Mediation as a strategy for learning a second language


Lately it is common to find the term mediation in official language exams. The European Union emphasizes the importance of mediation in the teaching-learning process of a language in the Common European Framework of Reference for language teaching.

There are exams that specifically address mediation in the field of language learning, such as those of the Official Language School , which include a specific section to evaluate it, or some that have been developed in the academic field such as the Tests of Integrated Skills of the TRADILEX R&D&i project .

What does mediation mean in the field of language learning, and how to apply it to the classroom? It is a very broad term, which refers more generally to a person’s activity as a facilitator of communication, that is, helping others communicate and understand each other better.

Mediation in society

This may seem, a priori, far from language teaching and may even be more associated with the field of translation and interpretation. Indeed, a specific case of mediation can be the translation and interpretation work carried out by people who facilitate communication between migrants and people from the host country .

In fact, translators and interpreters are mainly mediators who facilitate communication. In this sense, a myth must be broken since translating or interpreting is not only about transferring a text from one language to another.

There is a type of translation that is not interlinguistic (that is, from a source language A to a target language B), but rather intralinguistic. It may seem strange to translate from Spanish to Spanish, for example, but in some cases it is very necessary. If we think about the relationship between Administration and administered, communication can be very complex and there are projects like Art-Text that already work with computational linguistics to facilitate understanding between the Administration and citizens. These are “translations” of a text in a very complex and legalistic language into a more understandable and common language.

There is a third type of translation that is probably largely unknown but is crucial to facilitating social inclusion: intersemiotics. Subtitling for deaf people or audio description allow people with functional diversity to access audiovisual products.

When watching a movie or an information program, normal-hearing and normal-sighted people receive visual and oral information simultaneously and the interaction of both is key to understanding the meanings. However, there are people who have visual or hearing difficulties and do not have access to this information. Thanks to the previously mentioned audiovisual translation modalities, this information can be compensated to offer accessible audiovisual products.

Infographics on specific topics, such as medicine , are also a very interesting example of mediation.

Mediation in the language classroom

Once the importance of mediation in society has been analyzed and what it means has been clarified, we can ask ourselves: how can we make students develop the capacity for mediation in the language classroom, and to what extent does it contribute to their learning? ?

The proposal for the European reference framework mentioned above speaks of three basic axes: textual mediation, conceptual mediation and communication mediation.

This axis is very interesting because it opens up a wide range of possibilities in the classroom and also breaks some myths. Taking notes may seem common, but what about taking notes in a foreign language? It is a simple activity that can be very effective, while also being challenging.

For example: an oral reception task ( listening ) in which students write notes on those aspects that they consider most important while listening. Another example could be explaining content in the English classroom, such as the water cycle, and while the teacher does it, the students must take notes so they can later explain it in their own words.

Another idea to develop students’ mediating competence is to explain graphs and data tables. In this sense, explaining the weather map, presenting flowcharts or commenting on a bar graph in a second language can be interesting tasks for the classroom.

Translate and summarize

Summarizing in the language being learned is another very suitable option to work on mediation and at the same time improve the ability to synthesize. In this sense, there is also the option of asking students to explain the text they are working with in their own words in their mother tongue.

Despite the shadow that hangs over the use of translation in language teaching , it is time to demystify and advocate for its use since it allows language students to capture the essential information of a text and, in addition, , at higher levels you can pick up nuances. Likewise, at higher levels, criticizing an artistic text can be a very good way to mediate.

Negotiate meanings

Regarding conceptual and communication mediation, both are essential since they allow group collaboration, negotiation of meanings, management of interaction and facilitation of communications in situations of agreement and disagreement.

In conclusion, mediation is a fundamental competence for citizens of the 21st century. By mediating (that is, trying to clarify and communicate) the concept of mediation, we see that disciplines such as pedagogy, philology and translation and interpretation go hand in hand, and their union can give rise to very interesting didactic proposals that enrich the teaching-learning processes of modern languages.

Author Bio: Antonio Jesús Tinedo-Rodríguez is a PSI at the University of Córdoba