Raising Learners’ Awareness Through the Exploration of Multimodality in an EFL Context

Research output: Conference Papers (RGC: 31A, 31B, 32, 33)33_Other conference paperpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPresented - 16 Sep 2018


TitleTEEM International Conference
Period15 - 16 September 2018


1. Introduction The notion of criticality functions as an anchoring concept in the preparation of global citizens and the cultivation of intercultural communicative competence (Byram, 2012). According to Byram, critical cultural awareness refers to “an ability to evaluate critically and on the basis of explicit criteria, perspectives, practices and products in our own and other cultures and countries” (p. 53). In this vein, the development of critical cultural awareness enables an individual to critically examine the self and the world and further undergo an in-depth reflection on the intricate relationship between oneself and the broader contexts. In language learning, language and cultural awareness encompasses more than the acquisition of cognitive knowledge about language or culture, but rather encapsulates one’s engagement, attention and noticing, consciousness, and sensitivity (Ahn, 2016; Carter 2003; Ellis 2004; Svalberg 2009, 2012). Within the framework of Engagement with Language (EWL), Svalberg (2012) describes a fully engaged individual as one who demonstrates cognitively attentive and focused, critically reflects on one’s knowledge, presents a positive and autonomous attitude towards language(s) and interlocutors, and willingly participates in interactions. In this regard, the present study aims to introduce various pedagogical approaches to raise learners’ awareness with the use of multimodality in an English classroom. 2. Multimodality in language classroomsAlongside the development of technology, textbooks are not the sole medium of instruction observed in language classrooms in the globalized world. A wide array of instructional materials and resources including film, audio, and online newspapers are easily available and accessible. In addition to the availability of various sources in language learning contexts, multimodality adds greater depth to the materials at hand. That is, multimodality, which views language as one amongst many modes, highlights the ensembles of several modes to orchestrate meaning (Kress, 2010). The interplay of semiotic modes in the meaning-making process is highlighted as “meanings are made, distributed, received, interpreted and remade in interpretation through many representational and communicative modes – not just through language – whether as speech or as writing’ (Jewitt, 2009, p. 14). Various modal resources are constantly established and distributed in a social context where meanings are constantly negotiated and interpreted (Jewitt, 2009; Kress & van Leeuwen, 2001). These semiotic resources are non-arbitrary and fluid as these various modes interact and exist in a particular time and space. According to Jewitt, “images and other non-linguistic modes take on specific roles in a specific context in time. These roles are not fixed but articulated and situated” (p. 15). In an effort to raise critical language and cultural awareness among Korean students, the presentation explores several instructional modules that use multimodal resources. In an English classroom, teachers’ appropriation of multimodal resources including images and audio recordings could provide students to better understand how meanings are constructed to serve a particular purpose. For one, textbooks or supplementary materials frequently accompany various images to represent the plotline of the content. Here, teachers can guide students to participate in the interpretation of the images by concentrating on both written and visual elements (e.g., colors, gesture, the salience of characters, the relationships among characters). Similarly, language instructors can use various advertisements or commercials found in different contexts that are delivered through visual, written, or audio methods. The students could participate in the interpretation and deconstruction of several advertisements of the similar product belonging to different linguistic and cultural contexts. They could also attempt to translate an advertisement to L1 or L2 and discuss the reasons behind the translation as such a decision may reflect their knowledge, attitude, and beliefs about languages and cultures. With the recurring themes of language and culture awareness capturing consciousness, attention, and sensitivity, the exploration of multimodal resources in language learning needs to pay attention to the learner’s critical examination of one’s perspectives and practices. Not limited to English, the study argues that such instructional modules could be appropriated and adopted in other foreign language classrooms to serve the purpose of learners’ awareness raising. The study suggests that the implementation of multimodality in EFL contexts could help the learners to critically examine the relationships amongst multimodal resources and explore the hidden messages. However, prior to any pedagogical application, the foremost step that needs to take place is for language instructors to critically examine their own pre-existing knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions about languages and cultures and develop their own awareness.

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Citation Format(s)

Raising Learners’ Awareness Through the Exploration of Multimodality in an EFL Context. / Ahn, So-Yeon.

2018. TEEM International Conference, Seoul.

Research output: Conference Papers (RGC: 31A, 31B, 32, 33)33_Other conference paperpeer-review