Guideline for practicing TANDEM

You found a TANDEM language partner - what are the next steps?


First personal/online meeting

First of all, do not only continue writing but try to arrange the first meeting - in times of corona either personally, if possible, or you arrange an online meeting. Before you meet, please take your time to think about those questions:

a) Time  

When, how often and for how long do I have time to meet each other?    

b) Place/Online platform

Where could we meet each other? Where could we learn together? Which online platform do we use?

c) Motivation

  • What would I like to learn?
  • In what situations do I need the foreign language: everyday life, studying, studying abroad?
  • What goals would I like to achieve?
  • What learning methods do I prefer?
  • What is the best way for me to learn?
  • How do I like to learn?
  • What learning experiences do I have already?

Now the first meeting is well prepared! If you meet personally, try to combine a public place for your first meeting. That assures that you feel comfortable and safe when meeting your TANDEM partner the first time in person.

d) Questions to talk about

During your first meeting, try to agree upon a regular time and place where you want to meet your TANDEM language partner for your mutual language learning. Furthermore, you might want to discuss different important questions that will contribute to the smooth progression of your language partnership:

e) What role do you assume as a learner?

In the role of a language-learner you are free to decide what you would like to learn and how you would like to learn it. For the establishment of such targets you have to take into account your personal language learning needs and to answer the following questions:

  • What do I need the foreign language for?
  • In what situations would I like to apply the foreign language?

In the role of a learner you should take into account your previous learning experiences and to respect your own learning achievements from the past.

f) What role do you assume as a teacher?

In the role of a language-teacher you have to accept the wishes of the language-learner and you should be responsive to the learning-needs and learning-desires of your language-partner. Give assistance and support the learning process.

What can you offer as a teacher?

  • listen carefully
  • talk over and clarify any open questions of vocabulary or understanding
  • answer any cultural questions
  • if desired: correct pronunciation, grammar or short written exercises
  • motivate to practice regularly and suggest checking the results of the learning material
  • make the learning of a language interesting with the help of different teaching aids and create diversified lessons
  • look for solutions in order to cover the occasional language barriers

Together with your language-partner you have to talk over the defined language goals and the learning process, to discuss and reflect the selected work forms. Try to encounter the arguments of your language-partner as openly as possible.

g) What language will be spoken?

During the first meeting, you have to decide what language is to be spoken. Usually, you speak your mother tongue as a teacher and a foreign language as a learner. You should make sure that both languages are spoken approximately the same amount of time. You can discuss and specify any exceptions individually.

h) What kind of learning materials shall we use?

In order to choose the learning materials keep primarily to the following rule: all materials are allowed which interest, stimulate, support and motivate you. These may include: texts, pictures, film and sound recordings, newspaper cuttings, poems, advertisements, games and other media. You might not even use any of the materials mentioned above because you have a lot to talk or write about as it is.

Language exercise books represent a good learning support for many beginners. Other useful supporting tools include dictionaries or basicgrammar books. Many libraries have teaching and learning materials that you can copy or borrow.

i) How do we correct each other?

Once the general conditions of the language partnership are clarified you should think about discussing the correction process as well. Many language partnerships struggle exactly at this point because this topic is not being discussed openly. Specify together, when and how you would like your mistakes to be corrected. As a teacher, try not to focus on the mistakes of a learner and be careful with overcorrection.

Corrections are reasonable if your language partner can learn something from the mistakes.

Try to correct or support

  • if your language partner is asking for a correction,
  • if your language partner is struggling to find the right word,
  • if you do not understand your language partner,
  • if an error or a type of error occurs too often.

For example, you could take notes of the most significant errors and then talk them over together with your language partner afterwards. Try different forms of correction and discuss together, what forms you find helpful or rather distracting. Always keep in mind that you are learning a new foreign language. While correcting avoid offensive verbalizations of mistakes.

Key features of a language partnership

A language partnership only works if both language partners benefit from it. A language partnership can be organized freely because there are no teachers who set the topics for you; there is neither curriculum nor learning material which you are required to follow.

The language partners are free to decide upon all the questions concerning their learning and they have to take the responsibility when itcomes to the learning outcomes. You have to plan your work sequences independently, control your learning progress on your own and adjust your working procedures in order to meet your specific goals. This way you will be able to benefit from the potential of the language partnership.

The principle of fairness and reciprocity should be an important basis of your language partnership. Each language-partner should expect as much commitment as he/she is willing to show himself. The more mutual assistance you have the better your learning progress will be.

Make sure that your language partnership time is divided equally. Please note that you will need time to settle into the language partnership. Take this time consciously and provide your partner with the same amount of time.

And now have fun!