On Monday evenings at either Nordic Pub or Piec Art you can join people speaking Polish, English, German, and French or other languages. At each of these typical Krakow cellar pubs, you will find people gathered around select tables where a particular language is spoken and participants going from table to table, moving from one language to the next.
Tandem language coordinator Marta Klancko says her role is simply to facilitate the process of language exchange. “We meet weekly in a pub and put cards with languages on tables. People see a name of a language they know, or want to learn, and join the chosen table. Then, the rest is up to them,” said Klancko.
People often find a language exchange partner and set up ongoing meetings to practice together at a time and place of their choosing, “That’s how a tandem begins. We are here just to make that opportunity possible” said Klancko.
For people unable to attend in person they may find a tandem language partner online, though face to face language exchanges are the most popular.
“If you like the partner, you arrange a meeting and if you don’t, you just say it, and start looking for another one,” said Stephanie Theil from Germany, “The most difficult part is starting, then it all goes well.”
Ideally language tandems involve one of the participants leading the conversation in his or her native language for half the time, focusing on the one language and then swapping roles for the second half of each meeting.
“In my opinion it’s more effective to get a person of the same gender, because if you are a mixed tandem and you fall in love, you forget about learning all together” smiles Klancko. “Or on the other hand, maybe it would increase the desire for knowing the language?”
Tandem language learning is not seen as a replacement for a focused course in language learning with a qualified teacher, though it is credited with improving fluency and relevance. “Polish schools don’t teach language as its spoken today, so it’s difficult to speak abroad even if you know how,” said Tomek Bartycki a student of Germanic studies at Jagiellonian University and tandem participant for 2 years.
Tandem learning has been around in Europe since the 1960s. Przemek Kuklicz decided to introduce the idea in Krakow after experiencing tandem learning while in Germany studying. A variety of European and Student Foundations supported Kuklicz’s establishment of tandem learning in Krakow.
“Everybody can get involved with tandem learning” said Klancko, “It’s not only for students. We have various tandems including Polish-English, German, French, Swedish, Ukrainian, and Turkish.” “Sometimes other combinations like English-French occur. But what we need at the moment is Italian and Spanish speakers for tandems with Polish speakers.”
Klancko stressed that in a tandem you teach and are taught, but it is not a professional service and it cannot be expected that participants know everything about their native language. What are necessary though are motivation, reliability and free time.
For more details and on-line tandem: www.tandem-krakow.pl