Tandem is a language exchange app on iOS and Android that connects language learners with native speakers. Members can search for language exchange partners to talk to by either text or voice chat. As of July 2020, the app supports 300 languages including 20 sign languages, 20 indigenous languages, and six fictional ones such as Mandalorian or Klingon.
Tandem was founded in Hannover in 2014 by Arnd Aschentrup, Tobias Dickmeis, and Matthias Kleimann. Now headquartered in Berlin, Tandem launched its mobile app on iOS in 2015, followed by Android in 2016. Prior to Tandem, Aschentrup, Dickmeis, and Kleimann founded Vive, a members-only mobile video chat community.
In 2015, Tandem closed a seed round of €600,000 from angel investors, including Atlantic Labs (Christophe Maire), Hannover Beteiligungsfonds, Marcus Englert (Chairman Rocket Internet), Catagonia, Ludwig zu Salm, Florian Langenscheidt, Heiko Hubertz, Martin Sinner, and Zehden Enterprises. In 2016, an additional €2m was raised from new investors, Rubylight and Faber Ventures, as well as existing investors Hannover Beteiligungsfonds, Atlantic Labs, and Zehden Enterprises.
In 2018, Tandem introduced Tandem Pro, a subscription-based offering to access all the language learning features available on the app.
In July 2020, Tandem closed a €5 million (~$5.7 million) Series A funding round led by Brighteye Ventures, a European education technology fund – along with Trind Ventures, Rubylight Limited, and GPS Ventures.
The Tandem app and its name were inspired by Tandem language learning, a method of learning a language through language exchange. In a language exchange or a tandem, each person is a native speaker of the language the other person wants to learn. The discussion is divided equally between both languages to ensure both partners are able to learn their target language. The Tandem app is supported by Tandem Fundazioa, the organization that developed the tandem language learning method.
In Tandem language learning both partners can meet in person (face-to-face tandem) or learn by e-mail, phone or other media (eTandem, also called Distance Tandem), placing emphasis on cultural integration as part of the language-learning process. Within tandem exchanges, language learning takes place in the context of a “reciprocated autonomous” exchange, meaning participants each take part in learning each others’ languages. Time is equally divided so that the exchange of language learning is fairly distributed. For example, a Portuguese speaker and a German speaker can talk for half an hour in German and then for half an hour in Portuguese. In this way, through language exchange partnerships with native speakers, and extra social and cultural experiences, participants become fully immersed in the target language culture. Learning is supported in different ways, for instance, via worksheets, textbooks or simply informal conversation. There are distinct uses of the Tandem method which promote independent learning e.g. Tandem partnerships (two people, supported by counsellors), and Binational Tandem Courses (for groups, organised by moderators). The only condition for participation in self-directed Tandem is to be at a lower intermediate level of language proficiency (lower B1 threshold). The Common European Framework of References for Languages’ ( CEFR) Can-Do statements provide a clear description of language ability at the threshold level (B1) in several European languages.
Tandem requires its members to submit an application before being accepted into the Tandem community. As part of Tandem’s moderation policy, each application is individually reviewed.
Once accepted, Tandem presents its members with a stream of potential Tandem partners who are native speakers in the language they want to learn. Members can then chat with their Tandem partners via instant messaging, voice messages, audio calls, and video calls. The list of partners can also be refined using location, age and gender filters.
In 2015, Tandem was named in Apple’s “Best Apps of 2015”. Tandem was also recognized as one of Google Play’s “Best Apps of 2017”.
In 2018, Tandem received an award from the German initiative Deutschland – Land der Ideen in their “Ausgezeichnete Orte im Land der Ideen” competition. This initiative recognizes the top ideas and projects in Germany that encourage the interconnection of cultures and an open-minded society.
Tandem has received criticism for not accepting members into the community immediately. In some countries, there is a waiting list and applicants can wait up to 7 days for their application to be processed by the human moderators.
There are 300 languages available to learn on Tandem. The most popular language pairs (in order of popularity) are: English – Spanish, Spanish – Portuguese, English – Chinese, English – French, and Chinese – Japanese.
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