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

  • Type:


  • Date:

    24 June 2018

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  • DOI:


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  • ISSN:


  • Library of Congress:

    PE English

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    420 English & Old English languages

  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


Victoria, M. (2021). The verbal and the visual in language learning and teaching: insights from the ‘Selfie Project’. Language Learning Journal, 49(2), 93-104.



language teaching, selfie, visual method, visual aid

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