Language and Vocabulary

Use positive and inclusive language

Words and language are powerful and can send both implicit and explicit messages about what is “normal” and acceptable. It is important to think about our language, about who we are including and who we are excluding with our words. We can get into the habit of making space in our language for a range of people and for possibilities other than what we might assume to be true. For example, we can check our assumptions about:

  • what holidays people are celebrating;
  • where people were born;
  • the sex or gender of people from particular professions;
  • the composition of people’s families;
  • who people are dating;
  • what gender-related activities and behaviour they are likely to be engaged.

While language helps to create and shape culture, it also reflects culture. Youth are constantly reclaiming and reformulating language as part of teen culture, and this may make it difficult for teachers to interrupt racism, sexism and homophobia effectively. We may not always understand the meaning and impact of the words youth are using. Teachers can learn and stay informed about young people’s language. We can share information about current terms, expressions and language with our colleagues.