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Linguistic Mediation - How to make a good summary of a text

24/04/2021 

The Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) has established a new skill to be assessed, together with writing, speaking, reading and listening. This new skill is called "mediation". Here we will explain what this new kind of exercise is, and how to do it.

 

WHAT IS LINGUISTIC MEDIATION

We can define it as a kind of interaction where one person helps another person to understand a written or oral piece of language. So let's say we are talking about English, AA is the mediator and BB is the receiver. We can have two types of mediation:

Interlinguistic or bilingual: BB doesn't understand English, so AA will mediate by translating the meaning of the English text into BB's own language.

Intralinguistic or monolingual: BB understands English, but not good enough to understand a piece of language which is too difficult or too technical. In this case AA must mediate by explaining the meaning of the language in a level of English that BB can understand.

In both cases the situation is basically the same, AA will help BB understand a piece of information. If the original information is transmitted through a text, we call it written mediation or oral mediation if it is explained by talking. The technique we are going to teach here can be used for all kinds of mediation, written or oral, bilingual or monolingual, but we will explain it specifically for written intralinguistic mediation, that is, you get a difficult English text and turn it into an easier shorter English text. For other situations just make the logical adjustments.

 

INTROLINGUISTIC WRITTEN MEDIATION

In bilingual mediation we could think that all we need to do is translating the original text. But if we are asked to do an exercise of written mediation, we will be required to say the same ideas but using our own words and in a shorter version. For interlinguistic mediation this is even more obvious. So this will be our challenge: to make a summary of the text and make sure you keep all the original ideas as well as the intention of the text.

 

STEP 1: EXTRACT THE IDEAS FROM THE ORIGINAL TEXT

The most successful article in our blog, by far, is this: 8 Steps to Write a Good Composition. You should read that text to learn how to plan your composition. In that article we teach you how to make an outline containing the ideas you are then going to express in your text. You make an outline, then you transform that outline into a text. Well, if you learn how to make an outline, mediation will be easy, all you have to do is reverse the process.

First thing to do is read all the text quickly to get the general idea. Quickly, don’t worry about difficult words, don’t underline, don’t take notes, just a quick read. Then you must find out the specific ideas that make up the text. For that, you must extract the outline contained in the text, so you end up with these essential elements:

 

1- Topic and approach → This is what the text is about and how the writer is going to deal with it. You will usually find them in the opening sentence (the first sentence of the text, or in the opening paragraph). We don’t want to get the opening sentence; we only want to extract the two elements that make up the opening sentence: topic and approach.

2- Supporting ideas → Remember that every paragraph contains one general idea, so read the whole paragraph and see what its general idea is.

3- Details → Once you get the general idea for that paragraph, see now the little ideas (details) used in that paragraph to explain that general idea.

4- Purpose or aim of the text → When we write a text we do it for some reason, we want to transmit some kind of information, feeling, idea, etc. We often can find that purpose in the last sentence or paragraph (the closing sentence), but we also need to remember what the topic and the approach are. This purpose must be clear in our summary too.

Tip→ You can create your outline on a separate place, or you can use notes and underlining inside the text: Think of what the topic, approach and purpose is, and then simply write the S1 next to each corresponding paragraph, and underline the key words corresponding to the details of each paragraph.

 

STEP 2: MAKE IT SHORTER (select only important details)

In one paragraph we have one supporting idea, and that idea is expressed through several details. To make a summary we must keep the supporting ideas but must compress the paragraph. We can do so by making shorter sentences but also by removing unnecessary details if necessary.

So imagine you have a paragraph with 4 details. All four are trying to express the supporting idea of that paragraph, but maybe we don’t need to use all four and we can use maybe two or only one detail. If you extracted the outline properly and you have got the details for that supporting idea, now think a bit about which details are more important or less necessary to express that idea and remove the less important ones.

 

STEP 3: TURN THE OUTLINE INTO A TEXT

Now we have the outline, the bones of the composition. All you have to do is transform that outline into your own text, with your own words, but creating a shorter version according to the instructions you receive. This way you can be sure that your summary has the same topic and approach, the same supporting ideas and the same purpose. Nothing essential will be lost in the summary, so it will be a faithful reflection of the original text.

