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    Mediation in teaching, learning and assessment
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    What is mediation?

Mediation in teaching, learning and assessment

The METLA project proposes innovative and engaging ways in which teachers can include language mediation in their everyday classroom practice. Here you will find essential information about language mediation, plenty of examples of cross-linguistic mediation tasks and step-by-step guidelines on how you can design and evaluate your own language mediation tasks.

teaching materials database

What is mediation?

When do we mediate?

We mediate when there is need to make information accessible to others (friends, colleagues, family members, tourists, etc.) who are experiencing difficulty understanding oral or written speech in some situation or another. We may have to explain part of what was said or written, to relay one or more messages in a language that the person we are mediating for understands. The mediator acts as an intermediary who passes on source text information to someone else to (an)/other language(s) or within the same language in order to bridge communication gaps using the appropriate mediation strategies (e.g. paraphrasing).

What is the difference between cross-linguistic and intralinguistic mediation?

As the CEFR-CV informs us “in mediation, the user/learner acts as a social agent who creates bridges and helps to construct or convey meaning, sometimes within the same language, sometimes from one language to another (cross-linguistic mediation)”. Cross-linguistic (or interlinguistic) mediation thus refers to the activity of relaying information from one language to another. Intralinguistic mediation takes place when the relaying of information occurs within the same language. Explaining content of graphs and tables within the same language is an example of intralinguistic mediation. 

Let’s imagine situations in which we might mediate within the same language.

Some examples of intralinguistic mediation may be:

between two friends, one of whom relays information from a previously read magazine article in order to warn or advise the other on a certain topic, or the case of a doctor explaining the blood test results to his/her patient who is unable to understand the medical text

Let’s imagine situations in which we might mediate across languages in real life...

  • A tourist in our city stops and asks us about a concert that is announced through a poster which is in the local language only. We read and give info to the tourist about the when, where, of the concert and other details he or she wants to know.
  • A friend relays information from a magazine article in a foreign language in order to warn someone else about the dangers of smoking
  • We watch a video in a language that our parents do not understand, and give them instructions on how to open the door of the washing machine when the wash is finished.
  • A passer-by asks a street artist to explain in a foreign language the meaning of a piece of graffiti on the road.
  • We look at the weather in our weather app in language X and advise our sister in language Y what kind of clothing he or she should take on the trip.
  • A classmate heard a new song in language X that she  tells us what it is about in our own language.

Can we teach or assess mediation?

Cross-linguistic mediation can be taught and assessed through mediation tasks which require the use of different languages (i.e. passing on information from one language to another), softening linguistic and cultural gaps in the process


What competences, skills and strategies are needed? 

When the learner mediates, s/he is involved in a process which first requires selection and then transferring of source text information into another text. The ability to mediate refers to a number of competences and skills which are manifested through the use of a number of strategies. It is, therefore, important to keep in mind the following points:

1
To perform a mediation task successfully, the mediator must make use of cognitive skills (e.g., selecting, combining, problem solving, recalling information, predicting, analysing, guessing, making hypotheses, activating critical thinking skills etc.) which will enable him/her to evaluate (source) information and select the information which is suitable for task completion;
3
Possessing sociolinguistic competence is also important in order to recognise the communicative needs of the addressee and to form a message suitable for the situational context (e.g., using formal impersonal style when writing to a principal, or informal language when sending an email to a friend);  
2
The ability to mediate across languages entails being linguistically competent in the languages involved in order to create a meaningful message;
4
Different tasks require the activation of different skills and competences. It is important to stress again that it is ultimately the task parameters (who is writing/speaking to whom and for what purpose) that determines language forms.

Mediation is not only concerned with the tasks that are performed but also with how somebody carries out the task. The effective use of mediation strategies is crucial for the effectiveness of mediation. Mediation strategies, which form part of someone’s strategic competence, are the techniques employed to “clarify meaning and facilitate understanding” (Council of Europe, 2020: 117), such as paraphrasing summarising, regrouping/ reorganising information, crisscrossing-information, condensing or expanding messages, blending new with source text meanings etc., illustrating with metaphors, multimodal texts or visuals, among others. Although learning how to mediate can be a life-long and challenging process, mediation strategies can be developed through pedagogic practices which incorporate a series of cross-linguistic mediation tasks.

Mediator

The mediator’s task is to bridge or minimise communication gaps between languages and users of different languages. S/he:


operates as a facilitator, a meaning negotiator, a meaning-making agent;

creates meanings for someone who is unable to (fully) understand a text in one language and with whom he/she may or may not share the same cultural or social experiences;

helps other people understand information written, spoken or signed in a language, register or modality which they do not speak or understand;

is considered as a kind of a
‘go-between’ or an intermediary between cultures – languages - discourses – texts;

is not a neutral third party but a social actor co-responsible for the construction and negotiation of meaning and an active participant in the communicative encounter, responsible for selecting information and passing it on.  

Cross-linguistic (or interlinguistic) mediation

We mediate, in formal and informal contexts, when there is need to make information accessible to a friend, a colleague, a family member, a tourist, a boss, and generally to parties who do not grasp this information or have difficulties to understand due to linguistic or/and cultural differences cross-linguistic mediation. 

Cross-linguistic mediation:

  • entails the purposeful selection of information by the mediator from a source text in one language and the relaying of this information into another language, with the intention of bringing interlocutors, who do not share the same language, closer. 
  • is part of the mediator’s plurilingual competence. The mediator actively participating in two worlds, drawing upon Language A content and shaping new meanings in Language B for readers or listeners of a different linguistic or cultural background;
  • involves a variety of abilities: reception (listening and reading), production (writing and speaking), and interaction as well as non-linguistic resources, such as body language etc.;  
  • not only involves being competent in two (or more) languages, but it also entails being competent in using the appropriate mediation strategies

We asked our ECML network what mediation is for them and here are their answers:

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