Meng Li

MA in Intercultural Communication, Class of 2012/13

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     Hi everybody! My name is Meng Li and I’m an MA student in the department of Intercultural Communication. Here I’d like to share my experience of tandem learning. It was my optional module in the autumn semester. At the time, when I was still considering which module I should choose as my optional module, tandem learning caught my eye because at the time in this module I could learn and practise my English with a native speaker who wants to learn and practise my mother language as well. And also this module allows learning to be done in a flexible way; we can decide when and where we want to study, and most importantly we can decide upon our own favourite discussion topics. And also in this module, it is based on one-to-one and face-to-face learning and I thought this would definitely improve my difficulties with English – especially my spoken English. So anyway, at the time I thought it was a great chance and I didn’t hesitate to sign up for this module.

And then, my partner and I studied together twice a week in the Students’ Union, one English session and one Chinese session, lasting two hours for each language. But actually our study time often exceeded the module’s required time because we always enjoyed our meetings and every time we talked much more than we had planned. Before every session we would tell each other our topics, in order to guarantee we can practise as much as possible in two hours. And our topics covered various fields, like human rights, stereotypes, films, Internet and crime. And with the help of my partner, I identified my difficulties with English, such as accuracy, tense, English expressions and so on. And it was really helpful! At the end of the Autumn Semester I completed a learning record of almost 10,000 words, including notes, diaries, summaries and a related project. And finally I found that I could express myself more effectively through this 12-weeks’ practice.

And in addition to the positive effects on my English, the other interesting thing I really enjoyed was learning about British culture from the perspective of a native speaker – and it was really helpful to my MA programme in Intercultural Communication. For example, in one session we discussed about the differences in wedding ceremonies between the Western countries and Eastern countries and my partner told me some important elements of Western weddings, namely the vows ceremony, reception, wedding breakfast... And surprisingly, a few days later, as a part of one of my core modules, our teacher required us [...] to analyse an interview on the topic of Western wedding ceremony and I could fully understand what the interviewee was talking about. Can you feel that? It was such a fantastic experience!

And even though I don’t choose tandem learning for credits in this semester, my partner and I are continuing to meet up just as what we did in the last semester. And I think tandem learning is not merely an optional module. For me, it’s a way to enjoy my overseas life and also to learn about a different culture. And now I have not only an English partner but also a Spanish partner! We met privately rather than through the department but we are learning each other’s language in the same way as I study with my English partner. So for me, I think the most impressive part of tandem learning is I learned ‘how to learn’. I think it is an invaluable experience and I think I can benefit from it throughout my life. Thank you.
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(February 2013)

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