What is Tandem Language Café?

Tandem Language Café is a student-run program that creates language matches between Yale community members wishing to practice each other’s native languages (i.e. participants wishing to practice a language they are conversational in will be paired up with another participant who speaks this language fluently, and at the same time wants to improve in the language that the first person speaks; these are known as tandem partners). Tandem Language Café supports the language exchange by providing space, suggested conversation topics, facilitation, and snacks & coffee.

The program was piloted at Yale in Spring 2016, receiving close to 300 applications.

What does “tandem” mean?

Tandem means that you learn in pairs. Each partner is both teaching his/her partner, while simultaneously learning from them. The success of the tandem model depends on the basic principles of autonomy and reciprocity.

Who can participate?

Tandem Language Café is open to all members of the Yale community, including students, faculty, staff, visiting scholars, and spouses.  

What is required for participation in the program?

Most important is an interest in languages! You must be a native speaker of the language you offer, and you must have basic conversational proficiency in the language you want to practice (the goal of Tandem is for participants to improve their language skills, not learn a new language from scratch).

You must also be willing to commit 1.5 hours each week to the Tandem sessions. It’s important that you take this commitment seriously, as it is not only your own progress but also your partner’s progress that will be affected if you do not come to each session.

What languages are offered?

This will depend on the participants who apply each semester, as a mutual combination of languages must exist for a match to be created! Participants can offer and request any language. In Spring 2016, these included Spanish, French, English, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, German, Cantonese, Korean, Swahili, Turkish, and Portuguese.

Facilitation of the sessions and communication from Tandem staff is in English.

What is the curriculum like?

Each week, participants follow activities provided by the Tandem facilitators. These range from topics like self-introductions and life stories to food and pop culture. Each pair can adjust the weekly activity to suit their language level.

How do I get matched with a partner?

At the beginning of the semester, Tandem will accept applications from those interested in participating. Matches are created based on a mutual combination of languages offered/requested, and similar interests, age groups, and language-learning goals.