Language tandems and how to make them work :)

I’ve been thinking about language tandems for a while. I’ve started using them even more these days, in order to start practicing Hungarian in a more alternative and relaxed way. Curiously, many people have told me that they’ve enjoyed our tandem since the topics never die out or that we rely in a less strict schedule.

I’ve thought it’d be a good idea to share what has really worked well with my tandem partners and I during our exchanges and hopefully know what has worked for you as well:

  1. Try to set a topic beforehand. It will make conversations less awkward and more relaxed. If you both like movies, for example, talk about the latest movie you’ve seen. If your partner seems to have an interesting job or so, ask about it! Most people are afraid of making the first move in tandems, but honestly, this is one of the few moments when it’s totally okay!
  2. The 30-30 approach. Several times, you are going to meet the perfect language tandem partner. You want to learn his/her language and he/she wants to learn yours! It can be both a positive and a negative thing. You might not know how to start or when to talk in one language or other. Thus, splitting your tandem time in halves can be a thing that can help you both. Remember, time can fly so, if you see you’ve been talking in one language for a long time, don’t be afraid to yell SWITCH! or simply reply in the other language.
  3. Corrections and feedback. This is probably the hardest part. You and your partner will eventually make mistakes in each other’s languages. Awkward pronounciations, wrong spelling/conjugations, whatever. If you’d correct every single mistake, most of your tandem time would be wasted. Thus, the best attitude for it is to prioritize instant corrections. Unless they are really but really awkward/wrong/funny, keep them to yourself until the tandem is about to be over and you can give your partner his/her feedback. You can use a piece of paper and a good pen to write (hopefully, he/she won’t notice). Ask your partner to do the same, and you’ll get a smoother language exchange without several interruptions.
  4. No time, big time differences, different schedules??? NO PROBLEM! No one said that language tandems must be done live, with a webcam and mic and in your room. Since both of the languages I learn are from another continent, with a big time difference included, I cannot talk 100% live with my language partners. By the time I get home, several of them are about to go to bed or resting after a hard day at work/school. So, this is where technology helps. Most of my language tandems have been done during some dead time at work, while commuting or even at friends’ parties. Yeah! I make great use of mobile apps that not only allow text messages, but voice messages as well. Sending each other voice messages is a great tool in order to have feedback on pronounciation, fluency and other language abilities. And the best thing, you don’t have to be online together or commit yourself to a schedule you might not able to obey every time.


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