As you will hear often when learning a new language, to speak fearlessly is essential to become eventually fluent in that language. However, this can be daunting, and you might not know whom to speak to when you want to have more than small talk. So, you find a tandem partner. Great! But how do you make sure the partnership works for both parties? Here are some tips for a successful language exchange!
Who is a Tandem Partner?
It is someone who is willing to learn your native language, while teaching you their mother tongue mostly in form of a fun dialogue. However, when I say some who teaches you their language, I don’t mean someone who explains the grammar rules or does your language course homework. Avoid that by all means! Nobody wants to do your homework and it comes across as if you are not putting enough effort. Of course, it is okay to ask for guidance in certain topics but neither parties should feel like they are being used.
Tips for a Successful Partnership
- Same or close proficiency level is important, otherwise one language will be spoken more than the other, which is not beneficial for the lower proficiency level person.
- Prepare your topics beforehand so when you meet you don’t have to look up very basic words related to that topic. Also, deciding on a topic beforehand keeps you from getting side-tracked.
- Bonding over an activity is a good idea especially if it is related to the topic you are discussing that week. For instance, if you have decided to talk about nature go for a small hike together or if you are talking about cuisine of your culture maybe cook something together. Of course, this is more advisable after you both decide that you are compatible language learning partners. Otherwise it might get awkward!
- To be able to bond over an activity you must share some common interests and there should be a friendly environment. That doesn’t mean you should be best friends, but you should at least feel comfortable in each other’s company.
- Meet at the same day, same time each week/month etc. Even though the frequency of your meetings depends on both of you, one thing should be fixed for good: the days and time. IF you can’t make it let your partner know as early as possible.
- Don’t be late, it is disrespectful for other person’s time. IF there is an emergency, again, let them know!
Things to Remember
Tandem partnership should be fun and educative for both parties. So, two people should have the same purpose. Paying same level of attention to both languages is important! Remember to be patient and helpful. Do not make fun of other persons’ speaking attempts. Be a good listener, it helps if you arrange the way you want to give feed-back to each other. Is it going to be at the very end, or do you prefer to be corrected while you are speaking? For some people it might be distracting and disheartening; whereas some people prefer instant feedback. One mistake I made was to involve a third language, I was offering Turkish and learning German. Every time I was having a difficult time to express myself in German I switched to English (I was afraid of making mistakes, now I can see how annoying that could be). It is normal to feel self-conscious or discouraged from time to time, so make sure to motivate each other and have a positive attitude! Remember it is a mutual commitment.