This study is based in the belief that we may use visual images as means of communication. In today’s multicultural and globalized modern society the development of communication technology and transportation has made is extremely essential to enable communication among diverse cultural groups. Since visual images are not bound by linguistic barriers, they may be effective means for increasing communication among diverse cultural groups.
Visual literacy ability is the ability to understand and express ideas and feelings through visual images. As with languages, systematic education in visual literacy from childhood will enable children to communicate through visual images more effectively. Children also learn the system of symbols for communication from adults. Therefore, the role of elementary teachers is very important in visual literacy education. Considering the importance of intercultural communication and the significance of elementary teachers’ role in visual literacy education, I explored how pre-service teachers interpret visual images.
In order to compare pre-service teachers’ interpretation in Korea and the United States, I used a questionnaire and focus group interviews. I showed three Benetton advertisements that were distributed globally via the Internet to the participants in my study. I found six categories from the questionnaire and the focus group interviews: before interpretation, initial interpretation, abstract interpretation, ultimate interpretation, prior experience, and viewpoint of interpretation. On further analysis of my data I found the relationships among these categories.
Contrary to my expectations that Korean and U.S. pre-service teachers would interpret the advertisements similarly, participants’ personal life experiences and cultural narratives influenced their interpretations of the advertisements and led to differences in interpretations by the two groups. I concluded that considering cultural narratives may increase the efficiency of intercultural communication through visual images.