In tandem learning, two people of different native languages improve their language skills in their respective target language (which is the tandem partner’s native language) by meeting each other on a regular basis. Each tandem participant is alternately student and expert.
Tandem learning is a very individual form of self-directed learning. Each participant is responsible for his own process of learning, as well as the content and the pace – thus the aims of each participant can be different (principle of autonomy).
Since your tandem partner has a general understanding of your native language, he even benefits if you take your time mastering your target language. (Tandem learning is not recommended for beginners, and even with beginners as partners there are special features1). As tandem partners, you can help each other any time and support your partner’s learning process (principle of reciprocity).
What is more, with a tandem partnership you have the possibility of getting to know another culture in a direct and personal way.
In a nutshell: The basic rules
- Tandem partners meet regularly (e.g. 1 -2 times a week)
- Each language is practiced separately.
- An equal amount of time is spent on both languages.
- The learner decides what will be done.
- The expert is patient, listens and is helpful.
A tandem is very successful when partners cooperate during the planning, make a conscious decision about the goals and ways of working, as well as prepare and follow up every meeting. You can use these documents:
More video tutorials about a successful tandem can be found here.
1 Special features for absolute beginners or level A1: If you have little knowledge of the target language, you cannot have a language tandem in the strict sense (it can still be useful for an exchange about language and culture).
You should be aware of this: If you as a learner only have an A1 level, it is more difficult for your partner because you cannot help him/her as well if you lack basic language skills in his/her mother tongue.