There is a great variety of learning opportunities. Long-time readers know that we are happy to get rid of vocabularies and typical methods of language learning, because there are much nicer ways to learn a language. In this article, we would like to take a closer look at a language learning method that is not normally the focus of attention: language learning in tandem.
A Little Background
Before I start, I would like to say that I’m writing this series of articles thanks to my many years of experience. I have talked to many native speakers via Skype. Thanks to my tandem partners, my Spanish and English language skills have improved significantly, as well as my experience about how tandem learning can be effective or ineffective.
This way of learning is now the basic part of my language learning experience. Especially if you do not live in the country where the certain language is spoken, you hardly have such a great opportunity to experience it on so many professional, cultural, and personal levels. Thanks to the tandem language methodology, you also get to know some wonderful people you do not want to miss!
What Does Tandem Mean?
In the language context, we always mean the common and mutual language learning of two or even more people here. Partners help each other because they can teach each other, master skills and learn things which were previously unknown to them.
Here’s an example: Helga’s mother tongue is German and she is currently learning Spanish. She is learning together with Pedro who fluently speaks Spanish and learns German. Both can correct each other’s mistakes and provide support because even though Helga has not completed any studies in German, she can do more than enough to help Pedro.
That’s the basic principle. Actually, it is very simple. However, as with all language learning methods, tandem learning has many aspects that affect learning for both tandem partners.
So What’s So Great About Tandem Practicing?
- Flexibility – both mates can always decide on how often and where they want to learn. Both can adapt their language learning to their current life situation.
- Individuality – each tandem partner perfectly deals with one person and even much better than it would be possible with 20 people in a language course. In addition, learning content can always be adapted to one’s own wishes and circumstances so that it never gets boring. Pedro notices that Helga has difficulty in pronouncing certain words? Then he puts a focus on it next time.
- Free – in principle, tandem partners ‘pay’ each other directly through their help. Costs are mainly in the form of drinks, for example, when you meet in cafes. You may already have learning materials (or you would buy them anyway).
- Cultural enrichment – you get an insight into unknown cultural aspects of your partner over the time. You can see the behavior, the gestures, and facial expressions, how he or she reacts surprisingly differently in some situations. These very interesting cultural features are not described in textbooks. You also see your own behavior in a different light and think about yourself on a new level.
- Personal Ambassador – language is often associated with an interest in the country or countries in which the language is spoken. With your tandem partner, you can talk about current political events as well as historical aspects and get deeper and more personal insights.
This list of tandem learning advantages is not exhaustive (if we did not mention the most important point – write about it in a comment!) but already gives you a good insight into understanding why many language enthusiasts learn not only with books but also with people.
If you already belong to a tandem learning group, it would be great if you could share your experience with others. It’s always interesting to see how others organize the process.