Intercultural Mediations in Language and Culture Teaching and Learning

< List of ReNs

Intercultural Mediations in Language and Culture Teaching and Learning  



In language teaching and learning intercultural mediation has become an important concept and much literature has argued that the ability to mediate between languages and cultures is one of the fundamental components of intercultural competence (Buttjes & Byram, 1991; Byram, 2002; Liddicoat & Scarino, 2013; Zarate, Gohard-Radenkovic, Lussier, & Penz, 2004). However, there is a need to consider more widely

  • how language and culture are constitutive elements of mediation in increasingly complex contexts of language learning and use.
  • how mediation functions in the processes of language teaching and learning and language use.

This ReN project is located within the framework of teaching and learning plurilingualism and pluriculturalism. The object of study is based on the relationships that languages have with each other: whether they are closely or distantly related, widely distributed or localized, widely taught or less taught. Pluralism in all these aspects is therefore the general framing for this project as befits a globalised world. The reciprocal relationships between a language and a culture are considered as an individual case of this general starting point. This pluralist approach is one of the distinctive features of this project, contrasting with studies of mediation based on a binary and exclusive relationship between two languages and cultures.

Mediation is central to the processes of creating and interpreting meanings across languages and cultures. A productive way to think about intercultural mediation is therefore to see it as a relational and interpretative activity. That is intercultural mediation is “an active engagement in diversity as a meaning making activity” (Liddicoat & Scarino, 2013, p. 54) that involves interpreting the meaning of diverse others for oneself and for others. That is, intercultural mediation is not solely the resolution of communication problems but also the development of shared understandings or even consensus between participants in communication. Irishkanova et al. (2004) therefore argue that intercultural mediators are involved in processes of recognizing, understanding, explaining, commenting, interpreting and negotiating phenomena. Intercultural mediators both analyse the meanings of others constructed within cultural framings and provide those who do not share a cultural framing with the means to understand diverse others (Gohard-Radenkovic, Lussier, Penz, & Zarate, 2004). In the field of translation studies, a similar view of mediation has been put forward by Katan (2004), who argues that translation as mediation involves representing both that which is explicitly expressed and that which is implicitly expressed – that is, the meaning of  a text lies not only in the language but also in what the language means more broadly to a reader.

From this broad definition of the activity of mediation, the project aims to disambiguate le concept of mediation, which is widely used in other fields that relate to the management of social relations (law, politics, media, etc.). This concept usually involves the following accepted meanings in language teaching and learning:

  • products or the use of teaching materials in a general sense, or to new technologies in a narrower sense,
  • activities that “include spoken interpretation and written translation as well as summarizing and paraphrasing texts in the same language, when the language of the original text is not understandable to the intended recipient” (Common European Framework of reference for Languages, chapter 4, p. 87)
  • the interactions or reflexive practices associated with learning and assessment that aim to shed light on contradictory social representations of the Other.
  • the management of identity-based tensions associated with discriminatory or xenophobic attitudes, resulting in the breakdown of social ties.

Without rejecting any of these accepted meanings, the project will study the relationship between language and culture and the enactment of mediation viewed from these different perspectives from the point of view of the actors, strategies and plurilingual and pluricultural trajectories they involve.

The mediational role of the intercultural mediator goes beyond the expression of meaning through language to encapsulate the need to communicate the meanings that are present in text but which are expressed implicitly, through context. In this sense too, the mediator is an interpreter of meaning and a communicator of interpreted meaning. The intercultural mediator is therefore positioned between cultures as an interpreter of meanings and is therefore involved in a complex hermeneutic process.

Moreover, based on common languages of academic communication, English and French, and also other partly shared languages in the repertoires of network members, the participants in this project will be invited to adopt a reflexive stance in relation to the working of their mediational activities at to analyze the plurilingual and pluricultural strategies explicitly established or spontaneously put in place for their work.