Friday, December 4, 2009

The Relevance of Multiliteracies

Literacy has a lot to do with language teaching. Literacy has to do with the basic competence that any one needs to use a language. However the idea of Literacy at the time of learning a second language changes according to the needs of the learner, for instance a learner may be more interested in using a language for speaking rather than reading or writing. However, the learner does need basic skills in order to understand in a minimum way the language in all its forms. When talking about literacy we should view it from a newer perspective, according to UNESCO[1], literacy is the "ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society." This idea opens a little more our view towards the definition of literacy, and creates a new perspective towards what many authors call Multiliteracies.

When talking about multiliteracies we would have to talk of an enhancement to develop knowledge besides the basic tools that reading and writing give us. Bamford (2003)[2] talks about the Visual literacy, which enables us to understand and define the context by images. It is no new knowledge that nowadays the image is an essential aspect of the world, every day we take images in order to accept or reject our perceptions. In this case it is true that we need to educate our observation in order to be critical. In language learning Visual literacy implies interpreting contexts that enable us to use the correct form of the language. When observing a piece of art we can enhance our perception of art, and use speaking as a medium to interpret the world that the art piece gives us since, as Bamford states, “Contemporary culture has become increasingly dependent on the visual especially for its capacity to communicate instantly and universally.”

Another literacy that is worth mentioning for its implications in LT is critical literacy. According to Lima (2006)[3], “Critical literacy is an educational practice that focuses on the relationship between language and world views, social practices, power, identity, citizenship, intercultural relations and global/local issues.” I believe that this literacy is a basic standard for any school subject at the time of learning. To be critical involves acquiring a view of the world and a view of oneself. I have always believed that before language teachers we should be teachers for life itself. So the link between LT and CL is nothing more than a connection of life long learning with language learning.

Even though there are many other important literacies such as cyber-literacy, which is the basis for the net generation that we are facing nowadays, I believe that the ones I mentioned are basic for language teaching. It is a must that language teachers see beyond the simple knowledge of literacy and be aware of Mulititeracies, since we are not just teaching a language, we are going beyond, we are teachers for life, and we must know and understand the tools that our learners need. In this sense Multiliteracies open a space for constant reflection of our teaching practice so the implication of mutiliteracies in language learning is understanding that we can go beyond simple teaching and become life long learning teachers.

[2] Bamford, A. (2003) The Visual Literacy White Paper. Adobe Systems. Retrieved from

[3] Lima, C. (2006) A Brief Introduction to Critical Literacy in English Language Education. British Council Brazil. Retrieved from

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