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    Mediation in the CEFR

Mediation in teaching, learning and assessment

Mediation in the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR)

In 2001, the CEFR introduced mediation as a communicative ability - along with reception, production and interaction. Mediation in the CEFR (2001) is conceived as an activity in which the user/learner creates bridges and helps to construct or convey meaning, sometimes within the same language, sometimes from one language to another (cross-linguistic mediation). This section informs the reader about the definition of mediation given in the CEFR.

The CEFR (2001: 87-88) defines mediation as a process where “the language user is not concerned to express his/her own meanings, but simply to act as an intermediary between interlocutors who are unable to understand each other directly –normally (but not exclusively) speakers of different languages.” However, unlike the other communicative abilities - reception, production and interaction - for which extensive illustrative descriptors (or can-do statements) were produced, no such sets of descriptors relevant to mediation were included in the original CEFR.  As a result, the concept of mediation was not developed to its full potential. And this is one of the main reasons why the CEFR Companion Volume was published two decades later.

In the CEFR Companion Volume, the definition of mediation was expanded and descriptors for mediation were added in order to help teachers and stakeholders incorporate mediation in their courses, syllabuses and materials. The focus is on processes like passing on information in an appropriate form, and simplifying, elaborating, illustrating or otherwise adapting input in order to facilitate understanding. The CEFR-CV does not deal only with cross-linguistic mediation (i.e., transferring information from one language to another and reducing distance between interlocutors who speak different languages): it also describes the transfer of information within the same language (intralinguistic mediation). A further important innovation in this important document was that it included new sets of mediation descriptors (can-do statements). In the CEFR-CV, the concept of mediation focuses on three main categories for which various scales have been provided. 

The three categories are the following:

a) mediating a text,
b) mediating concepts and
c) mediating communication

Categories and scales relevant to the METLA resources

In the CEFR-CV, the concept of mediation focuses on three main categories for which various scales have been provided. The three categories of mediation activities are: a) mediating a text, b) mediating concepts, and c) mediating communication.

‘Mediating a text’ involves transferring information to a person with no access to the original text due to linguistic, cultural or social barriers. ‘Texts’ refer both to verbal texts (e.g., articles, emails, leaflets, reports) and videos, photos, graphics etc. ‘Passing on’ to another person the content of a text is the key practice here. The METLA resource focuses specifically on this particular set of scales providing guidelines to teachers as to how these can be exploited in order to introduce cross-linguistic mediation tasks in their classrooms.
Mediating concepts’ is related mainly to the pedagogic aspects of mediation, and the scales relevant to this category refer to educational domains which require managing interaction on the part of teachers, collaborating to construct meaning, and facilitating collaborative interaction, among others aspects. 
‘Mediating communication’ scales refer to the process of facilitating understanding between participants, as, for instance, in tense situations, disputes or disagreements. Negotiating, creating shared spaces and resolving conflicts are the key practices here. 

Given the focus of the METLA resources, we present the ‘Mediating a text’ scales together with a short explanation in the Teaching Guide Chapter 6. In the CEFR-CV, each one of the scales includes a specific number of descriptors or can-do statements for each proficiency level (from Pre-A1 to C2). The scales and the descriptors are important components of any activity since they guide the process of task design.

The CEFR adopts a plurilingual vision giving value to cultural and linguistic diversity. Being “plurilingual” does not necessarily mean having balanced and high developed competences in multiple languages, but rather being able to integrate various repertoires and draw on them for different communicative purposes. The development of learners’ plurilingual competence is of paramount importance according to the CEFR. METLA sees cross-linguistic mediation as part of someone’s plurilingual competence. It follows that plurilingual competence entails a creative movement across languages, of passing on information and constructing new meanings and involves the interplay among languages.

As Piccardo (2016) puts it, the (plurilingual) mediator engages in tasks that require his/her agency in strategically employing all resources available to accomplish a mission.