Start explaining that you are going to talk about a text you read, and then make sure the topic, approach and purpose will be reflected either in this first sentence or all through your summary. Then start with Idea 1 and details, then idea 2 and details, then Idea 3 and details, etc.

Remember a Mediation is not a Composition. In a composition you must show how good you are at correction, richness, composing, etc. In a mediation exercise you must show that you can express the same ideas as the original text so another person can understand. So we don’t worry so much about complexity, grammar, variety, etc. All that is fine, but now the most important thing is clarity, so simplicity helps.

For interlinguistical mediation, that is, explaining an English text into another language, you can do the same thing to summarise your text. The only difference is that once you extract the outline, you will write your summary in the other language, not in English.

Extracting the outline will also help you if you are going to do an oral mediation. You can use the outline as notes to talk about it and make sure nothing important is left out.

Anyway, Mediation is a new skill and many people don’t even understand well what this is about. It is difficult to find articles or books about it. So if you possibly can, talk to your teacher to understand exactly what they want you to do in case they have a different idea in mind.

We will now give you an example so you can see all these instructions in use. This text is short and simple, so you can see things clearer, but the procedure will be the same with longer and more complicated texts.

 


 

EXAMPLE

 

ORIGINAL TEXT

Living in a flat or in a house is quite a different experience with pros and cons, so if you live in the city and you must decide on buying a house or a flat, here are some things you must consider.

The most important thing, probably, is that a flat is usually cheaper. Flats can also save you a lot of money on maintenance because many costs are shared, such as central heating and building repairs and so on.

On the other hand, a house may be more expensive and away from the city centre, but it also offers more privacy. Besides, they are often bigger, so it is an ideal option for children or pets. Moreover, since they are usually in the outskirts, the area will also be quieter and the general atmosphere much less stressing.

For all that, if you are thinking of buying your new home, be very careful and balance all the good and bad things of each option. Therefore, think of money, for sure, but also think of the kind of life quality you would like to have, and then choose the option that best suits your likes and needs.

(196 words)

 

MEDIATION TASK: You have read this text in a blog and want to share it with your friend Megan. Send him or her a text message with about 60 words.

 

EXTRACTING OUTLINE:

Topic: buying a house or a flat?
Approach: pros and cons

Supporting ideas and details

  S1: about flats
     details: cheaper

  S2: about houses
     details: more expensive, away, more privacy, bigger (good for children & pets), away, quieter, relaxing

  S3: Balance
     Details: think of money, think of quality of life

Purpose: help people to choose what to buy

Tip→ It's a good idea to begin your summary explaining that you are going to write a summary of somebody else's text, so you can use phrases such as: "This is a text about...", "The writer of this text explains...", etc.

 

WRITE YOUR TEXT in about 60 words

This article is for people looking for a place to live. They say that flats are cheaper, because some expenses are shared, but a house is usually bigger. Houses are often away from the centre, so the neighbourhood is quieter and more relaxing. And they say, before choosing, think of the cost but also of the quality of life you want.

 

EXPLANATIONS

Our final text is much shorter, but all the ideas from the original text are present (Supporting ideas 1, 2 and 3) The topic and the purpose are also clear in our summary and the text is simple and clear. We had to remove some details though. In S1 there was only one detail, so we couldn’t remove it, and in S3 there were two details, but if you removed any of them the whole S3 was destroyed. So we only had S2 to reduce details, and this is why we removed some of them:

More expensive: in S1 we just said flats are cheaper, so if we now say houses are more expensive we are not giving new information, just repeating what we just said, so out.

Away: This idea is later repeated when explaining that houses are in quieter and less stressful areas because they are away from the city centre, so instead of mentioning the same idea twice, we only mention it once.

More privacy: well, we really had to remove more things if we wanted to keep in the limit of words, and this idea may be important, but we thought other ideas were more important, so we sacrificed this one.

Good for children and pets: we said houses are bigger, so this is just a consequence of that and may be inferred if needed.

As for the rest of details, we tried to make the sentences simple, short and whenever possible, we combine two or more details in one single sentence.

 

And that’s it! With a bit of practice you will see that written mediation is really quite a simple task… as long as your skills for reading and writing are good enough, of course.

 

Written by Angel Castaņo

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