It is amazing how great ideas last for many generations. The concept of language exchange has been there since the 70s. If you’re not familiar with the idea, it essentially involves finding an individual in your target language who’s also inclined to learn your native language. Once you’ve become tandem partners, you can chat while trying to learn each other’s language. Sounds fun, right? It’s free, yet you mutually benefit from one another.

Even so, tandem partnerships are faced with several unique dilemmas. Let’s pinpoint the common challenges and check some viable solutions to improve your language skills in every tandem session you have.

1. Manage Time in Every Session

Once in a while, we tend to bounce back to our mother tongues, or another language that we can both understand. Sometimes, we lose focus of the task at hand. Tandem relationships are all about two people and two languages. To improve your language skills, set a timeframe for every tandem session and equally split up speaking time between you and your partner.

2. Plan on Topics

Many people are often excited to have their first tandem session only to freeze up when they meet their partner face to face. The reasons for this are lack of preparation on topics to talk about or tackling topics too fast with little details.

Before meeting with your tandem partner think and do some research on topics you would like to discuss out of interest and to widen your vocabulary. You can talk about hobbies, politics, food, friends and family – even the weather.

The most important thing is that you keep talking and don’t stop when missing a word. For sure your partner will be able to help you out.

3. Correcting mistakes

Making mistakes speaking in your new language is nothing to fret about. But when you’re interrupted for every mispronounced word or grammatical mistake you make, a tandem session can be frustrating. One way to take care of this is to speak to your partner about the specific points you need to improve. That way, both partners know what to focus on and only point out the relevant mistakes. This enables you to keep up the flow of the conversation.

Alternatively, you can choose to keep a paper and pen at hand and jot down the mistakes. This allows you to keep certain aspects in mind without needing to interrupt the partner when they are trying to talk in the target language. At the end of the lesson you can explain what kind of mistakes they made and give tips on how to improve.

4. Location

No matter if you meet up in person or talk through video call, location plays a key role. A place that has lots of distractions and background noises makes tandem learning very difficult because you can’t focus on your partner’s words.

Ensure that you are in a quiet, relaxed setting. To have the best results in your tandem session, use a location that is not too crowded but allows you to speak. For example, in a library you might not be allowed to speak loudly so this is not a perfect place. A small, quiet café might be a better option. If you are using video call, the same requirements apply. On top of that, in this case you will need a fast internet connection.

Top ways of improving your tandem learning experience

There is more to tandem learning programs than just a face-to-face meeting or a foreign language session. It is about getting to know more about your partner and their culture.

Don’t only use this opportunity to improve your language skills but also bond with your tandem partner.

Share cultural aspects

Understanding the way of life in your target country is among the major factors that propel tandem learning. And there are no better means of learning about each other’s culture than to know the native cuisines and hospitality. Try combining your language lessons with some cooking or visiting a traditional restaurant. This way you will also get to know some new terms related to food and welcoming guests at home.

Introduce your partner to your friends

Why not get your friends involved the next time you meet for a coffee or dinner with your tandem partner? That offers your partner a big chance of learning more about you and your culture. Additionally, it gives you the chance to talk about topics both of you haven’t thought about yet. What could be better than spending an evening with friends and improving your language skills at the same time?

Keeping these things in mind will make your tandem learning effective and fun at the same time.