Brown Bag Talk: Visual literacy: a social semiotic approach to analyzing magazine covers in a foreign culture
Visual literacy: a social semiotic approach to analyzing magazine covers in a foreign culture
Federal University of Minas Gerais
Where: Canadian Language Museum – Click here for directions
“Within a simple cover of a newspaper [or magazine], there is a professional work in the selection of small and apparently insignificant details, which, nevertheless, are decisive in the communicative action.” (CF – a student in the research project)
“Literacies are legion.” (Lemke, 2004)
We live in a world populated with images: illustrated magazines, newspapers, comic books, videos and movies. In my experience as a teacher of foreign languages – English and Portuguese – I have always tried to guide my students into exploring what images can communicate. Nothing is accidental in an image used in advertisements, newspapers, magazine covers or text books’ illustrations. Becoming media critical in a foreign culture (and in one’s own culture) is essential to uncover meanings not ‘directly’ accessible to the reader as in a text, for example. Social semiotics (Kress & Van Leeuwen, 1996) allied to insights on visual communication (Jewitt & Oyama, 2001) offer invaluable support in helping learners to read images critically. This presentation reports on an activity conducted with learners of Portuguese as an Additional Language. The learners were presented to theory on Social Semiotic Analysis of Visual Communication and some examples before receiving samples from magazine covers to analyze. The results indicate that the students were able to derive powerful readings from the combination of images and text, going beyond initial expectations.
Keywords: Media Critical; Portuguese as an Additional Language; Social Semiotics; Visual Communication.