With a distance of almost 10,000km between them, Josh and Furkan didn’t expect they’d ever be able to meet in person. That was until they realized they’d both be in Germany this year. Here’s their story!

Tandem Tales Hamburg

Josh is from Kansas in the United States. His Tandem journey began a little over a year ago following a recommendation from his German professor. He loved the idea that finding a pen pal, with whom he could chat to regularly, could improve his language skills. Furkan, who lives in Istanbul in Turkey, came across Tandem when searching for an app that allowed him to both learn a new language and connect with people from all over the world.

Almost one year ago, Furkan messaged Josh on Tandem and their language exchange began. They send messages in both English and German and enjoy learning about each other’s culture. Over time they became friends and when it transpired that they’d be living less than 100km away from each other in Germany, they decided to meet in person.

In early June, Furkan traveled from Bremen, where he was doing an internship, to meet Josh in Hamburg. Josh was taking part in a study exchange program there and he invited Furkan to an event his university was hosting. They hung out with Josh’s friends at the event and then went on to explore the city. Their city tour took them to the Elbphilharmonie, a concert hall surrounded by the River Elbe. Due to its stunning architecture and a public viewing platform that allows for spectacular views across the city, the Elbphilharmonie has attracted millions of visitors since its opening in January 2017. As neither Josh nor Furkan had ever visited this attraction, it was great to experience this for the first time together.

Furkan really appreciated Josh taking the time to guide him around, “he is so kind, he showed me around Hamburg and taught me a lot about the city.” Although it was great to visit the Elbphilharmonie together, Josh admits “the best part of the meet up was getting to meet someone face-to-face that, to me, only existed digitally before.”

Asked if they’d ever meet up again, Furkan says “yeah if we have a chance […] I hope I could get to the US one day. Who knows?” Josh also plans to return to Europe at some point and would love to visit Furkan in Istanbul. For now, at least, Josh and Furkan are still very much in contact and are continuing on with their language journey. That’s what we like to hear!

So what’s the key to having a successful tandem? In this case, Josh and Furkan always managed to keep their language exchange going. “Even when one of us became busy, we seemed to be able to pick back up from where we were. Part of it was probably due to both of our interests in each other’s cultures and lives,” explains Josh. He continues, “I think the most important tip is to be open-minded and eager to learn about other cultures, even beyond the languages you are wanting to learn.”

Furkan believes that practicing with native speakers is essential to improving speaking and writing skills. He finds that natives are often surprised by his language skills. “Sometimes I’m talking to a German native in German and they don’t believe that I’m just B1.1 level. Just try!”

Thank you Josh and Furkan for sharing your story with us!

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