Memeing to Learning: Exploring Meaning-Making in a Language-Learning Chat Group

Keywords: memes, multimodality, digital literacies, language play, identity


Meaning-making in a new era increasingly defined by digital communication is a complicated ensemble of both verbal and non-verbal modes. Following this trend of conveying information multimodally, digital memes have become a new and viral way to communicate and make meaning. Memeing, as a multimodal and social practice, may hold potential for language learners. This study explores the impact of memes on second language learning, examining how memes support meaning-making and language learning during intercultural encounters in an online chat group. Using a case study design, this article focuses on three Chinese L2 learners varying in language proficiency, learning motivation, and memeing engagement. The naturally-occurring memeing data (from 2016 to 2018) of a university-level student-run Chinese-English intercultural chat group was collected and analyzed together with individual interviews. The findings show that meaning-making and language learning were empowered by memeing in the intercultural chat group through remixing linguacultural messages, constructing identities, and developing social connections. This study concludes with meme-related pedagogical activities and a discussion of future research.

Author Biography

Yiting Han, University of Arizona, USA

Yiting Han is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Arizona, with a focus on Second Language Acquisition and Teaching. Her primary research interests are technology-enhanced language learning and teaching, language learning beyond the classroom, and gameful learning. As a language educator, she has taught Chinese, English, and Spanish. Her work has recently appeared in Applied Pragmatics and Language Learning and Technology.