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Tandem Language Learning

  • as a language teaching-learning method/approach

"TANDEM is a bicycle designed for two riders both involved in getting forward. We have taken this word into our method of learning by exchanging languages with our motto: "In order to understand each other better I help you to learn and you help me to learn." TANDEM is therefore the bicycle among various language learning approaches - it is cheap, individual and ecological. It is a communicative as well as an intercultural approach as it gives the opportunity to both learners to gain more insight into each other's culture by direct communication."-Tandem Fondiazioa

"L’apprentissage en tandem est une méthode d’apprentissage, au cours de laquelle des partenaires de langue maternelle différente s’apprennent mutuellement leur langue respective, échangent au sujet de la culture du partenaire, et aussi s’entretiennent plus généralement sur leur vie quotidienne en famille ou à l’école. Ainsi, cette méthode permet de lier l’apprentissage linguistique et interculturel. L’apprentissage en tandem repose sur la réciprocité, la tolérance et le faire ensemble : les partenaires de tandem s’aident mutuellement à apprendre la langue et endossent tour à tour le rôle de l’apprenant de la langue du partenaire et de « l’enseignant » de leur propre langue." - Tele-tandem OFAJ (Office franco-allemand pour la jeunesse)

  • as a learning practice/activity

"Learning in tandem can be defined as a form of open learning,whereby two people with different native languages work together in pairs in order to learn more about one another's character and culture,to help one another improve their language skills, and often also to exchange additional knowledge for example, about their professional life. Tandem language learning takes place through authentic communication with a native speaker, who can correct the learner and also support him in his attempts to express himself. Since each partner can speak the other's language, at least to some extent, they have more opportunities to help one another: through explanations in the foreign language, through comparisons, etc. As learning in tandem is always based on communication between members of different language communities and cultures, it also facilitates intercultural learning." - Helmut Brammerts (1996:p13)[1]

"...tandem learning means reciprocal support and instruction between learners, each of whom is a native speaker of the other's target language, be it through frace-to-face or any other mode of communication." It is rather a widespread "practice" than a "theoretically driven"method. - Breffni O'Rourke (2007:p43)[2]

  • as a learning environment

"... third environment for L2 acquisition, called Tandem language learning, that shares aspects of both natural settings and formal instruction and has the potential of combining the best aspects of both. Like informal L2 environments, it provides extensive exposure to the L2 as spoken by native speakers (and not other L2 learners) within authentic communicative settings with many opportunities for productive use of the L2. Like formal L2 environments, it also provides focus on form and corrective feedback to the L2 learner. And in addition to providing a promising context for L2 acquisition, it also has important potential benefits for developing intercultural understanding, autonomous learning skills, and technical abilities."-Cziko (2004:p26)[3]

  • as a partnership

"Tandem learning is the collaborative learning partnership of two language learners with complementary language combinations"..."The principle of bilingualism suggests that a successful partnership requires both learners to use both languages equally; on the one hand, to provide sufficient target language input for their partner and, on the other hand, to be “pushed” to produce target language output themselves."-Schwienhorst, K., & Borgia, A.(2006:p349-350)[4]

  • Fundamental principles

.Reciprocity .Autonomy .Bilingualism

History and Evolution
  • The Origin of Tandem Language Learning
  • From face-to-face Tandem to eTandem
  • eTandem as a form/modal of Telecollaboration

European projects concerning tandem language learning

EU SOCRATES I(1995-1999)[5]

The project aimed to contribute to the development of quality education and training and of an open European area for education. It comprised three areas of Community action, namely higher education, school education and adult education as well as horizontal activities in the areas of language learning, open and distance education and learning, and exchanges of information and experience. Some important Tandem related projects are as follows:

  • International E-Mail Tandem Network (LINGUA,ERASMUS)1995-1996 [6] later on International Tandem Network [7]The tandem server provides information about the EU supported projects.[8]
  • Telematics for Autonomous and Intercultural Tandem Learning ODL (Open and Distance Learning)(1996-1999)[9]
  • Language Learning Partnerships for Engineers (ILC) (1996-1999)[10]
  • Tandem Language Learning Partnerships for Schools LINGUA-D (1998-1999)[11]
EU SOCRATES II(2000-2006)[12]

The aim of Socrates Phase II is to promote a Europe of knowledge and encourage lifelong education through learning foreign languages, encouraging mobility, promoting cooperation at European level, opening up to methods of access to education and increasing the use of new technologies in the field of education. The more specific aims of SOCRATES II are as follows:

   to strengthen the European dimension in education at all levels;
   to improve knowledge of foreign languages;
   to promote cooperation and mobility in the field of education;
   to encourage the use of new technologies in education;
   to promote equal opportunities in all sectors of education.

The SOCRATES programme is implemented through eight measures, five of which are targeted, while the other three are transverse measures aimed at improving coordination within SOCRATES:

  • Comenius: school education: nursery, primary and secondary schools (to increase the quality of education, strengthen the European dimension and promote language learning)
  • Erasmus: higher, university and post-university education (to encourage mobility and language learning)
  • Grundtvig: adult education and other education pathways (to supplement Comenius and Erasmus by facilitating the integration of adults excluded from the school system)
  • Lingua: language learning (to promote the targeted learning and teaching of languages)
  • Minerva: information and communication technologies in education (to encourage the use of information and communication technologies (ICT), multimedia and open and distance learning (ODL).)
  • Observation and innovation in education systems (to observe the educational contexts of other Member States in order to make each national education system innovative)
  • Joint measures (to increase synergy in education policies (Socrates), vocational training (Leonardo da Vinci) and youth (Youth)).
  • Accompanying measures (to increase the flexibility of Socrates)

Tandem related projects:

  • eTandem Europa,European Year of Languages 2001 [13]
EU lifelong learning (2007-2013)[14]the website is under construction

Previously referred to as the "Integrated action programme in the field of lifelong learning" or the "Integrated programme", it is the European Union programme for education and training.The Programme brings together the various actions financed under the Socrates programme and the Leonardo da Vinci programme.

eTandem integrated in FL curriculum

  • Tandem - Université de Lausanne [15]


  • Language Learning in Tandem - Bibliography [16]/tanbib.html