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Handbook for Foreign Language Learning in Online Tandems and Educational Settings


Edited By Hermann Funk, Manja Gerlach and Dorothea Spaniel-Weise

This book is about foreign language learning in non-formal Online Tandems. The collected papers by contributors who have expertise in the field of Language Pedagogy and Foreign Language Acquisition gather information on online interactions, such as the initiation of tandems, the mentoring of online activities and learners’ interaction, as well as the assessment of the processes at hand. The handbook targets stakeholders, institutions of higher education, language teachers and tandem trainers at educational institutions that want to set up Online Tandems especially designed for third language learners. The book is the result of the three-year project L3TASK carried out at five universities in Austria (Wien), Germany (Jena) and Spain (Alicante, Barcelona, Madrid) and associated partner institutions in China. It was funded by the European Commission in the frame of the Life Long Learning Programme.

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1.6 How to Assist Online Tandem Learners?


1.6 How to Assist Online Tandem Learners?

In non-formal Online Tandems the presence of a teacher is not necessarily required. This has led to the misleading assumption that Tandem learning works without guidance at all. However, in Tandem learning and proven by the outcomes previous Tandem projects (see chapter 1.2), specially trained language tutors usually need to accompany the encounters with the intention not to teach but to assist and mediate where necessary.

After the Tandem concept was expanded from youth meetings in the 1970s to the establishment of Tandem courses outside an institutionally formed foreign language class (Wolff 19821), it became popular in various forms of Tandem courses within a tertiary education framework. In this context, Tandem courses were often coordinated by International Relations Offices or offered by special courses established for this particular purpose (Bechtel 2003, 21). With these developments, guided language instruction has come to take a back seat and the role of the teacher offering Tandems has changed from that of an instructor to a mentoring advisory role.

A special characteristic of the L3TASK project discussed in this article, as has been pointed out before, is the possibility to engage in independent learning by means of Online Tandems. In this setting, at the time the E-Tandem sets off, participants are either taking part in or have already completed a language course. This course, however, does not form the organisational framework nor does it necessarily provide content for the conversations in...

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