A New Journey to Learning Much More Than a Name


By: Brennan Crain
“Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.”- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
In the dynamic society of modern day America, we encounter various cultures each day. Whether you live in a large urban area such as New York City, with a near equal split between English speakers and non-English speakers, or a small rural area such as Glasgow, Kentucky, you will likely come across someone different than yourself.

According to WNYC News, “Just 51 percent of New Yorkers speak only English at home.”

Examining closer to home, Glasgow contained 14,028 residents, according to the latest census report collected in 2010. Of the 14,028 residents, 4.3 percent were listed as “Hispanic or Latino (of any race).” 4.3 percent of 14,028 equates to approximately 610 residents; a much smaller number of inhabitants than New York City.
In Glasgow, the Hispanic population is the third largest ethnic group after African Americans and Caucasians.
According to the census data, most Hispanics in the area speak Spanish as their first language rather than most residents, who speak English as their first language. Regardless, there is a serious need to learn a new language appropriate to those around you, and some begin in high school.
Within the last three decades, foreign language classes have changed across the United States. Take Barren County High School for instance; 25 years ago, BCHS taught Spanish, German, and French. Of the three, BCHS currently only teaches Spanish, but has added a different foreign language course within the last 10 years. That new addition is Chinese.
According to worldatlas.com, English, Spanish, and Chinese (including Cantonese, Mandarin, and other Chinese languages) are the top three languages being spoken in the United States.
Most everyone is familiar with the process small children go through to learn a new language; they speak it and repeat it until it is well developed. This process is quite extensive, not fully developing until children have practiced the language for several years.
Unfortunately, most students do not have the opportunity to speak a new language consistently enough to properly speak it. This creates a problem for students desiring to retain the knowledge and customs of any language and culture. With one option, you can write and speak with others. Tandem – Language Exchange.
Tandem is an app exclusively designed to join people from around the world to talk with each other and develop friendships. Tandem is a modernized pen pal that makes communication quicker and easier. Users can customize their profile to fit their language learning.
Suppose you desire to learn Spanish, one of the top three languages spoken worldwide. If you’ve been in an entry level Spanish course, you have a head start. The average student completing Spanish I is considered to be a “novice-mid to novice-high” according to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. The ACTFL organizes language proficiency based on writing, listening, and speaking. Generally, “novice-mid to high” encompasses the bare minimum of a language such as identifying key words and phrases. In perspective, “intermediate mid to high” is appropriate to sufficiently communicate in a workplace setting.
With Tandem, users of all proficiencies come together to communicate. Users include their natural language and the main language(s) they are learning. For instance, Jane Doe may speak English primarily, but she lists Spanish as a language she is learning.
Others with similar interests and those that speak the same language you’re learning are grouped in an area with you. You can begin communication with basic text, audio recording, and even a live video chat.
What seems like a difficult task of finding someone to speak to in another language is made almost effortless with Tandem. In the app, a simple click on a name will allow you to communicate directly with someone living in another country!
This modern pen pal experience allows you to ask questions, learn new things, and figure out just what you may be doing wrong with another language.
Hop on the road to language proficiency with the Tandem experience; free and available on Apple and Android products.