Some of us appear to be aware of the importance of environmental protection and conservation because it helps conserve the natural resources on Planet Earth, safeguard our planet in order to protect the animals that inhabit it, of focus on environmental conservation so as to bring about positive changes in all aspects of our world, of maintaining human health along the way and of raising awareness to many of the issues our planet is facing in this day and age. But have you ever thought of bringing all these issues into your classrooms and teaching circumstances wherever you might be? Moreover, have you ever heard of the acronyms such as EAP and ESP in ELT? Let me explain. EAP stands for English for Academic Purposes whereas ESP stands for English for Specific Purposes. One can guess that ELT stands for English Language Teaching. Let me illustrate what EAP , ESP and ELT are by borrowing an explanation from a family tree of ELT

“One way to understand EAP is by viewing it in the family tree of English Language Teaching (ELT), as shown below (based on Hutchinson and Walters, 1987). ELT can be divided into English as a Mother Tongue (EMT) and English as a Second Language (ESL) or English as a Foreign Language (EFL), depending on whether it is studied in an English-speaking country (ESL) or not (EFL). EFL/ESL are sometimes referred to by other names, for example, EAL (English as an Additional Language) and ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), in deference to the fact that for many learners, English is not the second but the third, fourth or more language they have learned. ESL/EFL can be sub-divided into General English (GE), and English for Specific Purposes (ESP). General English, which is mainly for exam purposes, is the form learners are most familiar with since it is the kind of English taught in schools. Due to the fact that most GE students are too far from real communication in English to have any real need to study it, GE is sometimes referred to as TENOR (Teaching English for No Obvious Reason), which directly contrasts it with ESP, for which there is a specific purpose. ESP can be sub-divided into English for Occupational Purposes (EOP), for example English for business or English for law, and English for Academic Purposes (EAP)

Arguably, a huge number of teachers and educators in ELT seem to be shunning away from teaching ESP for some mysterious reasons. I don’t. In fact, I thoroughly enjoy it. ESP in each and every area of expertise is full of strange-sounding vocabulary and grammar be it Business English, engineering English, or legal English at that. Believe me, I have taught all of these with utmost success.

This article is aimed at teachers and educators who know little about environment and ecology and the ways as to how to teach these or alternatively how to make and develop teaching materials for a range of ELT strands and niches in your own teaching circumstances. It might come across as too stressful, too demanding and too exhausting at first glance. Do you think it is possible to be a non-environmental scientist, a non-engineer, and any such but to still be able to teach English for ecology and environment? Yes, you can but be prepared for some hard work to eventually be able to deliver stress free and enjoyable lessons . As Jeremy Day, a prominent ELT professional once said ꞌyou will need a combination of honesty, hard work, and professional confidence’.

I will try to recapitulate on an IATEFL conference session presented by Jeremy Day, the aforesaid ELT expert, on how to teach ESP and more importantly how to make and develop ELT ESP learning and teaching materials and then go on to do a spillover into English for environmental sciences.


The key to successful teaching is being prepared. It is vital that an educator or a material writer/ a material developer for any ESP course and for Environmental English in this particular case to read all the relevant units and sections, prefaces and bibliographies in the student books and teachers books before setting foot in your classroom. Ensure that you know or learn all or almost all the important key words and phrases, idioms and definitions and that you know how they are pronounced. Always check and double check anything your find difficult or that you are unsure of.


One of the prerequisites here is certainly to be honest with our students and/or our ELT editors for the course books and supplementary teaching materials. Being honest means being able to manage students’ expectations and not pretending to be an expert before the course before writing a course book or during the course. Honesty brings integrity and if one exaggerates, the students, your superiors or your prospective editors will likely be disappointed. The best way forward is, to be honest from the very beginning and admit that you are still learning about the environment and ecology. Make sure you communicate to your students that you are a seasoned professional in ELT and teaching methodology and that you are there to combine these two into writing superb, tailor-made materials for them. Additionally, make sure you do not make promises you cannot keep. The same goes for the publishers marketing your future materials or a course book or your director of studies


This heading above might strike you as odd or funny, but yes, make sure you are armed to your proverbial teeth when you set your foot in the classroom to teach English for environmental studies. Namely, you should bring a professional dictionary with you to each and every lesson or alternatively given that we are living in ꞌthe press the button age for quite some time now, and a plethora of dictionaries are available online already, I suggest that you should make your list of useful online dictionaries, glossaries and portals for environmental English to consult, if there is an internet connection in your teaching circumstances.


One of the invaluable pieces of advice that I can give you and I was delighted to find out the same from the foreword written by Jeremy Day for his teachers’ book published by Cambridge University Press, whom I have mentioned earlier on is to learn from your students. They will be pleased to teach you in return what they know from their own area of expertise. One upside in this is that the specialists always have to explain their own subject matter to the non – specialists. Explaining things to you as their teacher will be hugely beneficial because they will be using English to do so and practice all along. I thoroughly enjoy ꞌacting stupidꞌ at times in the classroom or alternatively acting as the devilꞌs advocate, as the laying goes, in order to elicit vocabulary from students and engage them in speaking and communication activities.


What I suggest is that you think about what your environmental English students need, and then go on to carry out your own research, ask your students as well to provide useful information on the subject matter in order to do your needs analysis for their course or for the prospective learning materials. If you happen to have taught business English in your ELT teaching career, you might like to use that prior knowledge and transfer it into English for Environment by adapting it according to the needs analysis you have done. Most professionals will probably have dealt with contracts, preparing and analyzing documents for their clients, or giving lectures, seminars, and workshops in the environment already. Try to make use of that schemata and transfer it into English for environment and ecology. Remember to try as much as possible to relate the country-specific materials to the students’ own circumstances.


One would assume that this goes without saying but it is worth saying again and again that we as educators should radiate a balanced level of self-confidence. Bear in mind that even if you are not an expert in environmental studies and ecology, you can still help your students either in your teaching or by writing superb teaching materials. What I try to communicate is to tell them that we combine our expertise in that they i.e. the students tend to be experts in their specialized subjects and we, the teachers are experts in teaching methodology. It is nice to see that they leave your classroom proud of themselves in this way. You can still help them enormously by motivating them, by being an expert in general English, and that you possess superb skills in doing your linguistic research and your vocabulary and grammar research in order to be able to explain to them what they don’t know. Remember that you as an experienced professional, can be a source of real-life experiences that you can share with them. After all, you are knowledgeable in real everyday universal language problems such as grammar tenses, punctuation, collocations, levels of formality and register, general English vs academic English vs English for specific purposes, idioms and phrases, colloquial language vs professional English jargon in use, etc.


Author: Natasha Jovanovich

Natasha  is a seasoned ELT professional: an English teacher, teacher trainer , a translator and ELT material developer. She has led a number of workshops, seminars and teacher training for fellow teachers and translated a number of books and specialist translations. She mostly teaches business English, legal English, Cambridge exams main suite and/or IELTS and TOEFL preparation courses.
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