country and can well be done via language education. This task is not easy in German language classes (unless you include some Japanese!) because many of the students are beginners in German, but it is possible in various ways. Students of German are learning a second foreign language (after English) and so may be more receptive to different ways of thinking and expression, and to a different cultural background and way of living. For several reasons, I feel that it is very important that foreign language education (of any language!) and environmental issues should be more combined.

For the ordinary student in Japan, "gaikoku" (foreign country) means America and "gaikokugo" (foreign language) means English. The rest of "their" world is blurred behind a grey veil we teachers can hardly lift. Of course, Japanese television, pachinko, etc. dominate their lives. Most youngsters are not even aware of the messy, littered and polluted environment they live in because it is part of their daily life and their parents were the same...why should they care? But at the university level, students have the potential to realize the mess in which they grow up. And they will do something, both now and in future, if "Umwelterziehung" (environmental education) becomes part of their student life in any form. I am afraid too little is being done at present in Japan in this field. We are all confronted with these problems, now and in future, and the progress and efforts we make are much too slow compared to the speed at which human beings are destroying their immediate surroundings on a global scale. Nobody is exempt.

What differs most in this country compared to Europe is the relative lack of "Umweltbewusstein" (environmental awareness) of the average citizen, and of economic and political leaders. In Germany, for example, individuals, all kinds of political parties and entrepreneurs take a keen interest in pollution control and prevention, in clean energy and technology, in proper and safe waste disposal. At the root of all this is environmental education from age zero on. The individual and the state actively prevent further environmental deterioration by education, by laws and by abiding/adhering to them. Thus, Germany has become a clean and modern country despite all its many reunification problems. I do not see much in Japan in this respect.

What differs most in this country compared to Europe is the relative lack of "Umweltbewusstein" (environmental awareness) of the average citizen, and of economic and political leaders. In Germany, for example, individuals, all kinds of political parties and entrepreneurs take a keen interest in pollution control and prevention, in clean energy and technology, in proper and safe waste disposal. At the root of all this is environmental education from age zero on. The individual and the state actively prevent further environmental deterioration by education, by laws and by abiding/adhering to them. Thus, Germany has become a clean and modern country despite all its many reunification problems. I do not see much in Japan in this respect.

As a long-time sympathizer with the environmental organization Greenpeace, I recently went and joined "Greenpeace Japan", only to become their 3,962nd member. Greenpeace Germany has over 800,000 members! But in Tokyo, the only office of Greenpeace Japan so far, a few idealists are doing their best with little money but clear visions which most Japanese youngsters certainly do not have. We ourselves have to understand, accept and convey to our students that our lifestyles, ways of thinking and acting have to change.

In my view, this can and must become an important area language teachers of any nationality should increasingly engage in. We have a responsibility towards our students not only as "pure" language instructors. We should also be educators of the younger generation and provide knowledge about how to act now and in future to stop the deadly pattern of environmental exploitation and destruction in our world. This all starts in one's home country. My intermediate German reader on these problems, "Denk an die Umwelt" ("Think about the Environment", Ikubundo Publishing Company, Tokyo) is part of my own contribution to promote a change and provide a better future, especially for our students.

Herman Troll
3-32-14-512 Akatsuka Shinmachi, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo 175, JAPAN

*****

Please note that the most recent issues of the newsletter are available to subscribers only. Please check our subcription page at http://www.gilesig.org/join.htm for more details about subscribing.

You can search the site by using the above tabs or click on the links below.

Kip A. Cates, Tottori University, Koyama, Tottori City, JAPAN 680-8551
E-mail: kcates@gilesig.org Work Tel/Fax: 0857-31-5650
Website: http://www.gilesig.org
Newsletter: www.gilesig.org/newsletter