Life around the world

Sunday, 7 April, 2013 - 17:15

Tandem - a great way to learn a new language!

by Miranda Clark

Have you ever heard of Tandem? The word itself means a bicycle with two saddles for two people sat one behind the other, but the idea when you're learning a language is that you have two (or more) people with different mother tongues who both want to learn to speak another language and help each other learn it. Usually that other language is spoken by their 'Tandem' partner and so both languages can be spoken in a language exchange.

For example, I'm a native English speaker but I want to learn to speak some Spanish. I go along to my local Tandem meeting which is part of my University and I can find a Spanish speaker who wants to improve their English. The idea of this language exchange is great as it means that you learn the intricate details of a language and funny expressions that you would not always learn in a classroom or text book! A Tandem exchange usually functions in two (or more!) languages, so I might speak English with my Spanish Tandem partner for 30 minutes and help them with any problems or expressions in English, and then we can switch to speak in Spanish for around the same amount of time.

If you want to arrange a Tandem meeting then it can also be really useful to bring along something to read, as then you or your partner can practise some pronunciation and reading in another language. Your Tandem partner can also help with any words which you don't understand. You can then discuss the text and have a more general conversation about it, which is great for practising your languages in an informal and relaxed setting! I really recommend getting involved with a Tandem exchange if you can because you can then make friends with people from all around the world and learn lots of new words! Always remember to stay safe, tell someone what you're doing and meet in a public place if there is not an organised Tandem session where you live but enjoy the opportunity of learning a new language and understanding a new culture!


Have you ever participated in a language exchange? What was it like?

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