New city program to pair expats with locals for language training and cultural exchange

Jan 24, 2018 | 8 comments

The city of Cuenca and the Worcester Institute of Massachusetts (U.S.) are developing a program to allow non-Spanish-speaking foreigners and Ecuadorians to teach each other new languages. The program, called the Tandem Method, will also serve to expand cultural knowledge between the participants, officials say.

According to Cuenca officials, there are bout 11,000 foreign residents living in the city. (El Tiempo)

According to the city office of external affairs, the program, co-sponsored by the United Nations Office of International Development, is part of the city’s effort to integrate foreign residents into the cultural life of Cuenca.

In 2015 and 2016, the city gathered information about foreigners living in Cuenca through surveys, personal interviews, and demographic data as part of the integration effort.

According to Cristian Coronel, coordinator of the city’s outreach program to foreign residents, Tandem pairs foreigners with local residents so they can interact in a non-academic environment to improve language skills. “It is difficult for some people to learn a new language in a classroom or with online programs,” he says. “Tandem changes the usual learning dynamic and makes it personal and less abstract.”

An added benefit of Tandem, says Coronel, is that it heightens cultural awareness of both foreign and local participants. “By putting people together, they learn about each other, their backgrounds and culture, on a personal level.”

In the Tandem method, partners can meet in person, interact by phone, email or through social media, with or without an outside coordinator. The program emphasizes informality which, according to its developers, promotes a more natural form of learning.

According the Cuenca office of external affairs, there are about 6,000 English-speaking expats living in Cuenca. In addition, there are another 5,000 Chinese, European, Venezuelan, and Colombian residents living in the city.

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