Are you in the process of learning a new language? Then meet Tandem. Tandem is an app-based community where strangers from all over the world chat with each other, but absolutely not for dating purposes — even if it can feel a little Tinder-ish as you scroll through a bunch of age-badged photo profiles trying to decide who to strike up a conversation with, and how to start said chit-chat from nada.
The aim of this platform is to connect and match strangers so they can practice whatever language/s they each want to learn, with the app showing native speakers learners of their own language — so you can both help and be helped. What’s more? You can even earn some bucks in the process! “Tandem is the only product that allows language teachers to run their business entirely from their smartphone or tablet, in one single app (find students, manage calendar / bookings, have a full communication suite for language learning, get paid instantly for each booking),” he claims, adding that their approach “essentially removes all the annoying aspects from the language teaching job and replaces them with a pleasant, fun and consistent mobile experience”.
Users are encouraged to put a few words on their profile about their interests, what language or aspect of language they want to learn, and what they want to speak about (or who they want to speak to). Uploading a selfie is also a requirement.
And that’s about it — it’s basically a messaging app where you’re encouraged to connect with fellow language learners to practice through the digital spectrum of chat.
Today’s language learners are of course hugely spoilt for choice when it comes to apps and services offering to take the strain out of mastering a foreign tongue. But Berlin-based Tandem reckons it’s found a relatively less well-ploughed niche by focusing on building a platform to enable peer-to-peer practice for free. The app supports text messaging, audio and video chatting.
It’s officially launching on Android now, though it’s been soft launched there since September, and on iOS since February 2015. Work on Tandem originally started in fall 2014.
Active users are 1.2 million at this point (off of 1.5M downloads), and co-founder Arnd Aschentrup says the platform currently supports 148 languages, including 11 sign languages — and a few less conventional (tongue-in-cheek) tongues, such as Emoji, Dothraki and Klingon.
“Our aim is to create a friendly, unintimidating space where learners feel comfortable to make mistakes,” says Aschentrup, noting that 80 per cent of users are aged between 17 and 35, and 60 per cent are female. “We have members from 160 different countries and strive to be as diverse as possible.”
On the funding front, the Tandem team is also now disclosing that it raised a €600,000 seed round in 2015, from Angel investors including Atlantic Labs (Christophe Maire), Hannover Beteiligungsfonds, Marcus Englert (Chairman Rocket Internet), Catagonia, Ludwig zu Salm, Florian Langenscheidt, Heiko Hubertz, Martin Sinner and Zehden Enterprises.
And a further €2M last year from Faber Ventures, RubyLight, and with participation from existing investors Hannover Beteiligungsfonds, Atlantic Labs and Zehden.
Tandem’s top five markets at this point are the US, China, Brazil, Italy, and Mexico, according to Aschentrup, though he emphasizes that no one country makes up more than 10 per cent of its users at this point.
“It remains a very global experience,” he adds.