Japanese Visual Language
Lastly, I would like to point out that beyond just being entertaining sequential images combined with text are an effective tool of communication and education. In Latvia we haven’t developed a culture of reading comics. They are generally considered to be for children. The format of comics and graphic novels is still a relatively new and developing in Latvian culture and in the literacy curriculum of schools. There is some research available on how comics or visual novels can be used in schools to make classes more interesting. For example, Belinda S. Zimmerman’s The Fluency Development Lesson Gets Graphic even gives a day by day plan on how teacher can use a visual novel to develop reading fluency of pupils. The argument is made that reading illustrations and text together motivates modern readers. Visual novels create a new context for learning. One of the visual novels used in Belinda S. Zimmerman’s work is the Bizenghast series. Bizenghast is available in Latvian bookstores, which makes it even easier to put this suggestion to practice.
If we look at Japan, manga format is used on a much broader scale than comics in other countries. Manga is widely read by all ages and it has many genres. For example, in Japan manga is so popular that it is used not only as a cheap entertainment for the masses, but also for educational purposes. There are manga history textbooks at schools. Many manga style “How to?” books are teaching chemistry, biology, law and even Japanese constitution. If we consider visual language as any other language, there is almost no constraint on genre or context. It does not have to be only about children story books, comics or caricatures. There is really no limit in where it can be used if visual language is taken out of the context of comics and into the context of language use.
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