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Expert tips for language learning

portrait christian schön

Christian Schön has been tandem coordinator for more than 20 years. During this two decades more than 11.000 students have improved their skills in 69 different language combinations. Christian is not only responbsible for matching the tandem pairs but also supports all tandem learners during the semester.

How does such a tandem actually work?

In tandem learning, two people with different mother tongues are formed into a tandem pair to support each other in learning the other language.

What are the advantages of the tandem?

A major advantage of tandem learning is that the meetings can take place in a relaxed atmosphere (even away from the university). In addition to language learning, there is also the opportunity to learn a lot about the country and culture of the Tandem partner. And you can take part in the program regardless of whether you are just starting to learn a language or are already an advanced learner.

What do you pay particular attention to when matching?

Of course, the languages to be learned must be compatible. It is best if both partners either want to work towards the ECTS credits or not. The number of hours to be invested should not be too different. It should also not be underestimated that there is not a big age difference between the partners. We know from experience that problems can arise here.

Can I look for my tandem partner myself?

In some exceptional cases, we have allowed pairs of students who have already found each other to register for the tandem as a pair.

Which languages are particularly popular? Which languages give you the best chance of finding a tandem partner?

The most popular combination is Spanish/German. I would say that there are about 35-50 WU students per semester who want to learn Spanish. This is also where the biggest problem arises, as we usually only have between 10-15 Spanish-speaking students who can be matched each semester. I would say that if you want to learn English, Italian or Russian, the chances of finding a partner are very good. For languages like Chinese, Japanese, Dutch, Korean, etc., it varies from semester to semester. Sometimes very good, sometimes just ok.

What do I have to do if I want to get ECTS credits for Tandem?

In order to receive the 2 ECTS credits for the tandem program, various tasks must be completed. These include attending the kick-off and mid-term event, as well as completing 10 tandem logs (= 10 meetings with your tandem partner), recording two videos (where you can show in 2-3 minutes what a tandem session looks like for you), a reflective essay and a final interview.

Do you have a funny episode from your many years of experience as a Tandem coordinator?

I can't tell you some of the more amusing stories here. But one nice story was that two tandem partners got on so well that the WU student ended up being the best man at his tandem partner's wedding in Sweden.

What tip can you give the tandem pairs?

It's best to discuss your goals right at the beginning and try to create a plan to get there. Be clear about what you want to work on this semester. Be it speaking, listening, writing or another skill.

When can I register for the summer semester 2024?

Registration for the summer semester 2024 is now open on our website!

(Norbert Conti, Christian Schön; 19.01.2024)