Tandem is a language learning program that allows you to put your language skills to work helping others while they help you learn your target language. This program brings together millions of language learners from around the world in a modern language exchange program.
Although other language programs allow you to connect with native speaking tutors, this program is a little different. The main draw for Tandem is that it allows you to simply talk to other language learners for fun and quality conversation practice. They also offer lessons with professional tutors as well as some cool teaching tools to help you communicate with your new language learning friends.
Tandem helps you connect with language partners who have similar interests and learning goals. You can use the app to call, text, and video chat, which is where the cool extra features come in. This app comes with built-in language tools that help you in real-time as you text. How cool is that?
Before we get too far along into the details, here is a quick look at my main likes and dislikes.
Pricing For Tandem
$6.66 Per Month
$4.17 Per Month
Compared to the prices you pay if you subscribe after trying it for free:
$6.99 per month
$3.99 per month
$2.92 per month
I’m not really sure what the deal is with this, but as you can see, it is definitely worth it to wait until they accept your application.
Tandem Initial Thoughts
My initial thought upon checking out their website was that it felt very cheesy, almost like an overdone dating app. I appreciate that they want to convey a sense of modern coolness with a slick website, but if I had just stumbled onto this site without knowing what it was, I would probably have backed out thinking it was just another social media app.
Thankfully, I did know what it was before seeing the app or website, so I went ahead and gave Tandem a try and I have to say that I’m glad I did. I found it to be fun and easy to use and I think a lot of other language learners will enjoy it as well.
Anytime you get the chance to talk to native speakers you should do it. There is no better way to learn a new language than to hear from the people who know it best. Finding a good language exchange partner used to be extremely difficult, but with Tandem it just takes a few minutes.
I do want to mention that this is not a good starter app for those who are just entering the language learning world. Not to say that you won’t be able to find people who are happy to help beginners, you will probably want to have a basic knowledge of your target language before you get started.
They also lack any type of learning materials such as reading material, audio clips, or videos. All the learning you do on this app is going to be face to face with either a tutor or a language partner.
Okay, with that being said, let’s dive in and get an in-depth look at how this modern language exchange program works.
Signing Up For Tandem
The sign-up process is free and pretty straightforward. You can sign-up through their app or on the website. This app is available for both iOS and Android and from the reviews, it looks like it works well for both platforms. I tried the Android version and didn’t have any apparent issues.
They start by asking you what languages you would like to learn. They offer over 160 languages and you do have the option to choose more than one, which is great for those of us who want to learn multiple languages. You also have to put in your fluency level for each language so you can be matched with appropriate language partners.
After that, they ask for a little more information that will help to expand your profile, such as your interests and the subjects you like to discuss. They then ask you to describe your perfect Tandem partner. A slightly odd question, at least for me.
I can certainly see the usefulness of being able to search for a language partner based on similar interests or their region of origin, but having to describe my perfect partner took me right back to my first impressions of this being a dating app. Thankfully, your answer is freeform so you can easily say, as I did, that you’re open to all types of language partners.
Then you move on to a few more questions and finally, you have to add a profile picture that clearly shows your face. The reasoning for this is that they want their language service to be safe and secure for all their members so they double-check your identity before allowing you to use their service.
This means that sign-up is not instant. What you fill out initially is just an application. Their website states that they review each application individually, so it may take a few days for you to be accepted. Some may find this annoying, but personally, I think it is very smart on their part. This helps to ensure that everyone using the app is a real person who wants to learn.
Sadly, there is one slightly scammy element to this part. Once you have submitted your information, they give you the option to “skip” the application process by buying a subscription. Perhaps they think that you must be real if you’re willing to pay or maybe if you’re willing to pay they don’t care if you're real.
Either way, I was not impressed with this, so I chose to wait instead of pay. You’ll be happy to know that they believed I was a real person and let me in pretty quickly, so do not feel pressured to pay. Just wait and they will grant you access for free. Then if you like it, you can get a subscription for less than the “Skip The Line” price. More on that later.
Okay, moving on. Once you get in, which shouldn’t take very long, you can start chatting instantly. There are millions of friendly people here that truly want to practice their language skills, so get ready to get some quality conversation practice.
Exploring The Tandem App
Tandem’s platform is sleek and very well put together. The app is simple to navigate and even easier to use. There are five main sections, so let’s take a deeper look at each section.
This is the main section of the app where you can search through other users’ profiles. This section also contributes to the “dating app” feel of the program. Since every user has to have their face in their profile picture, there are some pretty impressive selfies here. Don’t be intimidated though, not everyone’s picture looks like a glamour shot, I know mine certainly doesn’t!
