Language Tandems

Experience Reports

from participants in the course, "Learning languages in a supervised tandem" (across languages)

Anna-Lena & Flore

German-French language tandem in the summer semester of 2015


In preparation for my one-year Erasmus stay in Paris, I decided to try out a supervised language tandem in the summer semester of 2015. Using the university’s tandem database, I quickly found a French Erasmus student from Paris who was also looking for a tandem partner. For our first meeting, we made an appointment for coffee and quickly found that we both had the same expectations of a tandem, and that we got along very well.

We met regularly in the context of tandem supervision, yet we also participated in several workshops that introduced us to various techniques, such as vocabulary expansion, error correction, and documenting our efforts in the tandem. Within this framework, however, we had a great deal of latitude for setting up how we wanted to work in our tandem. This enabled us to tackle our individual learning goals in different ways.

Looking back, it’s clear to me that I was able not only to improve my language skills, but also to make a good friend. For me personally, the tandem was an outstanding opportunity to learn a language in a completely new, more playful way, although the efforts in terms of time and work that goes into preparing and follow-up for the meeting should not be underestimated.

Nevertheless, I am very happy to have participated in a tandem because it encouraged me to approach a foreign language in a reflected and detailed way. The successes that I had in the tandem made me more confident in the foreign language and made it clear that it is easier and better to learn some foreign language skills in a tandem instead of a language course.

The experiences that my tandem partner and I had in our course convinced us that we want to continue our tandem while I’m in Paris with the Erasmus program.

Lena & Sabine

German-Spanish language tandem in the winter semester of 2014/15

Lena's report:

I decided to go with a supervised tandem for foreign-language learning, which you can sign up for through key competences / Studiumplus, to further improve my Spanish skills. After a one-year stay abroad, I wanted to keep my Spanish language skills at the same level and to continue to expand upon them in Germany, by taking language courses (for students in Spanish philology).

I managed to do this with the help of the tandem program. The program’s highly structured design and helpful workshops helps people to think more clearly about both their own language (which is also helpful for your tandem partner) and the language they are learning. Over the course of the seminar, you create your own semester plan, which gives you an informal point of orientation. It helps you to keep appointments with your tandem partner and gives you an overview of everything that you do during your meeting.

A tandem project is a good idea for everyone who wants to build on their language skills at a social level. Interaction with a tandem partner is fun and very flexible. At the same time, you discover methods and programs that help you to think about, in a structured and careful way, your linguistic goals and progress, and to stay on track towards achieving them. You receive solid support, lots of useful information, and also foreign-language materials. I can definitely recommend it.

Jessica & Leonardo

German-Italian language tandem in the winter semester of 2013/14

Jessica's report:

After studying abroad in Italy, I decided to participate in the University of Potsdam’s tandem program in the winter semester 2013/14. The tandem program offers two people the opportunity to learn each other’s native languages in an informal setting, and you also get to learn a lot about each other’s cultures.

Leonardo became my tandem partner; he is studying mathematics in Turin and was in Potsdam for one semester. My weekly meetings with Leonardo were often more intensive than a language course because I was able to focus on working on my weaknesses with him, and I was also forced to speak Italian. And for my part, I brought Leo a bit closer to the German language and culture. What’s especially great about a tandem is the relaxed atmosphere. And you don’t necessarily have to always meet on campus. Your language skills seem to improve as a side effect while you’re on walks, exploring a city, or having dinner together.

It’s also helpful to complete a “supervised tandem.” You get helpful tips and hints from an instructor, and you also stay on track thanks to a learning plan. One additional advantage is that many degree programs recognize a “supervised tandem” as a key competence.

I can recommend the tandem program without reservation. it offered me the opportunity to expand my linguistic and cultural knowledge in a relaxed, fun way. And I also got to know a very nice person.

Gerrit & Valentina

German-Italian language tandem in the winter semester of 2013/14

Gerrit's report:

I decided to do a language tandem because I was about to go abroad to Rome and I wanted to prepare as well as possible so that I could hit the ground running. So I registered for the tandem program, which promised not only 3 credit points but also regular contact to native speakers and thereby an improvement of my own language skills.

My biggest improvements were my comprehension skills and an increased familiarity with colloquial language.

My meetings with my tandem partner were always a lot of fun, and I got to know some really nice people in the workshops.

I would like to point out that a supervised tandem is very time-intensive. You can really underestimate how much time will be taken up by preparation and documentation. Nevertheless, I can strongly recommend a language tandem. Looking back after my stay abroad, I can only say that it was a very meaningful and productive thing to do!