History of TANDEM

Anyone looking for the source of the Tandem idea will repeatedly find new forerunners who had developed the concept independently of the other practitioners. This is of course not surprising, since a method based on such a simple idea is bound to be applied spontaneously in various places by students of many different languages. Apart from the peerteaching which is not focussed on languages and the tutor/tutee models, nine stages can be identified at present:

In the early 1800's Various English sources, especially the 'mutual system' were developed by Joseph Lancaster and Daniel Bell for schoolchildren in Manchester, which brought about the substitution of an important part of teachers activity by mutual assistance of the students.
Peter Peterson (1884-1952) developed a similar approach in the 'Jenaplan' schools, with the tutor model being used in the USA from 1960 onwards.

1968 The term 'tandem' for a pair of learners of the same language was used, as far as I know for the first time in 1971 in association with the audiovisual method devised by Wambach and has since been transferred to the  French-German youth exchanges, which have been taking place since 1968.
Of special importance for this period are the names Bazin, Göbel, Robert Jean, Leupold, Gaston Schott, Raasch, Scherfer, Wambach, Wessling, Zindler, Zamzow and the organizations Deutsch-Französisches Jugendwerk, Arbeitsgruppe für Angewandte Linguistik Französisch, Bureau International de Liaison et Documentation, Sprachinstitut Tübingen.

1973 Inspired by one of the French-German projects, Liebe-Harkort and Cimilly apply the model in the German-Turkish area for work with immigrants, in cooperation with the Anatolian Solidarity Society and the Volkshochschule in München. This is followed by courses in Bremen (Liebe-Harkort, Schminck-Gustavus and others). A  course in 1983 in the Türkisches Volkshaus in Frankfurt (Faust, Schneider-Gürkan) and the patented language laboratory with two person cabins, the 'Alfasut' of Werner Suter, Zürich should probably also be attributed to this line of development.


1979 Influenced by an article by Liebe-Harkort and without knowledge of the French-German forerunners, Jürgen Wolff develops the procedure for organizing individual Spanish-German Tandem partnerships in Madrid. This was later to become the basis for the current TANDEM® Network.

1981 In the French-German area, activities continued to develop. After a series of projects dealing with fundamental didactic and pedagogical questions, 6-8 intensive Tandem Courses take place annually. The Deutsch-Französisches Jugendwerk actively promotes the development and funding of these courses, which often have a specific reference to technical and professional language applications (Universities of Mainz and Dijon: technical language for law students; Maison de la Promotion Sociale and Sprachinstitut Tübingen: hotel management; AFRAT and SIT: agricultural specialists; Deutsch-Französische Postpartnerschaft: postal and telecommunications technicians).

1982 Building on the organization of individual partnerships, Wolff joins with Marisa Delgado, Bernhard Leute and Gracia Martín Torres to develop a program of courses in Madrid. This is the basis for the formation of the former cooperative Centro Cultural Hispano-Alemán TANDEM, now Escuela Internacional TANDEM.

Since 1983 The method receives acceptance as one of the basic elements in an alternative program of language learning. As the result of an active campaign of publication, travel and training, the material for the organization of individual partnerships is extended to almost all the major European languages. 
The TANDEM® network is formed with members in Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Peru, Poland and Spain and with partners in Austria, Portugal and Switzerland.  This structure facilitates language courses abroad, youth exchange, cultural tours, class correspondance and similar cross-border activities.
The network maintains various forms of association with various public adult education centers, universities and Goethe-Institutes and also cooperates with the 'International E-Tandem Network', coordinated by Helmut Brammerts / Ruhr Universität Bochum, founded as RIBo 1992 / 'International E-Mail-Tandem Network' 1993.


1994 In order to improve academic cooperation and on-going teacher training, a majority of tandem users established the Foundation 'TANDEM® Fundazioa', the main office of which is located in Donostia/San Sebastián, in the Basque Country, and which began functioning on January 1. Trademark rights, first held by Michael Friedrich, the Cooperative in Madrid and Jürgen Wolff, have been thus taken over by the Foundation. For further information on Tandem and for those who want to be members, the Foundation is to be consulted. It also advises the organizers of the 'International Tandem Conference'. 
It was recognised as a Charity by order number 2698 of the Basque Ministry of Culture on July 11, 1994, as published on page 9013 of the Basque Government Bulletin, and is allowed to accept tax deducible donations.

2003 After a discussion process lasting more than a year, the 'tandem building' has been converted into a 'two pillars - one roof' structure. The government of the TANDEM Fundazioa has passed  from language schools to universities, refugee centres and other non-profit institutions. These institutions do not use tandem within their advertising and promotions for public language courses. The Foundation specializes on tandem methodology and is granting licenses for the use of its material and  trade mark. 
The majority of the schools of the former 'Tandem Network ' have established the association 'TANDEM International' with headquarters in Göttingen, Germany, with a global licence of Tandem Foundation. These schools focus on marketing and promoting language courses, with or without tandem. Both branches cooperate from case to case.

Jürgen Wolff, last update: February 12th, 2009