For the two founders of TANDEM Language School it is also a vocation, a life project and a meeting place.
TANDEM Escuela International Madrid was founded in 1982 by Begoña Llovet and Matilde Cerrolaza. Between them they have over 70 years of teaching experience. Here they talk to MumAbroad Life about TANDEM, Sugestopedia and Family Spanish Classes.
How did you meet and what made you decide to open up a language school?
We founded TANDEM in 1982, when we were still college students, and we set it up with a group of German and Spanish teachers with the goal to create an innovative language school, with a communicative approach and a modern and dynamic concept of interculturality and languages learning. So we created a teachers’ cooperative called Centro Cultural Hispano-Alemán, and we started working very closely with the Goethe Institut. TANDEM Madrid grew, became an excellent language school with great pedagogical reputation, and currently we are also an Accredited Centre of the Instituto Cervantes and an Accredited Centre TELC (European Language Certificates). Both Matilde and I have written several manuals of Spanish as a foreign language (SFL), we are teachers in Masters and we participate actively in the world of Spanish as a foreign language. Since 1990 we are the owners and directors of the school and we are widely recognised in the world of didactics of the Spanish language.
How did you choose the name TANDEM?
TANDEM is a bike for two. Just as communication is a matter of two. After World War II the governments of France and Germany realized that they needed to strengthen cultural ties between their two countries. And that’s where the TANDEM method was born: I learn your language, you learn mine and together we practice both languages. This method was put into practice in many schools and institutions promoting exchanges. In 1982, Jürgen Wolff, a German teacher, decided to develop this idea and create a dynamic, fun and very innovative method. Inspired by this method TANDEM Madrid was born and later came many schools that today form TANDEM International, a schools network famous for the importance they give to cultural exchanges and collaborative language learning.
There are a huge number of language schools in Madrid. How do you ensure that TANDEM stands out from the crowd?
TANDEM is not just a school. Nor is it just a company in which 80 people work. TANDEM is a vocation, a life project, a meeting place, an inspiration for thousands of people who have studied in our classrooms. TANDEM is an academically renown centre, with quality as its primary goal. TANDEM is a caring company that supports educational projects in developing countries. TANDEM is an honest company, which favours equality and work-family life conciliation, which offers its teachers and employees security, possibilities of professional development and recognition. And above all, TANDEM is a warm, homey place, where we know the name of each of our students and where you feel good from the moment you get in through the door.
The school has a very special location. How do you think this benefits the students?
Indeed, our school is at the very heart of Madrid! Two steps away from the Congress of Deputies, the Prado Museum, the Retiro Park… What else could we ask for? Our school is located in a 19th-century small palace, full of beautiful architectural details, with an inner courtyard filled with plants and spacious, bright and quiet classrooms. Our students can visit all the museums and touristic sites, get involved in the wonderful cultural life of Madrid and have fun in the leisure spots spread all over the city. We are very well communicated and in a quiet and safe area. I can assure you that whoever visits TANDEM will be impressed with our entrance for carriages, the inner courtyard, the mirrors and stained-glass windows of the staircase, the doors, the windows, etc. It is a pleasure to be here!
Begoña, you are a pioneer of the introduction of ‘Sugestopedia’ in Spain. What is that exactly?
Sugestopedia or Wholistic Learning is an approach to teaching that appeared in the 1980s. In it we take into account not only the logical-rational part of our brain, but also the intuitive-creative part: we give importance to visual thinking, movement, multi-sensory learning, fantasy, metaphors and games. Above all, we make sure that the student feels comfortable in a welcoming environment, full of positive and motivating stimuli. A nurturing environment is fundamental to reach successful learning.
I introduced Sugestopedia or Superlearning in Spain in 1990, in Expolingua (a very important fair about languages and SFL). Since then, I have given countless seminars and conferences in schools, institutes and teacher training centres on this topic. It is actually a very early and pioneering version of what is now called Neuroeducation or Neurolearning.
I’m currently teaching in the ELE Master (Spanish as a Foreign Language Master) at the Universidad Menéndez Pelayo, in Santander, and in training courses at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid.
Why is it a great method to use to teach languages to children?
Because in this approach we work primarily with the talents of children: we focus on their perceptions, trying to encourage visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners. We work with the Multiple Intelligences model in a coherent way. We motivate students through varied and stimulating activities. We give colour and joy to our classrooms. This results in more effective learning and above all a learning better adapted to our brain.
You have a holistic approach to teaching. What does that encompass?
It means that our classrooms offer a welcoming and stimulating environment. It means that our teachers know how our brain learns, about the importance of creating a nurturing environment. It means that our materials, our classes and our activities are directed towards the person as a whole, with a humanistic approach. It means that we apply the Multiple Intelligences approach in the classroom, that we work having a global vision of our brain in mind, that we take into account the singularities of each learner and that we know that motivation is a fundamental part of any learning process.
How do you choose your teachers?
We highly value the person per se: a good teacher is someone who has, of course, a degree in Philology or similar, who has done specific training in teaching foreign languages, someone with experience. But above all, he/she is someone who loves teaching, who has the tools to make his/her class an unforgettable experience, who is really interested in his/her students and who enjoys working.
You have a programme Spanish for Families. What benefits would children get from learning a language alongside their parents?
It’s a perfect plan for a family. It is traveling with an extra: knowing another country from within, not as a mere tourist. Parents convey to their children, through a programme like this, the importance of knowing other languages, the importance of being immersed in other cultures, the importance of being always learning. Our children learn not what we tell them, but what we do.
Can you give an example of how you would customise classes for a family?
When families come we have two options: if they wish and everyone has a similar level of the language, we organize classes for the whole family, from Monday to Friday, about 3 hours in the morning. While parents may approach lessons more rationally, children bring their creativity and movement. The teacher manages the class rhythm taking into account these different phases and combining them in a creative way.
If they have different levels, parents can engage in our adult classes in groups, while children have their own group, adapted to their age. All at the same time, so that they can be together again to participate in the cultural activities of the afternoon: walk around Madrid, visit the Prado Museum in an interactive way, take part in a cooking class, learn some flamenco steps, go for a boat ride in Retiro park, etc.
What Junior Summer Programmes do you offer?
We have a programme in Madrid for youngsters from 15 to 17 years old, with host-families accommodation, morning classes from Monday to Friday and cultural activities. For groups we have an excellent program in San Lorenzo de El Escorial (northeast of Madrid), with lodging inside the Monastery and activities in nature.
Can you name 3 things that make Tandem unique?
Innovation, humanism, love for teaching.