Tandem language learning is cooperation between two people with different mother tongues, who would like to learn the other person’s language. There are many different kinds of language learning through tandem. In some models you meet personally and in some you keep in touch on the Internet. The language learning takes place through discussions; half of the time the two participants speak one language and the other half they speak the other language. Both of the two are, in other words, learners and language experts. The participants don’t need to be able to explain, for example, grammar. In stead, the participant is supposed to function as a language model and help the tandem partner by, for example, giving feedback, helping with vocabulary and correcting errors. The person, who wishes to practice FinTandem, needs to have basic skills in the tandem language.
All types of tandem language learning follows two main principles: reciprocity and autonomy. Reciprocity means that both tandem partners benefit equally from the cooperation. Since language learning is very individual and therefore difficult to measure, the reciprocity in practice means that the partners need to spend an equal amount of time and energy on each of the two languages. This does not imply that the partners need to work in the same way with both of the languages. Instead, the goal is to find the most suitable language learning method for the partner whose tandem language is being spoken. Autonomy means that both of the tandem partners control their own learning: they define their goals and how to reach them, they decide what kind of support they wish to have from their tandem partner and they also evaluate their own achievement. In other words, the tandem partners can choose to practise everyday language use with little correction in one language and more specified language use with correction of every mistake in the other language.