Tandem Review: Can It REALLY Help You Learn A Language?
Interesting way to practice conversation once you reach an intermediate level
Tandem is an excellent app to find a language exchange partner from anywhere in the world. It’s not made as an app to teach a language so it won’t be very helpful to beginners. But it’s a good way to practice speaking and conversation once you have a handle on the basics of the language . It’s a useful tool to get feedback and learn how the language is spoken in everyday life.
- Free version has all necessary features included
- Easy way to find a language partner
- Tons of languages and users to connect with
- Lots of personal information required to create an account
- Need other resources to learn the language
Languages Available on App:
There are 200+ languages available. The most popular languages are: Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish
Related Language apps
Table of Contents
Due to the pandemic, the number of people learning a language online has increased dramatically and is predicted to continue to grow. There are tons of truly excellent apps to help you learn almost any language out there. But a lot of them have the same problem. There’s no effective way to practice speaking when talking to a computer or phone. You need a real person.
Enter Tandem. Tandem was developed in 2015 as a way to connect language learners from around the world. You simply enter what language you speak and which one you want to learn, and Tandem will show you a long list of potential language partners. Once you establish a connection with a partner, you can use messages, audio, or video to communicate.
I’m a longtime language learner (even longer if high school Spanish counts), but I was always nervous to say anything in my new language. It took a long time before I realized I wasn’t going to get any better without trying.
Now I try to go to different language exchanges in my area, but sometimes it doesn’t fit into my schedule. Or if I have to miss one, I know it will be 2 or 3 weeks before I can practice speaking again. So I was excited to try Tandem to see if it’s a good alternative. You can practice anytime and anywhere.
Tandem is good for people who:
- Are intermediate/advanced learners
- Want to practice conversation
- Don’t mind helping others learn and practice
Tandem ISN’T good for people who:
- Are starting a language
- Prefer to learn with rules and structure
- Need to practice for business or academic purposes
Tandem offers a completely free version that gives you access to the most important features. There is also a Tandem Pro subscription that costs $13.99 per month, $31.99 for 3 months ($10.67 per month), or $79.99 for 12 months ($6.67 per month).
In my opinion, the free version is completely adequate. There are no limits on how many people you can message, which is the main purpose of the app anyway. I would rather save the money to use on another app that will help me in ways that Tandem can’t, such as learning vocabulary or grammar.
For a similar price per month, you can get an app like Drops or Memrise that help you learn vocabulary. There are also full courses available on apps like Rosetta Stone or Babbel for a similar price. If you like the idea of a free app, Duolingo and Clozemaster both offer content for free. However, Tandem is a much cheaper option than taking classes with an online teacher on a platform like italki or Preply.
Tandem Free Trial
Tandem doesn’t offer a trial because it’s completely free to sign up and use on the website or mobile app. However, some features are only available to Tandem Pro subscribers.
Tandem Free vs Pro
If you want to use all features available on Tandem, you will need a Tandem Pro subscription. The Pro level unlocks certain features such as searching for members that live nearby or in a city you are going to travel to. They will also highlight your profile so that more members will see it, increasing the chances that someone will message you. The Pro version also gets rid of ads and gives you unlimited translations in your messages.
If you invite 3 friends to the app, you can get one month of Tandem Pro for free.
Tandem Review: How It Can (or Can’t) Help You
For security reasons, Tandem has an extensive sign up process. First, you answer a series of questions like what languages you want to learn, what languages you speak, what you like to talk about, what is your perfect tandem partner like, etc. Next, you have to upload a profile picture. This is a mandatory step. Finally, you confirm your email address.
Tandem verifies every application, so there might be a wait before you can start sending messages. My application was approved within a few minutes, and then I was ready to start! I received my first message from a potential language exchange partner pretty quickly. You can also search for members and look at their profiles to see if you think they might be a good match for you. I could see which members were online at the moment, so it was easy to start a conversation and receive responses right away.
Challenge #1: Beginning a New Language
Tandem isn’t designed for beginners. There are no tools or features that actually teach the language, but it wasn’t designed for that. It does well in it’s purpose of helping people connect to practice a language. Intermediate and advanced speakers will get a lot more benefit out of it. But even if you’re a beginner, everyone is there to learn so it’s no problem if you make mistakes.
Challenge #2: Learning & Remembering New Words
Tandem doesn’t teach vocabulary in the traditional sense. In order to learn new words, you’ll have to ask your language partner. To learn a lot of new words quickly, it’s probably better to use another app like Drops or Clozemaster. But the fun part of Tandem is that you can learn what words people really use and maybe even learn some slang or common phrases.
Challenge #3: Understanding & Speaking to Native Speakers
This is where Tandem excels! You have direct access to native speakers who want to help you learn. And the best part is that you can help them in return! The most common way to communicate is through messages, especially when you are just meeting. But there is the option to use audio or even video calls. It’s possible to set your communication preferences to show others what type of communication style you prefer.
Challenge #4: Making Language Learning a Routine
Tandem is really easy to use. You just earch for a possible language partner and send a message. Even if you are shy (like me!) I received messages welcoming me to the platform, and I found it easier to respond to those than to initiate my own conversation. You can also use Tandem on the computer or the app on your phone so you can learn whenever and wherever.
