Learning from each other



In the Medoc apart from the indigenous Medocain population , immigrants and settlers of many nationalities including but not only many Germans, French, Dutch, Belgians and English. Often the immigrants do not have the opportunity to meet people speaking a different language or they simply do not dare to mix and chat with people of a different nationality.. With the two following examples we have tried to show how one can establish a relationship leading to productive learning of a language (called "tandem"):

sprachtandem 1 Tandem 1: THE FRENCH CONNECTION? (author: J.)

It is a simple story how two ladies met and shared a good experience.
By chance 7 years ago we met in St Vivien. We said "bonjour" then decided to have coffee together. So began our friendship and our learning. Our situations were similar, we had studied French/English at school but had no experience of speaking.
With all new relationships, conversation can be difficult at first. The husband of one suggested we work together. We began the lessons making something to eat. As a result the questions and answers came more easily.
It was a very good exercise for us, we enjoyed helping each other. We wanted to continue to work together so decided to make a list of topics that we could discuss at future meetings. These included, our families, our local town, favourite holiday destinations, personal interests/hobbies........
We preferred to have our lessons in the morning. We would cycled to the Port of St Vivien 2 or 3 times a week, there, we would worked with our books in the tranquil surroundings of La Cabane du Port. With the passing of time our conversations became less difficult, we made notes for future reference and enjoyed a coffee.
This chance meeting in St Vivien has proved to be so useful in improving our confidence in speaking French /English and the friendship that has developed between us and our husbands, we hope will continue.

sprachtandem 2 A mother was looking for help for her daughter in learning German. We were able to arrange the introduction to a German friend, who in turn wanted to learn French:

Tandem 2: to profit from immigrants

Well already I had been asked if I would like to support a 15 year old student from Pauillac to learn German and I had thought maybe this could provide an opportunity to speak French on a daily basis. I'm still a beginner in French but I already thought of the possibility of a tandem with a Frenchwoman who seeks to learn German. I hoped that it would be possible with this young student. But it was too difficult as the student had only just begun to learn German and I realised that my French was not sufficiently advanced to explain in detail the German language. Apart from that there was the age difference...
She came with her books and his school homework and it was very tiring to put myself to her level of learning and the situation was not really what I wanted as a tandem. In my husband Werner she found the appropriate person for what she needed - a prof and he decided to take over the task. I am now able to converse with the mother who brings her daughter for her lessons with my husband.
From time to time I am involved and I am able to talk with her mother a bit. We both like each other and I am delighted with this language support contact.

The moral of the story: You can learn a language even at an advanced age!. And even if it seems like tiring work, it may result in an ongoing friendship. But it depends on the mutual expectations and the "chemistry" of relationships if the tandem can continue and become a success. But it is always worth a try!

2018 Christian Büttner (Saint Vivien), translation: Christopher Murray