Last week I attended the kickoff meeting for UiB’s tandem language programme, offered for both international and Norwegian students. Tandem language learning is available for anyone who wants to improve language skills. It’s another opportunity through the university for learning and for making a connection. The Tandem language learning is a way to practice spoken language by communication and interaction with another student. It is self-directed. The Tandem partners decide where, when and how to practice their languages.
Here are three highlights from the many great tips offered for the tandem participants for this semester (in case you wanna find a buddy and do it on your own, or sign up next semester).
The presenters emphasized that tandem language learning is really up to the participants. The participants decide how often they meet, when and where and even what activities they’ll do as they converse (one presenter even suggested working out together). The Tandem presenters offered ways to develop specific and detailed learning goals to direct the overall semester as well as each individual session. This programme is really an opportunity, and participants can make of it what they will.
Not a language course
When participating in tandem language learning it is important to keep in mind that it is not a formal language class. The other participant has no responsibility to ‘teach’ their language, although they are acting as an ‘expert’ in their language. It is up to you as a participating language-partner to decide what you want to talk about (one suggestion was reading a book in the language and discussing it), what you want to practice (for example practicing the past tense by talking about a trip you took), and how much and at what points you want the other participant to correct you (for example, do you want to only be corrected on errors which are a pattern, or do you want consistent correction?).
An opportunity for cultural enrichment
Nedelina Naydenova, International Relations & Study Abroad Coordinator, described a new culture as a different vision of life. Culture is like an onion, she said. The language, clothes, habits and traditions are the outer layer, the middle is assumptions and the core is values. She stressed that learning a new language is not only about vocabulary and grammar but also about cultural competency. She also emphasized the inextricable link between culture and language, as well as how essential cultural competency is for truly understanding a new language. She made a few suggestions for cultural conversation starters including talking to your tandem language buddy about the way your culture uses body language, what superstitions are common, popular holidays and celebrations or even partying habits. Learning more about the culture tied to the language you’re learning will enrich and enhance your experience not only of the language but also of your tandem experience.