What’s the story behind Tandem language learning?

It’s a good question, because for many people, a tandem is a ‘bicycle made for two’, rather than a method for learning languages.

The bike gives some hint as to how Tandem language learning got its name. A Tandem bike needs two people to move forward. But where exactly does language learning come in?

According to the Oxford English dictionary, a tandem can also mean “a group of two people or machines working together”. Tandem language allows you to join forces with someone who speaks the language you want to learn, so you can both benefit from each others skills.

If you have tried to learn a language before, you will know that it is almost impossible to speak well without lots of practice. By working together, we can communicate and learn more quickly and effectively.

In fact, learning through language exchange is not a new concept at all. The first mention of a ‘mutual system’ for learning languages was in the UK in the 1800s, but it wasn’t until the late 1960s/early 1970s that the method started to be called ‘Tandem’.

By the end of the 70s, Jürgen Wolff had developed the procedure for organizing individual Spanish-German Tandem partnerships in Madrid. This grew into a networks of schools in Europe, and ultimately to the Tandem Fundazioa (you can read more interesting stuff about the Fundazioa’s history here).

We’re pleased to be working together with the Fundazioa to make Tandem language learning available to everyone – no matter where in the world you live.

Want to give it a try? Download our app on iOS or Android now 🙂

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