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The verbal and the visual in language learning and teaching: insights from the ‘Selfie Project’

Victoria, Mabel



That ‘a picture can stimulate a thousand words’ aptly summarizes the role of the visual in the field of language learning and teaching. The power of the image to generate language output has been
widely acknowledged in the field of second/foreign language acquisition. Posters, diagrams, symbols and pictures are often found in language classrooms; illustrations and photos cohabit with the target language in textbooks. The relationship, however, between the lingual and the visual tends to be one of asymmetry. The visual tends to be held in lower regard and thought of as ‘dispensable embellishment’ (Millard & Marsh 2001: 55) especially when the learner has acquired a certain level of linguistic competence. Instead of focusing on the ‘thousand words’, this initial exploration into examining the verbal-visual interplay uses the ‘picture’, in the form of the selfie, as heuristic device. It draws insights from visual research approaches and digital communication studies to analyse the relationship between the verbal and the visual. Results point to a counter-reading of the selfie. It is suggested that using this digital self-portrait of the 21st century as talking point in an English fluency exercise has brought about unexpected findings—the strengthening of personal relations in the classroom and self-reflexivity amongst the students—aspects that are not often associated with the traditional use of visual ‘aids’. It is proposed that current understanding of the ‘lingual’ can be enriched by bringing the ‘visual’ back into the frame.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 1, 2018
Online Publication Date Jun 24, 2018
Publication Date 2021-01
Deposit Date Jun 1, 2018
Publicly Available Date Jun 24, 2018
Journal Language Learning Journal
Print ISSN 0957-1736
Electronic ISSN 1753-2167
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 49
Issue 2
Pages 93-104
Keywords language teaching, selfie, visual method, visual aid
Public URL
Contract Date Jun 1, 2018


The Verbal and the Visual in Language Learning and Teaching: Insights from the 'Selfie Project' (212 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in The Language Learning Journal on 24 June 2018, available online:

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