Analysing Students' Comprehension of Multitexts: The Mobilization of Images (Visual Mode) in the Language Classroom

By Jean-François Boutin, Nathalie Lacelle, Monique Lebrun and Nathalie Lemieux.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

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Contemporary education can no longer afford to bypass the actual (r)evolution of communication which strongly involves multimodality. Messages produced on a daily basis are becoming more and more multimodal, but language classes, at least in the French world, continue to rely on traditional conceptions and forms of literacy. At the core of this much-needed change of practices are images (visual modes) and their semiotic value that weight a lot more than learners and their teachers usually think into the global comprehension of multimodal messages. In our classroom-based study, subjects were asked to define and compare the different ways they use to create meaning while they read traditional (monomodal) texts VS multimodal texts such as coloured or black & white bandes dessinées (graphic novels / still images) and coloured or black & white movies (mobile images). Preliminary findings from individual inquiries and focus groups revealed that young learners seem to be able to spontaneously decrypt explicit visual representations. However, they also requested explicit instruction of image analysis in order to deepen their understanding of implicit visual meanings and enhance their mobilization of inference and mental imagery, for instance. In the end a fundamental question arises: how our understanding of students’ global comprehension of multitexts should help us to champion formal teaching of visual expression and communication in the language classroom?

Keywords: Image Comprehension, Multitext, Multimodal Message, Teaching, Learning, Visual Mode, Semiotics, Focus Group, Multimodality, Multimodal Literacy, Visual Literacy

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp.69-78. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 153.288KB).

Dr. Jean-François Boutin

Professor of Applied Linguistics, Department of Education, University of Quebec (Lévis /UQAR), Lévis, Quebec, Canada

Professor J.-F. Boutin has been teaching applied linguistics (reading, writing/grammar and special education), firstly at Laval University, and then at University of Quebec (Lévis Campus) to undergraduate and graduate students in education since 1996. His main research preoccupation has always been dedicated to the better understanding of the complex relation between textual and visual modes in diverses multitextual forms such as bande dessinée (graphic novels), movies or digital publishing and its implications into the learner's global comprehension of multimodal messages.

Dr. Nathalie Lacelle

Professor of Applied Linguistics, Department of Education, University of Quebec (Trois-Rivières), Trois-Rivières, Quebec, Canada

Professor Lacelle teaches applied linguistics to undergraduate and graduate students at University of Quebec (Trois-Rivières). Her main research interests are media literacy, multimodality, mobile images and their different implications into the learner global development.

Dr. Monique Lebrun

Retired Professor of Applied Linguistics, Department of Applied Linguistics, University of Quebec (Montréal), Montréal, Quebec, Canada

Retired Professor Lebrun is still very much active in research. She has been teaching applied linguistics to undergraduate and graduate students at University of Quebec (Montréal) for more than twenty years. A world-class specialist of applied linguistics, Professor Lebrun has extensively worked on literature, literacy, reading and writing and is renowned for her major publishing in national and international journals and monographies.

Nathalie Lemieux

Graduate Student, Department of Education, University of Quebec (Lévis Campus), Saguenay, Quebec, Canada

Nathalie Lemieux is a graduate student currently completing her master's degree in applied linguistics at University of Quebec (Lévis Campus). She has taught in regular and special primary and secondary schools.