Tandem offers close to 300 languages that you can practice. The most popular languages are English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish. If you speak or want to practice one of these languages, there are always people online to practice with.
I tried some other languages that weren’t on the popular languages list, like Afrikaans and Irish, and still found people online to practice with. I even tried some indigenous languages and found plenty of people to practice Quechua with, but no one speaking a Native American language, like Sioux.
Tandem Review: Overall Learning Experience
Overall, I think Tandem is an excellent app for its intended purpose, which is to connect people who want to practice languages. It isn’t meant to teach you the basics. You’ll need another resource for that. But if you are looking for an easy way to practice conversations in a new language, Tandem does the job.
Every time I logged in, I was able to quickly find someone to talk with. Not everyone responds, but most do. After that, the experience is what you want to make it. People list what they want to talk about, and common topics were introductions, travel, and culture.
I also liked that Tandem takes security seriously. There are a set of Tandem Community Principles that everyone has to follow. For example, you can’t sell things, promote your social media, or use it as a dating app. It’s easy to report someone who isn’t following the rules, and you can also block them so they can’t message you.
Tandem Review: Areas of Improvement
I enjoyed using Tandem, but there are always areas that could be improved. My biggest complaint was the amount of personal information that I had to enter to create my account. You have to provide your name, birthday, and gender. A lot of this is considered very personal information, but your name, location, and age are clearly displayed on your profile for everyone to see. I know that they do this for security reasons, but it’s more information than I’d like to share with people I’ve never met.
Tandem isn’t made to teach you a language. This is a tip, not an area to be improved because Tandem isn’t made for that purpose. It’s an excellent resource for practicing what you’ve already learned and the cross-culture sharing is really interesting. But, if you are looking for one app that will help you to learn a language, you should try something else like Babbel or Rosetta Stone. Once you have an intermediate level, try out Tandem to practice your conversational skills!
Tandem Alternatives and Competitors
If you think Tandem isn’t the right choice for you, there are many other options available. If you want a course that will start from an absolute beginner level, you can try Babbel, Rosetta Stone, or Rocket Languages. If you are looking to practice speaking, HelloTalk is another similar app. There are also platforms that connect you with a teacher like italki, Preply, or Verbling. Pimsleur and Innovative Languages are good for hearing the language without having to pay the premium price of having a teacher.
Tandem vs italki
italki is a platform that connects you with teachers so you can learn a language. Tandem is a platform to connect you with native speakers who aren’t teachers. italki is more expensive because you are paying teachers for their expertise and time. If you are trying to learn a language, italki is the better choice because the teacher will help you learn the difficult parts of the language. But if you just want to chat and improve fluency, then Tandem is a good option. If you’re interested in italki, you can learn more in this review or try it by clicking the link below.
Tandem vs HelloTalk
Both HelloTalk and Tandem connect you with people all over the world to practice languages. Both apps require quite a bit of personal information to get started. Tandem verifies all of their accounts to make sure that people are using the app for the right reasons though. Tandem is also completely free and doesn’t have message limits while HelloTalk’s free version is pretty limited. I prefer Tandem because it seems more established and made me feel more comfortable talking to the other users than HelloTalk did. If you want to learn more about HelloTalk, you can read this review or click on the link below.
Tandem vs Rocket Languages
Tandem and Rocket Languages serve different purposes. Rocket Languages is the better choice for beginners because it has a step-by-step course that guides you through the language learning process. But Tandem is better for those that already have a conversational level and are ready to practice speaking. I think that Rocket Languages is better for beginner and intermediate learners, but Tandem is better for advanced learners. If you’re interested in Rocket Languages, you can read about it in this review or try it for free by clicking the link below.
Tandem vs Verbling
Verbling is a platform that connects you with language teachers, but Tandem is a more casual way to find a language exchange partner. On Verbling, you select your teacher by viewing their profiles and using different filters. Tandem also has search functions that help you find a language partner that’s a good match for you. Verbling connects you with a qualified teacher on their platform, so prices are more expensive. If you are interested in Verbling, you can read more about it in this review or try it for free by clicking the link below.
Tandem Review FAQ
Tandem has a lot of safety measures in place to assure that people are using the app for the intended purpose, which is to practice another language. In the messages I received, I never felt threatened or uncomfortable. There is the option to report a member if they aren’t following the community guidelines.
Tandem has an extensive process to create an account, but once your account is approved, it’s easy to use Tandem. You can search for people that speak the language you want to learn and vice versa. The app shows who is currently online so you can send and receive messages immediately.
Tandem has a free version that has the most important features. With the free version, you can message as many people as you want without restrictions. If you want more search capabilities, a paid subscription to Tandem Pro lets you search for language partners based on specific locations.
I prefer Tandem over HelloTalk. I think that Tandem has more users and there are more security measures to get rid of anyone who isn’t using the app for its intended purposes. Since both apps are free, you should check out the free trial to both apps to see which better fits your learning style.
Tandem is an app with the mission to connect language learners around the world. Chinese is a common option for people that speak Chinese and can help others learn this language, as well as people that want to learn Chinese in exchange for another language.
About This Tandem Review
This is an independent Tandem review, and the company has not sponsored this article. To write this review, I purchased a one-month subscription to the app and used it for a few hours to thoroughly test its content and features. I also found additional information on the Tandem website to verify my findings.