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International Tandem Service – Vision & Options

The lecture is in German and can be read on YouTube as subtitles in 85 other languages. If German is not your mother tongue, the playback speed of the video should be reduced to 75%.

The video is a keynote on the background and founding call for an International Tandem Service (ITS).

A Finnish start-up IYS from 1952 provided valuable contacts for foreign language learning for many years. For example, the person who most motivated Konrad to learn English was a Finnish high school student he met through the International Youth Service (IYS). For no homework did he search longer in dictionaries than for the multi-page letters he took turns writing with the Finnish student. These and other pen-pal friendships of classmates from his school days continue to this day.All of them now correspond via the internet and occasionally meet up with their families somewhere in Europe to explore local culture and food habits together.

The concept of ITS (International Tandem Service) is a contemporary attempt to take the learning experiences of pen pals from the last century and put them into a form that matches the possibilities of the internet and make them accessible for professional purposes. In the right combination, social networks and video conferencing can help people learn about foreign cultures and languages first hand. This does not require long journeys. Much of it is free and possible online. This is important because success in studies and work depends more than ever on language skills and intercultural competence.

Those who suddenly leave their homeland due to war or poverty and are not prepared for the professional and social requirements in the destination country will probably spend many years in asylum shelters, refugee homes or in ghettos. It is possible that one will never get the chance for social advancement. Such bad prospects are avoidable if one exchanges ideas with people from the destination country via the internet beforehand. The ITS wants to support people who have grown up in foreign cultures with other mother tongues. You just have to be willing to exchange with other interculturally interested people via video conference. Ideally, there is an equivalent return service for the exchange in the form of linguistic and cultural know-how.

If the exchange of language services is only partially successful, payment for cultural and linguistic advice is also conceivable. In the USA, Ukraine and Hong Kong, the necessary platforms for charging for language services already exist. Only in Germany is this once again uncharted territory, because people only think of company training and adult education courses in closed rooms. If you want to know more details about the ITS concept, you can find it on the website that has just been set up. The initiator has a lot of private and professional experience with many people from other countries. Even after decades, one still learns new things in the online courses. Some of his contacts are important sources of inspiration, especially his experiences with his pen pal Eeva. She motivated intercultural exchange by letter decades ago. At that time, English was the bridge language between Germany and Finland.

Now there are new impulses and lived experiences:

For example, Yuan from China – when he studied German, he lived above Konrad’s office. He and Konrad recorded several videos and designed the website

Morelle from Cameroon is involved because she is training to be an engineer in Germany and teaches her sister French via videoconference from Cameroon. The video conferences with Cameroon work almost as smoothly as those within Germany.

Niko runs one of the most modern education companies in Germany, it relies exclusively on video conferencing software developed in-house for DSGVO-compliant online teaching.

The association ZUM.DE shows that voluntary engagement in education can also succeed without state support.

The Finnish International Youth Service (IYS) provided opportunities for language and intercultural exchange long before the internet. At that time, the tandems worked in a time-shifted manner and in written form. With the internet and the existence of language learning platforms, modern tandems are based less on long-standing friendship, as between students at IYS, and more on quick success in learning languages and other cultures. Asymmetries are compensated by paid hours with service providers such as PPREPLY, iTALKi and VERBLING. ITS aims to combine both ideas by providing a forum for those who want to combine the best of both options: Free tandems combined with well-known platforms to balance asymmetries in mutual support. This is necessary because the platforms do not allow their online teachers to give their own contact details in the introduction video and profile, e.g. on LinkedIn or Facebook. With ITS, everything is allowed that does not violate applicable law. One only switches to the known platforms if financial compensation is required and serious accounting is desired. No one has to provide their postal address. This can be done later, when the business contact has become a friendship.

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