learning languages with the Tandem app

So I’m all about the pen-pals when I’m learning languages. Here are the reasons:

  1. Free!
  2. Easy…there are apps!
  3. I’ve made some AMAZING friendships that began as language pen-pals!

My first pen-pal was the old-fashioned type…through snail mail! I was in 5th grade and it was an opportunity through girl scouts to write with another girl scout in England. I remember that is was the coolest thing when she sent me a little photo of herself and I sent her a homemade friendship bracelet. We wrote to each other off and on for some years, but you know, in growing up and all that, we lost touch. Actually, I should totally try to find her old address and send her a letter. I’m gonna do that. Now I’m excited.

Anyway, I picked back up the pen-pal bug when someone mentioned it to me as a way to help me learn Italian. I joined a website called conversation exchange and met several native Italians who were learning English. We started emailing each other and I actually met one of them in person in Italy a few years ago. It was super cool and we still Skype and keep in touch.

About a year or so ago, I came across another platform for pen-pal meetin’…an app called Tandem. It’s super user-friendly and has many cool extra functions other than just a way to find new pen-pals and text and video chat them. You can search for pen-pals based on which languages you are learning and which you speak, specifying if you are a beginner, intermediate, advanced, or native speaker. The app gives you suggestions on statuses for your profile. These are conversation starters that help you connect with like-minded language learners. One I see often is, “Let’s talk about where we will be in 10 years.” So…some are kind of deep, but there are lighters ones like “Who wants to discuss our favorite movies?”, among others. You can also search others by categories that you’d like to discuss: like food, hobbies, art, etc. Also, if your are texting with someone, there is a cool feature that allows you to easily correct what your pen-pal wrote if it wasn’t grammatically correct. It allows the other person to quickly and easily see their mistake and understand the correction. Disclaimer: sometimes I take it a little too personally if the pen-pal I’m speaking with uses this feature too much, haha. Just saying.

Another awesome feature of the app is language tutors. There are certified language teachers that you can access and have video chats with for lessons of various lengths. They cost $5 for 20 min, $10 for 40 min, $15 for 60 min, and $22.50 for 90 min, BUT the first 15 minutes with each tutor is free! I’ve had two lessons for Spanish and Italian and have had great experiences with them. Very caring and professional. And about the cost, $15 for an hour every couple of months or so isn’t that bad of a deal. I like the idea of learning the language on your own and then checking in with a tutor for some speaking practice and native speaker pointers every so often. That way, you really learn a lot in those 60 minutes!

Well, that’s all I have to say here. Tandem app is free to download and use! BTW, I’m totally not getting paid for this and have not been contacted by Tandem in anyway for writing this post. I was just realized that this is starting to sound like I work for them or something. Nope, just a satisfied user! Oh gosh that sounds bad too…

Un bacione,

Layne Alyssa


assessing how you learn

One (of the many many many) things I learned in my first year in PA school was the importance discovering which type of learner you are. Are you auditory, visual, kinesthetic, tactile, something that is not mentioned here, or a mix? I’m pretty sure everyone is a mix, but it may depend on which test you take. Secondo me, this is très très important. Not only is it important in learning everything you could ever want to learn, but it is important in learning languages too! Did you know that’s where I was going with this? 

Without further ado (ado, not adieu), click here to find out your learning type. Or just google search learning style quizzes and you can usually find one. Then come back to discuss!

I myself, am 59% visual, 24% kinesthetic, and 18% auditory. So, if you are close to being the type of learner I am, you probably find this blog more useful than someone who isn’t. Uhhhhh, Uh-oh, this is the first time I am thinking of this. Noted. 

So now take this info and apply it to your language learning! Auditory learner? Use podcasts, YouTube, and books on tape! Visual learner? YouTube, Workbooks, free language learning apps! Visual and auditory? Movies with or without subtitles! Kinesthetic? Try to write in the language you are learning! Use a dry erase board. (This is particularly helpful when learning a language that has a different alphabet like Arabic!)

Ok, come at me with your tips and comments on this post!

Un bacione,

Layne Alyssa

the setup

Allora, so one thing I love is languages. I have loved them since I began Spanish in 6th grade. At first, it was the idea of speaking to someone, namingly one of my best friends Rachel, in a foreign language that no one could understand. I mean, would it not be the coolest thing? At that time, I, of course, underestimated how much time it takes to properly learn a language. I mean, how much time it takes even to learn it enough to make “secret” sentences between the two of you. It takes a while, especially when it is your very first foreign language. Rachel and I never really made it to where we could secretly and discreetly talk about all the other middle-schoolers, but the experience instilled in me a yearning to “learn all the languages”! Of course, it was not only the languages, but everything that comes with learning a language. That’s the culture…the foods, colloquial sayings, history, and the different perspective on life! Sigh…that’s like the best thing.

I’ve learned the beginnings of LOTS of languages. And by beginnings, I mean as much as you can learn in one of these survival phrase books…

phrasebook pile


So, as you can imagine, at the snap of the finger, I can give you random words in Mandarin, Japanese, and even Hawaiian. However, spouting random words does not fluency make. But it can be really satisfying! For me, the desire of fluency is what may keep me on track long-term, but isn’t it the small victories that keep you going day to day? Like meeting a native speaker for the first time of the language you’re learning, saying “hello” in that language, and actually being understood (total rush).

So yes, fluency is the goal, but never underestimate the building blocks that get you there. They are necessary and awesome, and if you like them as much as me (or are able to at all follow this post), you are in the right place! I will dive into language learning (“all the languages!”), cultures, and even food in this blog, all in the hopes that it will pull humanity closer together (I mean, that is the long-term, profound mission, which I totally support, but that will likely not be the outcome of this blog). But really, whatever you love about learning languages, there is something for you here on this blog! I know because I’m writing it.

Un Bacione,

Layne Alyssa