Monday, November 3, 2008

TANDEM projects from the point of view of language experts

As you may have read in your book, International email TANDEM Network was created in 1993 by Helmut Brammarts using the CMC (Computer Mediated Communication) in order to practice the foreing language with native students.

However,TANDEM method is not anything obsolete and part of history of CALL. On the contrary, it is something very live and still attractive for many teachers like Margarita Vinagre, a professor from the University Antonio de Nebrija, Madrid (Spain). Have a look at some of the articles she has written on this topic and feel free to ask her anything you would like to know about TANDEM:

(the link below has been taken from dialnet. If you are a UNED student, you could subscribe in order to visualize more options from this online datebase).

** We will give Margarita the possibility to discuss this topic with you here, in this blog, using the comments option. Anay questions for Margarita?


Marga said...

Thank you very much Maria for inviting to this blog. I will be delighted to answer any questions the participants may wish to ask me. For now, I would like to share with you some ideas on tandem learning. Just to warm up!
Tandem learning or eTandem, as it has been called for a while, is a model of collaborative learning that refers to a partnership between two learners who are learning each other’s mother tongue. These learners meet regularly and work together with the purpose of achieving a two-fold objetive: to improve their own communicative competence in the target language and to help their partner to achieve the same. Based on this definition, we can see that tandem learning rests on two main principles: reciprocity and autonomy. The principle of reciprocity refers to the idea of exchange and, if this exchange is to be successful, there has to be a balanced partnership in which both participants benefit equally. The principle of autonomy is defined by Little (1991:4) as a “capacity-for detachment, critical reflection, decision making, and independent action”. According to this principle, tandem partners are responsible for their own learning: “they alone [the learners] determine what they want to learn and when, and they can only expect from their partner the support that they themselves have defined and asked for” (Little & Brammerts 1996:11). Finally, a third principle, which relates to the principle of reciprocity, also has a bearing on eTandem: the principle of bilingualism. How does bilingualism apply in eTandem? In asynchoronous tandem, for instance e-mail, messages have to be written half in English and half in Spanish if these are the two languages involved in the exchange. Why is this relevant? Because, as those of you who may have heard of Krashen's input hypothesis know, for language acquisition and development to take place the input a learner receives, or is exposed to, must be a bit beyond the actual level of competence in the language (this is known as i+1). Therefore, students involved in eTandem write and also read in the foreign language which helps them model their own production to that of the native speaker.
That is all for now. I will be back tomorrow with some more comments and ideas to share with you. Have a good evening!

Marián said...

Hi María and Marga,
Thanks for giving the opportunity of sharing with you this blog!
I would like to ask to Marga if she can give me more examples about tandem learning? I know that e-mail is a way of tandem learning... but and chats? can chats be a way of tandem learning? I mean when 2 participants, one from Spain, one from US, use chat for sharing knowledge and ideas using their different target language? Could this be a way of tandem learning?
Many thanks

Marga said...

Hi Marián,
Thanks for your question. The answer is yes, absolutely! You may organise eTandem exchanges with either asynchronous or synchronous tools. Examples of asynchronous tools are e-mail, wikis, blogs and examples of synchronous ones are face-to-face mode, chat, skype, video-conference,audio-conference and Moos to mention a few. What is really important is that the three main principles we mentioned yesterday(reciprocity, autonomy and bilingualism) apply.Otherwise, experts will tell you to call partnerships which do not follow these principles 'intercultural exchanges' or 'language (Spanish-English)exchanges' but to avoid referring to them as eTandem.
I hope this helps,
Best regards,


Hello everybody,
I believe Tandem might be a very powerful tool for ESO students.I'm not involved in teaching but since it is said that level of languages after ESO is really poor it could be a good idea to establish a system by which each studend should have a eTandem partner. What they had to learn at each level would be determined by the teacher. At the end of a certain period of time students would be required to present in class how they have worked on each issue, their progress, etc.
In my opinion, learning would be easier because their level of motivation would also increase.
Maybe this is already a practice, I do not know.

Marga said...

Hello everyone,
I find Jordina's comment very interesting because that is precisely what I have discovered with eTandem. It's a model of telecollaboration that can be used with students of all levels, primary, secondary, higher education...As she very well points out, the teacher should decide on the objectives, topics to discuss, tasks and activities to be carried out etc. which should be related to the course syllabus. In my opinion, this aspect is very important since students should see telecollaboration projects as part of their learning process and not as something separate. This way they realise learning also takes place when they're using the ICTs and not only in the classroom. Motivation is an important factor since students feel that, no matter what their level of competence is in the foreign language, they can communicate with native speakers of the language they're learning. They are capable of using the language now instead of having to wait until they're proficient in the foreign language.
I'd like to invite you all to visit my friend Isabel Pérez's website and have a look at e-mail projects organised in primary and secondary education.
Best wishes,