When you first go into the community section you’ll see that new users are featured on the front page. This is nice because it means you’re less likely to be lost in the vast number of other users right from the get-go. Since there are so many experienced users seeing your profile on the front page as soon as you join, you’re almost guaranteed to receive a few messages within the first day of joining.
You don’t have to wait for them to reach out to you, of course, you can just search through their profiles until you find someone who looks like they will be a good match for you. Each profile summary shows the person's name, the language they speak, the language they want to learn, and a short message.
When you select a profile, you can see that person’s full profile which includes all the information from their application such as their interests, their language goals, country of origin, and so on. Their profile will also include 'References' which are reviews from the other users they have interacted with.
The references are a nice way to get a more in-depth look at a person’s profile. If their references are full of nice comments about how helpful they are, then you know that person is a good language exchange partner.
In the same turn, people can leave negative references too, so this encourages everyone to be on their best behavior. If someone leaves you a negative reference you can’t hide it or remove it from your profile, so remember to always be as kind and as helpful as you can. Not that you wouldn’t be kind, of course, but this is just a little incentive to go the extra mile.
You can use a few search criteria to narrow your search if you’re looking for a specific type of language partner. You can even search users by their proximity to you if you have Tandem Pro. This would be handy if you wanted to make friends that you could eventually meet up with in person.
The tutor section is for people who are looking for a little more serious language learning experience. You can book lessons that are 20, 40, 60, or 90 minutes long.
These lessons are not included in your subscription and each teacher determines their own prices, so you will have to pay for each class in advance.
Each tutor has their schedule posted on the app so you can easily book classes whenever they have an opening.
The teachers do seem pretty trendy and cool if their profiles are anything to go by. This system seems very similar to other online tutoring programs where the teachers create the curriculum and use their own teaching methods. Not all the tutors are native speakers, but they all seem to have sufficient qualifications.
If you’re a certified language tutor and you want to earn a little extra money, you can become a Tandem tutor. Their tutor application says that they only accept knowledgeable, professional, and fun tutors, so make sure you brush up your resume.
What Are Tandem Chats?
This is where the magic happens! Chats is the section that allows you to interact with your new language partners. This is where you’ll find all your messages. You can text, leave voice messages, and have a voice and video calls.
The messaging section has some handy features such as a text translator that works like Google Translate. If you’re only using the free version, you will only get five translations a day, but if you have a subscription you can use it as often as you want.
The translator helps to take some of the stress out of messaging someone in your new language, but don’t become too dependent on it. Remember that the people you are talking to are also language learners! They want to help you just like you want to help them, so be patient and brave and use the translator as a learning tool, not a cheat.
In my opinion, the best feature in this section is the Correct tool. This feature gives you immediate feedback on your written messages. I like this better than the translator because it encourages you to write in your target language and then learn from your mistakes.
You shouldn’t have any trouble finding a wide variety of interesting people to talk to. Don’t hesitate to start conversations with new people! They will be just as excited to get messages from you as you are to get messages from new people.
If by chance you don’t have enough chats in process, you can always check out the ‘Goals’ section in the app. This section allows users to post their language goals. You can either post your goals for others to see or you can read the goals posted by others.
This just serves as another way to find potential language partners. You can look for users with goals similar to yours or perhaps you can help someone else reach their goals.
There’s only one other app quite like Tandem and that’s HelloTalk. HelloTalk has a lot of similar features and pretty much functions the same way. They do not offer professional tutoring, but they do have audio lessons that you can buy.
Professional tutoring can be very helpful though, so if you want help from a pro you may want to check out italki. They have thousands of great teachers and offer lessons in nearly every language you can imagine. Plus, they offer free access to a huge community of other language learners.
Tandem Review: Final Thoughts
Overall, I would say that Tandem is a great program for anyone who wants to practice conversationally speaking their target language. Signing up for tutoring may seem intimidating, but with Tandem you can skip the intimidation and just practice with a regular student like you. Plus, you can help others with their language skills at the same time.
Looking past the overly trendy feel of the app and the strange pricing issue, this is a quality language exchange program. The detailed application process and the option to rate other members help to keep everything professional and educational.
Although this isn’t a good option for beginners, it is a great way for intermediate and advanced learners to improve their conversational skills and make some new friends along the way. We all know that learning a new language can be challenging, but it is a lot easier when you have friends to help and encourage you. Keep chasing your language goals! Happy learning!