Tandem initiative

What is Tandem ?

Learning languages in mutual exchange! You teach your native language to a student who, in turn, helps you master his/her native language.
Tandem learning has many advantages: It takes place on an equal footing: Your teacher is also your student and vice versa. And through contact with a native speaker, you will learn a lot about the country and its people, intercultural communication, and perhaps even make friends for life.

The Language Centre helps you find a suitable language partner. We also organise a series of other activities, for example, a first Get-To-Know-You evening.

The Tandem-Initiative is free of charge for Kassel University students!

Image: Vanessa Schröder


Language learning in "Tandem" is a learning partnership in which each person brings knowledge and skills along with them which his or her partner wishes to learn and in which each person is willing to support his or her partner in the learning process. It is important that both partners engage in such a way that everybody involved benefits equally from working together. Here we have collected a few tips to help your "Tandem" partnership.


Interesting facts about Tandem partnerships

How does it work?

When two people with different first languages meet once a week and converse for about one hour in each language, then we can speak of a "Tandem." This type of language exchange is most successful when each partner has a basic understanding of the other language and when both partners speak each of the foreign languages more or less equally well.

The big advantage
In contrast to traditional methods of language learning with the use of a teacher and textbook, Tandem has many advantages: partners can agree on their own personal needs and wishes concerning their language learning. They can choose the subjects they discuss. All of this combined makes Tandem an authentic and therefore effective learning experience - with a Tandem partner, the foreign language is no longer some sort of abstract mass, but becomes a tool to real communication with real people.

Learning the Culture
This means that a Tandem is not “only” an innovative language exchange. Above all, Tandem can contribute a great deal towards the integration of migrants, because in "Tandem" lies the essence of what integration should actually be about: not just one-sided assimilation of minorities into the majority, but a way of getting to know each other on an equal footing, a process in which neither of the two languages or cultures is seen as more important or better or worthy of more space than the other.

Tandem World Wide
Since the beginning in the late sixties, the Tandem network has spread to 15 countries across three continents (Europe, North & South America). In 1994 the TANDEM®Fundazioa, with its headquarters in San Sebastian, was founded. This is an umbrella organisation which forms an interface for language schools organising Tandems whilst guaranteeing that the schools which are registered comply with quality criteria.

  1. First meeting on neutral ground!
    For the first few times, you should meet up on neutral ground (in a coffee shop, on campus, in Leo) and first get to know each other.
  2. Your Pupil will be your Master.
    The great thing about learning a foreign language in Tandem is that the learner is the teacher in one and the same person. So, there is no need to feel embarrassed, because your partner is also learning a foreign language in which s/he will make mistakes. As with any kind of teaching, patience is required!
  3. Half for you and half for me!

    The Tandem principle is based on reciprocity: it is important that both Tandem partners can benefit equally from the joint meeting, albeit in different ways. The meet-up time should be divided so that half of the time is available for each language.

  4. Long live Autonomy!
    It is important to realise that the success of the Tandem partnership is based on the Tandem partners enjoying autonomous learning. This means that they are aware of their own weaknesses and say what skills (listening, reading, writing, speaking) they would like to improve in the language they are learning. Each Tandem partner is responsible for his/her own learning and decides in "his or her" part of the Tandem what is to be learnt. Set achievable goals!
  5. Our subject - in our way! Make use of some super platforms

    Before each meeting each Tandem partner thinks about how s/he wishes to structure his/her own part of the session (which subject do we want to discuss, how and what is to be corrected - see section: proper correction). Discussing these matters avoids disappointment and makes preparation for the Tandem partner easier. Use the free platform seagull which can help to structure your learning process and supplies material and tips: https://www.seagull-tandem.eu

  6. The native language is the key!
    The best approach is to explain difficult concepts concerning your country in your native language. Your partner also learns by listening.
  7. Note down things for the future!
    When your partner is speaking in his/her native language, you jot down words, phrases and idioms that you consider to be important and that you would like to learn - either because they are important for the topic or because they can easily and often be used again in other contexts.
  8. Mistakes! - We're going to wipe you out!
    Upon completion of a meaningful topics section you should turn to a general follow-up phase in which mistakes are discussed and corrected and the listed words and phrases as well as their exact applications are explained and noted down again in more detail.
  9. Different countries, different customs.
    When conflicts arise, they should be discussed openly and resolved as quickly as possible. Keep in mind that many problems stem from cultural differences in behavior and expectations.
  10. A healthy mix.
    Alternating meeting places (pub, library, etc.), a night at the cinema, a visit to a museum or cooking together can give new impetus and avoid monotony. Please also keep the official Tandem events in mind.

And after the 10 commandments, here's one more rule: 
You and your partner have to find your very own rhythm and style of learning. For this reason you may of course ignore the one or other of the above commandments!

"Proper" correction leads to an improved performance.

Each Tandem partner wishes to improve his or her language skills. This can only be achieved if the errors that always occur in the application of a foreign language are remembered and an attempt to use the correct form is made. The Tandem partner plays an important role here.

Less is more!
Corrections in the language should be adapted to the language level. This means that it only makes sense to always correct as many mistakes as possible at an advanced level.

Conscious selection
In many cases it is necessary to correct selectively, i.e. to focus on one type of error (eg, pronunciation, word order, word choice, etc.), because you can not learn everything at once.

Keep the goal in mind
The way you correct can be made more thematic or situational. This means that when an interesting topic is being discussed (i.e. the content is in the foreground) the Tandem partner should restrict correction to gross errors or the clarification of misunderstandings. However, in tasks or situations where the correctness of the statement is important, a more thorough correction may be useful.

Form before content
A correction should consist primarily of the correct formulation of a statement (not detailed grammatical explanations).

Quite often a signal is enough
It does not always have to be communicated verbally that the Tandem partner has made a mistake. If a statement has already been made but is not quite correct, a sign is enough (e.g. a lift of the hand) so that the speaker corrects him-/herself. In this way, error correction does not affect the flow of the conversation.

Paper doesn't blush
Another option is to write down the mistakes that can then be discussed jointly on completion of the statement or task.

It makes most sense for the Tandem partners to decide together as to which mistakes are to be corrected, when and how often. Two-way correction should ultimately help and not disturb. Correcting one another constantly can affect the morale and motivation of each Tandem partner and their relationship negatively.

© Tandem-Initiative of the University of Kassel


Are you interested in a Tandem partnership?
Then you can register with the following form. Registration is valid for two semesters.

Contact: sztandem@uni-kassel.de

Registration: Continue to Tandem registration