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Tandem Review: A Tinder-esque Language Exchange App?

Quick Review

4.7 

Summary

Tandem is a popular language exchange app with over one million active users. It’s available for iOS and Android and aims to bring language learners from all over the world together. It’s largely centered around its chat capabilities and language tools that facilitate communication, but there is also a tutoring service offered in the app.

Community 

There are lots of active language learners, especially those looking to pair with native English speakers.

Features 

The interface is intuitive and the language tools are simple and effective, though you’ll quickly run out of free translations.

Value

The free version is all most people will need. Tandem Pro doesn’t add a ton of extra value.

Price

There is a limited free version of Tandem and a pro version available at $6.99 for one month, $3.99/month for three months, and $2.92/month for a year’s subscription.

Languages

There are over 160 languages offered on Tandem.

The Tandem logo with a pink and blue graphic.

When learning a new language by myself, I often wonder if I’m studying the right things. There’s so much that a book can’t teach you about a language. It’s easy enough to look up a translation of a phrase like “How are you?” for example, but knowing whether people actually speak like that is equally important.

The best way around this, in my experience, is interactions with native speakers. It could be with a tutor, friend, or language exchange partner.

Of course, finding a language partner isn’t usually the easiest thing in the world. More than geographical constraints, organically coming across the right person is pretty unlikely.

Fortunately for language lovers everywhere, smartphones just keep getting better at digitally connecting people.

Screenshot from the Tandem website showing four photographs of smiling young adults.

Tandem is a language exchange app available for iOS and Android. It aims to bring language learners from all over the world together for language exchange.

Its built-in language tools and strong focus on language learning make it more than just a social chat app. Its active user base of more than one million means it’s a safe bet you’ll be able to find a good language partner for you.

Tandem also offers an additional service called Tandem Tutors, but it’s primarily marketed as a way to chat with other language learners.

Initial Impression

This app is hip! I immediately have second thoughts upon visiting the Tandem website — am I cool enough for this? You’re greeted by professional photos of pretty people in stylish clothes against pastel backgrounds. There’s definitely something Tinderesque going on here.

Getting Started

After downloading the app, it’s time to set up your profile. A profile photo is required, and the examples they give have me questioning my selfie game.

Screenshot from the Tandem app where the user is supposed to upload a profile picture.

You’re also supposed to provide some basic information to complete your profile. This includes describing your ideal Tandem partner.

Screenshot from the Tandem profile set-up page asking the user to describe their ideal Tandem partner.

There’s still something that feels decidedly like a dating app at this point, but it’s too soon to pass judgment.

I soon complete my profile and am feeling pretty good about it. I’m excited to see what this app looks like on the inside. And the version I’m trying out is free! Great.

Page in the Tandem app telling the user that there's a waiting period of up to one week for profile approval.

Ouch. I’ll have to wait a week to actually try it out? That seems like a long wait, and I smell a marketing tactic. Naturally, you can skip the wait and get started right away if you pay for a subscription.

I decided to call the bluff and wait it out. Sure enough, I received an email within the hour telling me my profile was approved and I was all set to start chatting.

I guess it’s a good thing that they take the time to approve profiles, but the extra nudge to pay for a subscription after completing my profile left a bitter taste in my mouth at the beginning. I also found out later that the price quoted at this stage is more than I was offered later on — more on this in the Pricing section of this review.

Although my very initial impression wasn’t overly enthusiastic, my tune changed with how quickly I received messages from other users.

Screenshot of new message notifications from Tandem.

This was just the beginning. By the end of the day, my inbox was full, and I had only initiated one or two of the conversations! Some of the conversations were very productive and everyone seemed to genuinely be interested in language practice.

Interface and Layout

The Tandem interface is slick, easy to use, and focused heavily on its chat functionality. It’s got a lot in common with HelloTalk, but it feels a little more trendy and grown-up.

There are five different sections that make up the app, and we’ll take a look at each of them individually.

Community

This is where you can search for language partners. While browsing, you’ll be able to see which users are native speakers of the language you’re learning and are learning your native language.

Screenshot of the Community section of the Tandem app. The image shows a list of profiles with pictures and short bios.

As you can see, new profiles are featured at the top of the community section. This is why I was contacted by so many people right after creating my profile.

Selecting a profile will show additional information about the user, including location, interests, language goals and references.

Screenshot of a Tandem user's references, written by other Tandem users.

I thought the reference feature was pretty cool. It gives everyone on the app extra incentive to be a good language partner, and it makes it easier to find what you’re looking for.

The Near Me filter in the community section is only available to those with a Pro account. It only shows the Tandem users that are closest to you.

Tutors

This Tandem feature isn’t advertised as much as the language exchange it facilitates, and it isn’t part of the Pro subscription. It’s an extra feature that hooks learners up with language tutors.

Screenshot of the Tandem Tutors section of the app. The image shows three tutors; it shows their picture, rating, price, and languages.

I didn’t purchase any lessons with a tutor, but it seems to function much like other online tutor resources like italki, Verbling, and Preply.

According to their website, tutors working with Tandem are handpicked for their professionalism, knowledge, and “fun factor.” Tutors are able to set their own prices and can teach exclusively from their mobile devices if they wish.

