Native-speakers’ orientation to their expert role in Tandem conversation

Sabine Grasz
Oulun yliopisto
sabine.grasz _arvaa_

The aim of the paper is to examine how the native speakers’ role as linguistic experts shows in the interaction between Tandem partners. Tandem as a conversation-for-learning format builds on the idea that two native-speakers of different languages learn each others’ mother tongue through interaction. Tandem gives the possibility to learn a language intensively and develop especially oral skills.

One of the distinctive features of Tandem interaction is that it shows characteristics of both pedagogic and non-pedagogic communication. The relationship between the participants is often described as a teacher-pupil relationship. Other researchers emphasize the equal status of Tandem-partners in contrast to the hierarchic relationship between teachers and pupils. Most of the Tandem research has analyzed the linguistic behavior of the nonnative speakers in Tandem interaction. In this paper the focus lies on the native speakers and their orientation to their expert roles in the interaction.

The data consists of audio recordings of group discussions in a German-Finnish Tandem course and are analyzed with methods of conversation analysis. The research focus lies on the questions how responsibilities in the interaction are distributed between the co-participants and how the native speakers support the nonnative speakers in problematic situations. The analysis of the repair work in the discussions shows that in most of the cases the native speakers make their role as experts only overt when repair is initiated by the nonnative speakers. On the other hand native speakers take more actively responsibility for the course of the conversation and choice and change of subjects.


Keywords: Tandem learning, native speakers’ expert role, conversation analysis


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