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Tandem Language Learning - a fun method


Date12 Jan 2022


The tandem language learning  method helps two people progress in learning a language at the same time, just as a tandem bicycle helps two people progress with a combined effort. For this method, you find a person who speaks your target language as a mother tongue and is learning your mother tongue. This pair is called a tandem because you help each other with your language progress.

Often the step from learning the basics to speaking freely is the most difficult. Overcoming the threshold of inhibitions and insecurity requires some effort. The tandem method of language learning is perfect for crossing this threshold with ease.  

The tandem language learning method has several advantages. For example, it is usually less stressful for the learners than in a classroom, as the language is learnt easily and playfully in a relaxed private atmosphere. Learning with native speakers gives you a realistic idea of how the language will be used. In addition, you can learn more about the country and culture from your partner's personal perspective. This promotes intercultural understanding and often leads to beautiful friendships. Tandem allows more flexibility than a language course, because you can choose the best method, time and place for you.

But BEWARE: The tandem method is not a substitute for language schools and formal language courses. You should still learn the basics with a trained language teacher.

Some basics about the method

The language levels of both partners should be similar so that both benefit equally from the tandem. In addition, they should know the basics of the language well enough to be able to hold a conversation. The most important basis for the success of a tandem is continuity. Regular meetings are the key to success. How you organise these meetings is up to you. You can meet for coffee, to go shopping, to cook, to go to the theatre or to visit a museum - this way you will have different topics of conversation each time and learn different vocabulary along the way.

Of course, you should spend the same amount of time on the languages so that you both learn something. It is also very important that you remain consistent and do not switch to your mother tongue too often. This may be difficult at first, but it will help you find ways to express yourself in the foreign language.

You can set the rules for your tandem and try out what works best for both of you. For example, do you want to be corrected immediately when you speak or do you want to keep the flow going? Also remember that it's about speaking. Not every mistake needs to be corrected. The corrections should always be constructive.

Find out how to find a tandem partner here!

Different forms of tandem

There are different ways of using the tandem language learning method. The first form is suitable if both partners are already at a stage where they have no problem understanding the other language. In this case, it makes sense for each partner to speak consistently in the foreign language in order to practise as much as possible. Corrections from the other person help.

If you have not yet fully mastered listening comprehension, you should divide the time. Spend the first half of the meeting on one language and the second half on the other. Nothing is better than practising listening comprehension with a native speaker. You can also devote a whole meeting to one language and the next meeting to the other.

Of course, there is also the possibility of forming written or digital tandems. You can exchange emails or messages, which can then be easily corrected. Video phone calls and voice messages are also a variant. However, direct communication with regular meetings is the most promising.

How you organise the tandem is totally up to you. If you have any further questions or would like to share your experiences, please write to us in the comments or to [email protected]!

Written by: Tanja Holbe

Cover Photo Credit: Bewakoof.com Official - Unsplash 

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