by Regina Schröter
Learning the Spanish language myself I have been meeting with a Spanish student, who learns German, to improve our conversation skills. The deck of cards which I developed in this project encourages and supports such Spanish-German “tandem partners” when learning each others language.
Learning a new language is always challenging. Even though practicing vocabulary, grammatical structures and reading or writing texts are important, actually speaking – a language remains the main purpose.
The existing idea of a tandem partner is simple: Two native speakers that want to learn each others language meet regularly to practise speaking while having fun getting to know each other. When i first met my tandem partner i observed some issues that occur in such a setting. During the conversation I was nervous and did not know what to talk about. And at times we tried to discuss topics which were simply too complex for our still limited vocabulary. Due to the fact that my partner José’s German skills were much more advanced than my Spanish skills, we mostly ended up speaking German. This was a certain relieve for me of course but not really improving my Spanish of course. The discussion was not kept in balance.
We also switched automaticly to English, when we were both stuck. And again that was easy but not the aim of our meeting. Both of our brains tried to avoid the challenge of thinking in the foreign language.
So I started to think about an object that could push the partners to talk about topics that are suited for their language skill level, balance between the time spent on both languages, switch between them and relief the stress of making a mistake. A deck of cards makes it possible to play while practicing, that brings a relaxed atmosphere. People are familiar with how to deal with cards, so there is no need to get used to the functionality. The cards suggest terms from different categories that can be combined associativly. Because of many possible combinations, every conversation can differ in topics and can develope in various directions.
In best case the use of the cards leads to a fluent bilingual discussion about personal interests and motivates both partners to continue learning.