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Next steps for meeting with your partner

Your First Meeting

We suggest an icebreaker activity as the first thing you do when meeting your partner, as it will help you feel comfortable together.

Need help with topics to talk about? Check out Conversation Topics! These are activities that are designed to get to know your partner and make it more comfortable to talk to them.

General Advice

  • Preparation is the key to success. Even ten minutes of preparation can greatly benefit and enhance your exchange.
  • Take charge of your own learning. Ask for explanations when something is not clear - it's your responsibility to do so.
  • Ask your partners to repeat, explain or translate when you don't understand something. Don’t say you understand if you don’t!
  • Ask your partners to slow down if they speak too fast.
  • Make an effort to speak out, even if you're shy.
  • Be sensitive to your partner’s needs.
  • When speaking in your own language, keep in mind that you're doing this so your partners can practice - encourage them to participate, and make sure they can follow the conversation.
  • Explain, repeat, write down or translate when necessary, and slow down if your partners ask you to.
  • If someone says a word that you don't understand (because of poor pronunciation, for example), just ask them to write it in the text box, then say it for them. Pronunciation is important!
  • Encourage those who are too shy to speak.
  • Don't correct grammar all the time, do not interrupt someone in the middle of a sentence to correct him or her - too much correction interferes with the conversation and can frustrate and block speakers. Do however clear up errors that interfere with understanding.
  • If someone insists on being corrected, ask him or her what he or she wants you to focus on: verbs, prepositions, pronunciation, gender, etc.
  • The best way to correct is to just repeat the word or phrase the way you would say it.
  • Speak loudly and clearly
  • Give everyone a chance to speak - don't monopolize the conversation.
  • Develop a listening attitude.
  • Allow others their point of view - you can comment, but don't judge.



What if my partner …

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What if my partner …

My partner asks me questions that make me uncomfortable.

All cultures have topics which are difficult to discuss, or which are taboo within that culture. Some Americans, for example, might be uncomfortable talking about religion or sexuality. People from other cultures may be uncomfortable with other topics. Please be sensitive to issues your partner is uncomfortable with or does not want to discuss. If you are the one who is being made uncomfortable, make sure you explain to your partner that you would rather not discuss the topic.

My partner keeps canceling our meetings.

Sometimes problems come up and people need to cancel meetings. In Minnesota, for example, bad weather can prevent people from traveling. However, such cancellations should be rare. If you have to cancel, please be respectful and give your partner as much advance notice as possible.

My partner takes all of our meeting time for his/her language practice.

My partner takes all of our meeting time for his/her language practice and I don't get a chance to practice my language. Tandem language learning is intended to benefit both partners. Some people are shy, and some cultures do not value the "aggressiveness" that Americans seem to value. It is your responsibility to be sure that you are not dominating your meeting time, just as it is your responsibility to speak up if your partner is dominating. You can say something like, "You're doing well with your language. Can we focus on my language for a while?" Your partner might not realize that he/she is dominating.

My partner seems to want more than friendship.

TandemPlus is a conversation exchange program, not a dating service. You and your partner will decide how your relationship develops, but no one has any obligation to his or her partner beyond meeting to exchange language/culture practices. If this becomes an issue, contact TandemPlus Staff at [email protected].