I have just started a langage tandem for Japanese! This is a pair of people, where one is a native (or at least fluent) in the language the other wants to learn.The idea is to meet and to spend half the time speaking one language, the other half of the time the other language.
According to wikipedia, the tandem idea was developed in the 1970s. It is used at universities for incoming foreign students for example, but with the new possibilities of the internet, a personal meeting is not necessary any more, and people can also do their tandems by skype or online chats, or simply per email.
My tandem partner is Tomoko san from Nagoya who has been living in Germany for about 5 years now, and who has recently moved to my town. Although she says she only speaks English with her (German) husband, her German is much better than my Japanese. Tomoko san is a great person, and as we are the same age, we have lots of things to talk about. And we do so – mostly in German (and some English, I confess), but sometimes in Japanese too.
And I think this is ecactly what such a tandem is about: speaking. And listening comprehension of course. At least I don’t think I could seriously teach German grammar to anyone, my knowledge of that comes mainly from the comparisons I drew when learning English.
In any case, I’m very glad I’ve met her and we have agreed to meet twice a week for now. When I told her I wanted to permanently move to Japan soon, she promised to help me getting up to speek. I’m looking forward to it!
There are a number of sites – not affiliated to any universities – where you can try to find a tandem partner. (Hint: google for “tandem + language you want to learn”, for example “tandem Japanese”) It’s possible and preferrable to meet in person, or on the internet. Unfortunately, some of the websites you’ll find will allow you to post your tandem request for free – but you can only contact people if at least one of you pays additional fees… Very annoying!