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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  • Dear Claudia,

    Thanks for sharing our project with your students. It was our first experience and we look forward to improving it in the future.

    I just wanted to add the technorati tag for the project: skypetandem. In this way, we will easily find out if another class has started a blog or posted an entry about the exchange to share experiences and learn from each other.

    Best regards,


    By Blogger Carla Raguseo, At 2:27 pm  

  • Thank you Carla for the tagging info.
    I have added the skypetandem tag to this post as well.

    For those unfamiliar with Technorati,
    this is the link where projects should automatically appear:

    All best,

    By Blogger Claudia Ceraso, At 2:39 pm  

  • These are all great resources, thank you! I would like to share another one that you might find helpful - Edufire. This is another language learning site that revolves around a great community and brings students and tutors together. The site is free, you only pay tutors if you choose to work with them.

    If you are interested in trying out a tutoring session for free, send me an email

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 7:12 pm  

  • Sandra
    Thank you for visiting. I am just checking out Edufire> and it looks quite interesting, but that free
    "Joining the Site, browsing for Tutors and listing services is free. Users and Tutors will negotiate and agree upon a fee for a Tutoring Session. We do charge a commission on every completed transaction for using the Site. We may choose to temporarily change the fees for our Services for promotional events (for example, free tutoring days) or new services, and such changes are effective when we post the temporary promotional event or new service on the Site."

    Besides the work is with a tutor. Tandem learning is supposed to connect students together.

    By Blogger Claudia Ceraso, At 9:22 pm  

  • Dear Claudia and Carla:
    Thank you very much for the very interesting project and post.

    I have added some of your recommended sites to the list of Skype Tandem Webs I posted for my Students in Diigo
    I was wondering if you would like to talk about your experiences with Skype Tandem projects on my podcast for Spanish teachers
    If so, just let me know

    By Blogger Victoria, At 5:29 am  

  • Dear Victoria,

    Thank you for visiting and for the invite to your blog. Of course I'd like to meet you online and share our learning experiences.

    We stayed tuned!



    By Blogger Claudia Ceraso, At 8:13 pm  

  • Olá! Achei muito legal o seu blog! Meus parabéns pelo profissionalismo e conteúdo das postagens!
    Se não se importar, gostaria de adicionar seu blog a minha lista de favoritos?
    Caso tenha algum tempo, faça uma visitinha para o meu blog!
    O endereço é:

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 1:11 am  

  • Hi, I had a question: yesterday I was terribly nervous & spoiled my speaking exam, what would happen if my other parts are satisfying? will I pass??

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 7:33 am  

  • Hmm. I wonder what you mean by "spoiling it". The exam result is an addition of marks. All parts count, no part defines absolutely all.

    So, let's wait until the results arrive and then... come back and leave a comment to tell us what happened.


    By Blogger Claudia Ceraso, At 12:16 pm  

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