Chats

This is what Tandem is all about — chatting with other language learners. As you can see from my inbox, there’s no shortage of people interested in taking advantage of this aspect of the app.

Screenshot of the Chats section in the Tandem app. Shown are a list of messages in an inbox.

I was happy with the chat function. It works much like you’d expect any communication app to work and is intuitive to use. In addition to text messages, you can leave voice messages and even have a voice or video call.

Example of a Tandem profile page, where you can message, voice call or video call another user.

Messaging someone in a language you are just learning can be daunting and seem downright impossible. To make it easier, there are a few language tools built-in to the app.

The list of language tools available in chat. They are: copy, correct, comment, speak, and translate.

The tools I found the most helpful were Correct and Translate. The Speak tool plays text-to-speech audio of the selected message. The quality of this audio varies by language but mostly works ok.

The translate function works just like Google Translate. It’s really nice having the translate function in the app, but unless you purchase the Pro version, you only get five translations per day. I ran out quickly.

This message pops up for users with a free membership that reach the five-translation daily limit.

It’s easy enough to switch over to another translation app once you’ve run out of free translations, but it also makes the experience slightly clunkier.

The Correct feature is a great language tool and makes the language exchange experience more productive.

An example of a corrected message in a Tandem chat.

This feature is really cool. You’re bound to make mistakes practicing the language, and getting clear feedback on them is absolutely necessary if you want to improve. The Correct feature is easy to use and easy to understand. You can see exactly where you made a mistake and how to fix it.

The Comment tool is useful for responding to a message that isn’t the most recent one you’ve received. This is very similar to the WhatsApp messaging app.

Goals

This is a social feature of the app that acts as another way to pair language partners. It’s the only place in the app that users can post things that are public. Posting a goal or browsing goals set by others can act as a catalyst to get new conversations going.

An example of the Goals section of the Tandem app. There is a feed where user's goals are published for others to see.

Honestly, I had so many people contact me right away that I didn’t have much use for this feature. I could see it being a useful way to reach a wider number of users, but it doesn’t add a great deal of value to the app.

Pro

The free version of Tandem offers a lot, but Tandem Pro is available for those who really like the app or want some additional features.

Paying for Tandem Pro provides the user with the following benefits:

  • Unlimited translations
  • Ad-free experience
  • Find language partners in the same city
  • Appear at the top of the Community stream
  • Access to profile view insights

The price for Tandem Pro is very reasonable, and I think purchasing it would be worth it for someone that used the app very frequently.

For my purposes, I never thought it was necessary to buy the pro version. I had plenty of conversation partners, the ads weren’t too intrusive, and I didn’t have a big problem with using a different translation app.

Pricing

The free version of Tandem offers a lot. You can definitely find a good language partner and practice a language using the app without paying anything.

Those that really enjoy the app and plan to use it seriously for an extended period of time might find it worth it to purchase the pro version. Tandem Pro is available for*:

Subscription PeriodMonthly PriceTotal Price
1 month$6.99$6.99
3 months$3.99$11.99
12 months$2.92$34.99

 

*The above prices are what I came across in the app, but the prices I was offered before my profile was approved were higher.

This screenshot shows the price advertised to users that are waiting for their profile to be approved. This screenshot shows the price advertised to users that have already had their profile approved.

The screenshot on the left is what I was offered to “skip the line” and start a free trial. The image on the right was taken from the “Pro” tab in the app.

I would strongly recommend trying the app out for free before buying! You might even get a cheaper subscription price.

All of the above considered, this app is either free or very inexpensive, and that’s great.

Alternatives

HelloTalk is a very similar resource. It’s another language exchange app that offers a lot of functionality for free. HelloTalk doesn’t offer any tutor services but has audio lessons available for purchase in the app.

With both of these resources, the bulk of their value is in the free (or inexpensive) social language exchange they facilitate. What makes them different is their overall feel and the people that are using them.

Where Tandem is slick and trendy, HelloTalk is more cartoony and emoji-heavy. I have a slight preference for the Tandem aesthetic, but your mileage may vary. I also had better luck finding language partners on Tandem, but this isn’t a universal experience.

With both HelloTalk and Tandem, people apparently use the apps for dating purposes. I didn’t come across this personally with either app, but it’s good to be aware.

If one-on-one tutoring is what you’re after, consider italki. It’s got plenty of teachers teaching a ton of languages at all sorts of price points.

Final Thoughts

Tandem makes language exchange easy. It’s free to use and has a large, active user base. If you’re interested in interacting with native speakers of the language you’re learning, Tandem is worth your consideration.

I personally find language exchange to be an effective way to direct my language study. By putting yourself in a conversational situation, you’re forced to learn the things that are immediately necessary to keep the conversation going. The context of a social app gives you the time and space to consider your response and to do any extra learning that’s needed.

Using an app like Tandem as your sole method for learning a language could leave gaps in your ability or understanding, and it wouldn’t be the fastest way to learn a language. With that in mind, I think language exchanges are a great way to add some excitement and relevance to your language practice; communication is the point, right?

The collaborative aspect of this method is another thing I like. It feels good to help others on their language journey.

Tandem’s free to try — I say go for it.

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