There are many different strategies you can use to make the most out of your language exchange. Photography: Språkstudion
There are many different strategies you can use to make the most out of your language exchange. Photo: Språkstudion


Advice for language support

Use gestures and your surroundings

Use gestures, imitate sounds and point to things in your surroundings in order to help the conversation (Språktidningen, 2016). Try to stick to your language as much as possible: try rephrasing or gesticulating before you switch to another language.


Make room for silence and pauses

Silence and pauses are good, both for the language learner and for the native speaker. The language learner needs pauses in order to process what has been said in the conversation and in order to prepare mentally for the next step in the conversation. Therefore, it is important to give space to silence and pauses and to give the language learner time to think. Silence and pauses are also good for the native speaker: in the pauses, the native speaker has the possibility to reflect on the conversation and process what has been said. This makes it easier for the native speaker to perceive the language learner's needs in the communication (Språktidningen, 2016).


Correct your language buddy in the correct way

When and how should you correct your language buddy, if he/she says something incorrect? Correct your language buddy when he/she can learn from it, for instance when:

  • your language buddy asks to be corrected
  • you haven't understood what your buddy has said
  • your language buddy is searching for a specific word
  • the same language error has occurred several times.

There are many different ways to correct and help your language buddy, for instance you could:

  • ask direct questions to clarify something you haven't understood
  • repeat a sentence your language buddy has uttered wrong, in the correct form, without explicitly pointing out the mistake
  • note down language errors done by your language buddy and discuss them with your buddy by the end of your "Tandem" meeting.

Try different ways of correcting each other and discuss with your language buddy any pros and cons with the various ways that you've tried (UZH - Sprachenzentrum der Universität und der ETH Zürich, 2017).

Take initiatives and make suggestions

Participate actively in your "Tandem" meetings, initiate conversation topics and suggest various activities:

  • Be perceptive to your language buddy's interests: ask him/her what he/she wants to talk about or do at the Tandem meeting.
  • Ask your language buddy questions: your buddy might find it difficult to come up with a conversation topic and he/she might need to be asked questions in order to get the conversation started.
  • Suggest trying out an activity or a game. Tips on "Tandem" activities are found here.


Try out different communication strategies together with your language buddy. Photo: Språkstudion
Try out different communication strategies together with your language buddy. Photo: Språkstudion

Advice for language learning

General learning advice

  • Ask your language buddy to repeat or explain if he/she said something that you didn't quite hear or understand.
  • Repeat new phrases out loud. This helps you remember the phrases.
  • Note down new phrases, words and expressions.
  • Let your language buddy correct you.
  • Don't fear making mistakes - you'll learn from them.

(Jonsson, 2003)

Keep a tandem journal

Keep a journal for your "Tandem" language exchange together with your language buddy. In the "Tandem" journal you can identify and express needs and goals and write down activities, progress and evaluations. For more inspiration, see Jonsson, 2003, S.79-86.


"Tandem" exercices

These excercises are recommended by Jonsson (2003: 46-49):

To gain cultural understanding:

  • Combine your "Tandem" meeting with a visit to a restaurant or a cafe, and talk about similarities and differences between your food cultures.
  • Go watch a movie or a theatre play where one of your two languages is spoken, together with your language buddy.
  • Play games together, for instance Alphapet or Monopoly. By playing games you can increase your cultural understanding at the same time as your practise speaking, reading and/or writing.

To increase your vocabulary and improve your reading skills:

  • Read magazines and newspapers in your target language and discuss the articles together with your language buddy.
  • Read horoscopes in your target language and compare your horoscope to your language buddy's horoscope.
  • Solve crossword-puzzles together, or create your own crossword-puzzle. You can find crossword-puzzles in various languages online.

To practise your listening and speaking skills:

  • Watch movies or video clips and discuss these with your language buddy in your target language.
  • Talk on the phone with your language buddy. Phone conversations are very different from face-to-face interactions, and this is something that you could practise together with your language buddy. You could call each other on your private phones, or use a free service online such as Skype.
  • Exercise together. Play tennis, badminton or visit a gym. Explore sport vocabulary together with your language buddy by talking to each other in the target language during and after the activity.


Språktidningen. 2016. Småprat kan hjälpa någon att lära sig svenska. Available 2017-01-04 at

UZH - Sprachenzentrum der Universität und der ETH Zürich. 2017. Tandem-learning. Available 2017-01-04 at

Jonsson, B. 2003. Självstyrd språkinlärning i tandem. En handbok. S. 111-122. Rapport nr 13, 2003. Institutionen för humaniora i Härnösand.