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Beliefs and practices of foreign language learning: A visual analysis

Alice Chik


This paper analyzes visual and multimedia narratives produced by learners of different age groups and linguistic and cultural backgrounds to explore (a) their beliefs and practices of foreign language learning; and (b) visual metaphors used by learners in hand-drawn and computer-mediated texts. The texts were collected from language learners from primary school to university in Sydney, Berlin, and Hong Kong. These learner narratives add new dimensions to our understanding of learners’ beliefs and practices: what learners think learning a particular language involves, what they hold to be true and what they actually do. While using interviews and written texts is an established practice in narrative inquiry research, only a few studies have adopted visual data. The findings point to three implications. First, drawing instructions to learners directly influenced how learners represent their learner beliefs. Second, while self-composed language portraits and photographs encourage reproduction of meanings across modes, stock visuals are more likely to be used to create juxtaposed meanings. Finally, the idea of kawaii was used as a visual metaphor when discussing negative emotions, which may point to a new component in digital and visual expression.


I am grateful to the reviewers for their insightful suggestions and comments and to the special issue editors, Professor Paula Kalaja and Dr. Anne Pitkänen-Huhta, for their constructive suggestions and guidance; any remaining inadequacy was mine. I acknowledge the work of co-researcher Dr Robyn Moloney in the Sydney Project. I would also like to thank all the learners who have contributed generously to the projects.


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Published Online: 2017-01-24
Published in Print: 2018-05-25

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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