Research Article

I spy something #invisible: Using Instagram to help learners understand second language invisible culture

Géraldine Blattner 1 , Amanda Dalola 2 * , Stéphanie Roulon 3
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1 Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL, USA2 University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA3 Portland State University, Portland, OR, USA* Corresponding Author
Journal of Digital Educational Technology, 4(2), 2024, ep2415,
Published Online: 14 June 2024, Published: 01 July 2024
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French-language textbooks have long faced criticism for their limited use of authentic resources and their failure to meaningfully incorporate cultural elements into language teaching, letting foreign language learners struggle to grasp the non-literal aspects of language, known as the “invisible culture.” These hidden cultural components encompass beliefs, values, social norms, and non-verbal cues, influencing communication and language use. Experienced language users may take these elements for granted, making them challenging for learners to grasp without adequate exposure to French. Understanding these hidden cultural elements is essential for successful language acquisition and cross-cultural communication, enabling learners to genuinely and authentically interpret and express themselves. Without positive evidence of a concept’s culturally specific values, learners must rely on cultural knowledge from their first language/culture, which results in the direct transfer of cultural assumptions which hinders their ability to make authentic sense of the target language. Taking inspiration from the Cultura project, this study uses the multiliteracies framework to bridge the gap between first and second-language intercultural representations, helping learners develop semantic aspects of cross-cultural literacy through visualization tasks using Instagram, a photo-based social media platform. Intermediate-level French students provided written impressions of three culturally specific word pairs: snack/goûter, suburb/banlieue, and freedom/liberté. They searched for these concepts on Instagram, selected images that best represented their understanding, and created e-posters. Participants then analyzed and compared these e-posters across languages, refining their definitions during discussions. This approach successfully developed certain semantic aspects of the invisible culture within the target language, highlighting the benefits of exposing learners to diverse text types.


Blattner, G., Dalola, A., & Roulon, S. (2024). I spy something #invisible: Using Instagram to help learners understand second language invisible culture. Journal of Digital Educational Technology, 4(2), ep2415.


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