For those of you who are thinking of a bicycle made for two, think again! Tandem partners are the latest craze - and a free, kostenlos, gratis way of improving your language skills. But how can this be? Never fear, I shall guide you through the in and outs, dos and don'ts of ‘tandeming’.
A tandem partner is someone with whom you meet on a regular basis to chat with, the difference from normal day to day conversations being that they are a native speaker of a language you wish to improve. You speak to them in German, for example, and then in your native tongue.
The new definition of friends with benefits?
The joy of ‘tandeming’ is you can improve your language skills, setting yourself in good stead for your year abroad and simultaneously boosting your CV by showing off your teaching skills. Moreover, if you are in a new place, a tandem can be invaluable, showing you the cool bars or explaining how to get discounted railway tickets.
How do I get one of these?
I discovered what tandem partners are thanks to Julia Roberts (don’t ask) and simply looked out for flyers on the notice boards at university. Once you know what a tandem is, you’ll discover there are a multitude of people looking for one. I suggest making a poster, stating your native tongue and language sought, along with your email address, and then sitting back and waiting for the offers to flood in. Alternatively, consider setting up a profile on a tandem website. Here, you can usually state your availability and preference for a partnership conducted face-to-face, or via Skype or email. See, you can even ‘tandem’ from the comfort of your own home!
Er, but what would we talk about?
The first session is already sorted because you both have to introduce yourselves and establish how you both want this tandem to work. It is best to decide at the beginning whether you want to talk for an hour in each language or less, how often you would like to meet and what you want out of this tandem. After that, it’s really up to you - general chit-chat or profound debates, take your pick. I even had a tandem who read newspaper articles aloud to me so I could correct her pronunciation.
Girls may prefer to state ‘female tandems only’ as a safety precaution. This usually only applies to arrangements made via the internet, as certain men may ask to “aller danser” with you...
Do assert yourself - it takes two to make a tandem work! If you feel you’re speaking more in your language and not getting enough practice in the other, just suggest switching languages.
And finally, if you are ‘tandeming’ in your hometown, do take the time to show your partner the local secrets – a little kindness coupled with an insider’s knowledge can make all the difference to your tandem’s stay.