THE FCE BLOG by Claudia Ceraso

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Tandem Learning

Finding your Learning Mates

I often hear the question...
Where can I practise my language skills with native speakers of English?

I can almost see you nod.

Using Skype, it is very easy to contact anyone to have a chat without being worried about your landphone bill. So first things first, get yourself a Skype account.

Avoid fatal mistakes.
Not everyone who speaks English likes being requested contact details in Skype just for the sake of practice. I'd say it is best to choose like-minded people first. People who are after the same objectives you have. Let's say, potential online friends.

Guess what...
People with like-minded ideas tend to get together somewhere in cyberspace. Key words to google here are
Tandem Language Learning

What is that?
Simply put,
I remember many years ago my then boss (and also my teacher of Greek) talking about something called tandem learning.The basic idea was that students learning each other's language could team up, taking turns to speak in their own language, then swop to the language they were learning. So, for example a Greek student would spend the first half of the lesson chatting or working with a German learning Greek and then in the second half of the lesson they would swop roles." From Teacher Dude's wiki.

Now you wonder if you can learn like this. Well, it is important to give your expectations a reality check.

It is not a formal class. So don't expect the other student to give you detailed grammar explanations of your mistakes. That's what teachers are for, right?

Why is tandem learning valuable?

Two things:

1)It is a unique chance to get first hand knowledge of the target culture. It is amazing to discover how different things can be in another country. It can help you see yourself for what you are: a global citizen.

Collaboration and sharing. That what it is. Both partners should benefit equally from the exchange. You'll have to negotiate!

2)It is an autonomous learning experience. You decide when, how long, what about. You are responsible for your own learning, your goals, materials and methods.

Some tips

Here's a great site to help you plan your lessons. You get the same topics and questions in 10 different languages, so you can easily organise the bilingual halves of the lesson.

It would be super if you decided to create a blog to record the experience. Take a look at this post from Carla Raguseo's and her Spanish and English Exchange.

Nice, don't you think?

OK. Now that you got it, let's find a learning mate!

Sites to get started

Language Learning in Tandem
Friends Abroad
My Language Exchange
Language Exchanges

Highly recommended

Kan Talk is a place to choose topics to talk about, then the people. Yet, tandem learning needn't be just a conversation project, it could also be about writing. Like this.

One last thing....
Remember to protect your privacy. If you do not do this with your teacher helping you, do give those sites a good look first.

Happy learning!

Image credits Tandem by laRuth Two tandems by miichan

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