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It Takes Two to Tandem: The Effect of E-Tandem Language Learning on Foreign Language Enjoyment, Foreign Language Anxiety and Learner Autonomy

Given many higher education institutions tend to show a rather low systemic autonomy (Tatzl, 2013), this project aims to mitigate barriers to learner autonomy by the implementation of an e-tandem scheme. E-Tandem language learning is where two speakers of different L1s, each being the other interlocutor’s target language, mutually support each other in the learning process making use of digital media (e.g., Skype, WhatsApp). It can successfully be used as a complementary ‘non-formal’ method (Vetter, 2014) in the foreign language classroom in higher education. The current project integrates such an approach of crossing borders virtually, in which students of English (L1 German) from the University of Vienna are paired with learners of German (L1 English) from King’s College London, Oxford University and the University of Texas at Austin. They are continuously given collaborative tasks to work on together (using Facebook and Skype). The study employs a mixed methods approach (web questionnaires, in-depth interviews, recordings of e-Tandem sessions) to shed light on the effect of such a tandem language scheme on students’ motivation, foreign language enjoyment (see, e.g., Dewaele & MacIntyre, 2016), foreign language anxiety and potential for fostering autonomy (Dam, 2003; Menezes De Oliveira, 2011).

The main aims of this project are to:

  • enhance students’ learning experience
  • gain insights into the benefits of learning in tandem as a complementary ‘non-formal method’ (Vetter, 2014) in foreign language classes in higher education
  • analyse the linguistic mechanisms underlying tandem learning
  • understand the effects of learning in tandem on the psychology and autonomy of the language learner
  • build on research portfolios and increase the exchange of students and academics between the UK, Austria and the United States


Dam, L. (2003). Developing learner autonomy: the teacher's responsibility. In Little, D., J. Ridley and E. Ushioda (Eds.), Learner Autonomy in the Foreign Language Classroom – Teacher, Learner, Curriculum and Assessment (pp. 135-146). Dublin: Authentik.

Dewaele, J.-M., & MacIntyre, P. D. (2016). Foreign Language Enjoyment and Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety. The right and left feet of FL learning? In P. MacIntyre, T. Gregersen, & S. Mercer (Eds.), Positive Psychology in SLA (pp. 215–236). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Menezes De Oliveira E Paiva, V. L. (2011). Identity, Motivation and Autonomy in Second Language Acquisition from the Perspective of Complex Adaptive Systems. In Murray, G., X. (A.) Gao and T. Lamb (Eds.), Identity, Motivation and Autonomy in Language Learning (pp. 57-72). Bristol: Multilingual Matters

Tatzl, D. (2013). Systemic Autonomy as an Educational Factor for Learners and Teachers. In A. Burkert, L. Dam & C. Ludwig (Eds.), The Answer is Autonomy: Issues in Language Teaching and Learning (pp 61-77). Selected papers from the LASIG conference at Treffpunkt Sprachen in Graz, Austria. Kent: IATEFL.

Vetter, E. (2014). Combining formal and non-formal foreign language learning: first insights into a German-Spanish experiment at university level. SALi. Special Issue: Teaching and Learning Foreign Languages, 39-50.


In case you are interested in a collaboration, please do not hesitate to get in touch with:

Christine Schallmoser (christine.schallmoser@kcl.ac.uk, Department of German, KCL) or

Dr Pia Resnik (pia.resnik@univie.ac.at, Department of English, University of Vienna)

This project is part funded by the Language Acts and Worldmaking Small Grants Scheme.