Visual and Linguistic Processing
of Ads by Bilingual Consumers
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Laura A. Peracchio
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Today, most of the word's population speaks more than one language (Grosjean, 1982). For example, in many parts of the world, people speak English as a second language, so although there are only 322 million native English speakers worldwide, there are an estimated 1.3 billion people who speak English as a second language. In Western Europe alone, 77% of college students speak English well enough to carry on a conversation (Fox, 2000). People speak a second language in addition to their native language for a number of reasons: They may have moved to a different country, they may need to communicate with individuals from other cultures within their own country, or they may conduct business or travel for pleasure in countries where their native language is not spoken (Milroy & Muysken, 1995). The need to speak more than one language is intensifying as cross-national communications media and international migration and travel become more common.
In sum, one could argue that multilingualism is becoming the norm throughout the world. Even in the United States, a nation sometimes thought to be largely monolingual, the proportion of the total population that speaks a second language fluently is considerable and continues to increase due to migration and acculturation patterns. One of the largest bilingual segments in the United States is the Hispanic population. Over 72% of the 31 million Hispanics in the United States speak both English and Spanish (Levey, 1999). The increasing prevalence of bilingual individuals both in the United States and internationally intensifies the need to consider how bilingual individuals comprehend both visual and linguistic information. Particularly, studying how bilingual individuals understand messages