Tandem app review
Tandem is one of the fairly popular names in the language learning world for connecting language learners with native speakers of that language. Right from your phone, you can strike up a conversation with somebody who speaks a foreign language, get in practice, and make a friend!
In this Tandem app review, let’s dive into what goes into this experience: the pros, the cons, and if Tandem is right for you and your language learning journey.
Oh yeah – we’ll go into Tandem Pro too, and see if it’s something that you can benefit from, or if you’re good to go with the free app.
Tandem app review: getting started
When you first download the Tandem app, you’ll get some pretty basic starting, qualifying questions. Unlike qualifying questions with other apps that want to know your level in the language you’re learning (’cause, spoiler alert, you should have the vocab/grammar down to participate in basic conversation), Tandem’s questions figure out who you are and where you’re looking to go.
Pretty basic stuff, right?
When choosing which languages you’re practicing, you can choose as many languages as you like at any level. And Tandem offers most any language under the sun – basically, if there’s someone on the app who speaks your language, you’re set!
Once that’s done, you’ll get some more qualifying questions to help pair you up with a conversation partner that you’ll actually enjoy talking to.
Again, pretty basic, reasonable stuff.
I wouldn’t sweat these questions too much; I’m not sure they really show up anywhere major, and even if they do, nobody really pays attention to them. In my experience, you’ll get a GIANT influx of messages once you get going anyways! And, to be honest, I’m not sure anyone really ever sees your answers. Maybe it’s just an internal thing?
Oh yeah, and that last screenshot? I’m not sure if Tandem is trying to push Tandem Pro here or if there’s actually a “waiting line”, but my account was approved within like 20 minutes or so. Use your real name and a real photo of you (yup, that’s required!) and you shouldn’t have any problems.
Nonetheless, you do get this offer:
If you really love using Tandem you could find a lot of value in Tandem Pro. It’s very reasonably priced, and gets you a lot more access to more practice as well as partners that you may have more chemistry with.
At the very least, I think unlimited translation would absolutely be worth it. Find a friend or two that’ll help you build up your vocabulary and it’ll be an awesome learning tool!
After all that setup, it’s time to get in some practice!
Tandem app review: finding a partner
The first place you’ll go is the Community tab. Here’s you’ll find a long list of potential conversation partners to help you practice the language you want to learn.
Everybody’s got a picture, their real name, and a “bio”, which seems to be their answer to the “what are your goals” question that we answered before. Sometimes it’ll be a complete sentence, and at the same time I’ve literally seen just “environmental” as a bio, so….grain of salt?
Here you see a couple of things. Most importantly, obviously, there are a few potential candidates for getting in some language practice.
Since I told Tandem that I’m a native English speaker and am learning Spanish, they’re recommending the opposite back: native Spanish speakers learning English.
Above that you can see “featured learners” which…I’m not entirely sure what that means. Maybe really active texters?
And above that you can search for members who are geographically near you. That’s only relevant if you’re a paid member and value in-person language exchanges.
BUT this option does provide great opportunities for language learners who are interested in local language learners, but want to test the waters a bit and see if you actually enjoy talking to language learners nearby.
If you’re not finding anybody who you have any interest in talking to, hit the “settings” button in the upper-right hand corner to get this screen.
My favorite part of this is where you can select your gender and your age range. Especially considering you have to use your real name and your real photo, I get totally inundated by messages from dudes (like the guy who asked if my dad is an artist [cue massive eye roll]), so that’s incredibly helpful!
I found one person that I wanted to talk to, and initiated a conversation with her. Then BAM!
So. Many. Texts. So. Many. Notifications.
I wonder if I was put into that list of “featured” texters?
I mean, it’s great for finding new conversation partners! The sky’s the limit!
It can also be incredibly overwhelming, which is why I’ve left most of these messages unread. Honestly, I just couldn’t keep up!
Oh yeah, peep that last one. What, you thought I was lying?! You think women don’t drown in messages from random men just because they’re women? Think again, mate!
Now, when you’re in a conversation, what options do you have available to you? Well….like all of them. Tandem is primarily a texting app, but you can easily enough also use it to video chat, send audio messages, images, GIFS…you name it, you got it!
Plus, one thing that’s really helpful if you want to be precise, is easy corrections within conversations.
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It may be worth mentioning that Tandem doesn’t supply you with any special keyboards or anything, so you’ll need to make sure that your phone’s native keyboard supports the letters (accents and all!) that your target language uses.
Personally, I just use Google’s keyboard, and that gives me access to all the accents I need to text in Spanish, French…and pretty much every accent that I could possibly need for letters in the Latin alphabet.
Honestly, the few conversations I did have before I got overwhelmed (which I already knew was going to happen based on my HelloTalk review) were really enjoyable! It just…texting is really quick, you know? It’s meant to be instant, rapid-fire. Which is hard when you’re doing it in another language!
That includes not only reading and figuring out someone else’s messages in another language, but also taking the time and energy to communicate in the language yourself. It’s really hard work.
Most of the conversations I had were mostly (if not all) in Spanish. Most of them also didn’t really volunteer corrections, but that’s an easy enough thing to just ask a person about.
Dani, on the right, was the first one to correct my texts, so I did the same back. It’s really nice, but it also requires a lot of mental energy, when you’re already using so much mental energy to translate these texts!
That mixed with all the messages I was getting from random Spanish-speakers…it can be a lot for some people. And one thing we want to avoid with language learning is getting too overwhelmed/expecting too much from ourselves.
Lastly, we have one more section of the Tandem app: the “Tutors” section.
This is a kind of interesting model to be honest. I mean obviously anybody using this app would have at least some interest in a paid tutor, I guess I just wasn’t expecting it?
Nonetheless, Tandem handpicks tutors for you that they think are interesting to talk to. You pick a tutor, pick a time, and select how long you want your lesson to be: 20, 40, 60, or 90 minutes long (which is a really long lesson!)
This is just one example of one of the tutors you can try out. I mean, there are plenty of ways to learn to speak a language, but if you haven’t found one that you like just yet, maybe you’ll want to give this section of Tandem a go!
Who the Tandem app is for
After doing this Tandem app review, I love it! I think this is a great resource for language learners: the app is attractive and smooth, there are a ton of potential conversation partners (at least for Spanish, I can’t say for less popular languages), and it’s really easy to get thrown into some conversational practice.
But, like I said, I knew going in that it wouldn’t be for me. While the concept is great, Tandem is not for language learners who easily get overwhelmed by a lot of conversations/attention (i.e. introverts). If you have the social energy to keep it up, Tandem is great!
Tandem is primarily best for writing (or texting) practice, but the sky’s really the limit. Considering you can send audio clips or even have a video chat with anybody, that takes care of your speaking practice, as well. That’ll get you your reading and listening practice along with it!
It’s also worth reiterating that Tandem is not for absolute beginners – you should at least be able to carry on a basic conversation, or you’ll be totally lost. Otherwise, though, Tandem is a great way to get in all four of the major language learning skills!