Representations traverse the language barrier. Inspecting chemistry textbooks written in various languages reveals common diagrams and pictures. Usually the reader can interpret these diagrams even if they are unable to read the written language. The diagrams and pictures are powerful explanatory tools that traverse the language barriers. A multi-modal approach is common in teaching chemistry whereby the spoken and written language contribute to explanations of chemical concepts alongside models, pictures, diagrams and experiments. It is probable that students, who are learning chemistry in a language that is not their first language, may be more dependent on using chemical representations to understand concepts in order to compensate for any language shortcomings. In this situation, representations can play a unique and powerful role in complementing the learning of abstract concepts.