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And my Tandem profile suggestion that I’m looking to ‘practice Spanish past tenses’ does not lead to an instant deluge of free grammar lesson offers.Which is where Tandem’s business model comes in: it’s aiming to upsell its community of p2p learners to paid lessons with bona fide tutors — at which point it takes a cut (currently 20 per cent) of the revenue generated.This will where we help them to go through the right exercises to improve quickly and keep track of their progress,” he tells Tech Crunch, adding: “We see increasing network effects as both the community and the teacher marketplace grows.Basically, the more members in the community, the more value there is for everyone.” In terms of direct competition, he names Chinese language exchange app Hello Talk as one rival, though claims it has “less emphasis on community”; as well as name-checking two web-based marketplaces for language teachers, i Talki and Verbling.
It certainly feels like a pretty charming language practice community, with lots of polite and enthusiastic comments left on people’s profiles as user reviews.
So what’s the team’s strategy for attracting and retaining quality tutors?
Aschentrup says they are aiming to make the experience as mobile and frictionless as possible for language teachers.
“We have members from 160 different countries and strive to be as diverse as possible.” And while it’s inevitably not easy to strike up conversations with strangers online in a language you’re not a master of, everyone else is also learning something here so there’s no evident shortage of goodwill.
But while enthusiasm is great, speaking practice is but one component of language learning.
“Duolingo, Memrise, Babbel, Busuu etc are a great starting point for beginners to build vocabulary and make first steps.