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From tandem learning to Lima

Portrait Alina Maier

Alina Maier participated in the tandem learning programm in summer semester 2023 and is now about to start her exchange semester in Lima. In this interview, you can find out what benefits she gained from learning in tandem and whether her Spanish has really improved.

Where did you hear about the Tandem program?
I actually found out about the Tandem program before I enrolled at WU. I wanted to focus on language learning on the side from the very beginning of my studies. I came across the Language Resource Center and the Tandem program on the WU website.

Why did you sign up?
My biggest fear was losing my language skills from school without practicing. The Tandem program seemed (and still seems) a good alternative to conventional courses, as it is free of charge and much more personal than a language course. I then applied directly without giving it much thought & luckily got assigned a tandem partner.

How did you find your tandem partner?
My tandem partner Hafid & I got on well straight away. We both wanted to learn a lot about each other's culture, were ambitious to get the 2 ECTS & always tried to help each other. Through varied tandem meetings, we also got to know each other on a more personal level than if we had only met in the WU library, for example.

How does the program actually work?
The principle of the tandem program is simple, but very effective. Two people who want to learn each other's native language always form a tandem pair. The entire program lasts one semester & at the beginning of each semester, the Tandem Kick-Off Event takes place, where all the important details are explained again. The most important information can also be found on the WU website. If you meet certain criteria, you can also have the Tandem program credited as a free elective worth 2 ECTS.

And how did the first meeting go?
After our first meeting, the ice was really broken. We met in the city center & wanted to go for a drink in a bar. Without much preparation, but simply with the aim of getting to know each other a little before really working on our language skills. We found a bar (after ages), but a public viewing was taking place there & the many enthusiastic soccer fans ensured that we wouldn't have understood each other even without the language barrier. However, it was a funny experience, we were able to take it with humor & got along great despite the noise level!

What was the most interesting/funniest/most exciting thing during your tandem program?
Since I will be spending my semester abroad at my tandem partner's university, one of my highlights was that he was able to tell me a lot about his university, the city and his country of origin, Peru. I also always really enjoyed our tandem meetings outside Campus WU. For example, we went to a Peruvian restaurant together and visited Spanish and Latin American clubs and events!

Was it difficult to teach your own language? How did you prepare yourself?
Yes & no. Of course it's difficult to suddenly slip into the role of teacher. Especially if you've never taken on this role before. But you should also be aware that no one is expected to have turned their tandem partner into a quasi-native speaker after one semester. I think the aim is much more to support learning than to give too much input yourself. Personally, I always thought back a bit to the preparation for the oral Matura. Hafid & I then agreed on one or two topics & created a monologue or dialog for each other (actually one-to-one as in the Matura). During feedback, we pointed out the mistakes to each other and, if necessary, further clarified specific grammatical structures or expanded the vocabulary. When we met outside WU, we tried to speak half in Spanish and half in German & the native speaker commented on all mistakes.

In what ways did you benefit from Tandem?
I benefited from the Tandem project in many ways, but most of all in terms of language & networking. I improved my Spanish & not only got to know my tandem partner Hafid, but I was also able to network with many other incoming students at WU. The 2 ECTS are of course also a bonus.

And has your Spanish improved now?
Sí, mucho. Aunque no he mejorado tanto mis conocimientos gramaticales, me siento mucho más segura hablando español, ya no tengo que pensar tanto antes de hablar y ya no tengo miedo de equivocarme. Este proyecto me ha demostrado que quiero aprender más español en el futuro y que no necesito nada para seguir mejorando, a parte de una persona con la que hablar.
[Yes, very much. I haven't improved my grammar that much, but I feel much more confident speaking. I don't have to think before every sentence and I'm no longer afraid of making mistakes. The project has made me realize that I want to continue learning Spanish in the future and that I don't need much more than one person to speak to progress]

Alina Maier and Norbert Conti January 15, 2024