Language teachers have long known that they are teaching people to use languages to communicate across social bridges. Theorists and practitioners call it “mediation.”
At the core of mediation is the concept that language is dynamic, complex, and non-linear. Language is viewed as a process. We are “languaging.” We have been “languaging” for centuries. Mediation conceptualizes the learners as social agents who link people and ideas to offer meaningful explanations and interpretations of texts and concepts. Conceptually, cognition is at the core of mediation, while encompassed in the relational and emotional aspects. Mediation is communication across texts, cultures, and worlds.
Mediation encompasses mediating texts. Often, the texts are in one language and the language user (the learner) teaches, translates, or explains the text into a target language or dialect for another person who benefits from the mediation or explanation. For example, learners explain data from a graph into words. For example, learners take notes from a complicated book chapter and create a visual presentation for their classmates.
Mediation encompasses mediating concepts. Teaching, parenting, mentoring, training are examples of when people are mediating concepts to help someone else understand or to foster collaborative dialogue. For example, mediation is the skill of facilitating a group to complete a project. For example, mediation is the skill of leading group work and encouraging participants to think conceptually. Giving a workshop on a complex research project to faculty from another field is mediation.
Mediation encompasses mediating communication. In thousands of situations, ideas and language from two or more cultures swirl together in a complex, dynamic, plurilingual pool. Sorting out ideas, concepts, disagreements, and misunderstandings in ways that foster safe multicultural spaces is not an easy task! For example, when students with different languages are tasked with creating a new website in a target language, they collaborate to construct meaning and messages to complete the task.
Language teachers have been facilitating safe places for students to practice mediation for centuries. But now, theorists and practitioners can articulate some of the messiness of how communication (or miscommunication) takes place in culturally diverse contexts, which is basically most of the places on earth where people communicate.
The Common European Framework of Languages (CEFR) 2020 articulated the concepts of mediation, operationalized mediation, and created CAN DO statements at each of the levels of language use. Now language teachers can use well-defined explanations of mediation and teachers can conceptualize a scale of mediation activities from A1 to C2.
The ideas in this blog are not my own. Thank you, Enrica Piccardo (2020, 2023) for your wonderful research and clear mediation (explanation) of mediation for us.
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