Extending the Use of Teletandem in Language Courses

Michael J. Ferreira (Spanish & Portuguese) · Round 2

To prepare students to participate and communicate in adequate L2 settings, faculty must go beyond the traditional face-to-face (FTF) exposure commonly used in classrooms. With this in mind, the Portuguese section of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese implemented the Teletandem context with the help of its architect, Dr. João Telles from the State University of São Paulo at Assis, Brazil to promote intercultural communication and authentic language practice. Teletandem matches students with partners in other countries through videoconferencing to foster innovative pedagogical approaches that enable future-focused learning. Rather than a method or approach, Teletandem is an online context for foreign language practice that focuses on scaffolding and mutual support and is based on three principles of reciprocity, segmentation, and student autonomy. While the initial feedback from students’ participation in Teletandem has shown great promise, it needed, under the guidance of Dr. Ronald Leow, to undergo robust experimentation related to the learning benefits of such innovation.

This ITEL project extends the Teletandem concept currently employed in Georgetown’s Portuguese courses to other languages in the Faculty of Languages and Linguistics (FLL) at Georgetown University with the objective of addressing empirically the benefits of learning via this medium and across languages when compared to the traditional classroom exposure in different language classes. Principal Investigator Michael Ferreira, along with other faculty teaching languages at Georgetown, established contacts at universities abroad with whom their students could communicate online. As of Fall 2014, Georgetown students participated in Teletandem with students in Brazil, Mexico, France, Turkey, Russia, Jordan, and Japan. Faculty have incorporated Teletandem within their curricula in a variety of ways, including as a centerpiece, lab activity, extra lab activity, one credit class, autonomous interaction, and more. By integrating Teletandem across multiple languages, this ITEL project is expanding the impact of an online infrastructure that is built on both theoretical and practical principles to create sustainable twenty-first century learning practices.