Reading: Words and Pictures

The Language Magazine – Lina Sun

“From the aforementioned studies, one can come to some first conclusions: Studying graphic novels can support language learning in the same way as reading traditional literary works and other prose texts. The combination of visual representations and narrative construction may help the student to learn to communicate in a foreign language. Additionally, for those learning a second or foreign language, graphic novels can be used to foster intercultural learning. Through engaging with graphic novels and participating in subsequent in-class activities, students arrive at a better understanding of the other culture and different attitudes and opinions. By changing their perspectives, students can attain socio-cultural knowledge, develop respect, learn to understand divergent opinions, and eventually master intercultural interaction (Hecke, 2013). Profound insights into target cultures may also help to make learners aware of stereotypes, and to diminish prejudice. In a brief word, graphic novels, as an effective and productive tool for teachers, provide ample opportunities for language learners to interact with highly engaging, multimodal texts of numerous genres to foster multiliteracy.

Graphic Novels
A graphic novel is a book-length fiction or nonfiction story produced in the style of a comic book, with some form of continuity (Chun, 2009). Belonging to the family of sequential arts, a graphic novel can be a single story, yet it may also be a collection of loosely related comic strips. A graphic novel may tell emotional or socially critical stories, like Shaun Tan’s The Arrival. It may describe chapters in the lives of famous people like Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography by Andrew Helfer and Randy DuBurke, or refer to recent political developments, like Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea or the Persepolis series, in which Marjane Satrapi describes the Iranian revolution and move to Europe. Some graphic novels are pictorial adaptations of literary classics, while others are influenced by the Japanese tradition of manga.”

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