eTandem chinois-français (Chinese-French eTandem)

This eTandem Chinese-French course was designed and implemented by Claudia BERGER and Jue WANG-SZILAS. It involves second-year A2-B1Chinese major students from the Chinese Unity of the University of Geneva, Switzerland and Chinese Department of INALCO (Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales, joined the project in October 2012), France, and the second-year A2-B1 French major students from the French Department of Hubei University, China.


The exchange was initiated in 2009 with a pilot project and was launched on a bigger scale from 2010. As an exchange between two distant languages, the pedagogical scenario has been done very carefully and each step went on based on the analytical result of the previous. The course is now integrated in Chine Web II, the blended Chinese language programme of the Chinese unity of the University of Geneva (created by Claudia BERGER). The course is credited since 2011, while the &quot normalisation&quot is under procedure in Hubei University.


The objectives of the course are to provide the students an opportunity to practise their target language with native speakers so as to develop their communicative competences and intercultural competence as defined by The Common European Framework of Reference for Language: Learning, teaching, assessment (CEFR), as well as to develop students’ learner autonomy through guided learning.




Main Focus:

Language Learning

Exchange institution(s):

Université de Genève

Project website:

1213-BA3-Cours Initiation au chinois moderne II – module eTandem

Language Configurations:


Language(s) used:


Dominant form of language production:

Speaking/listening synchronous

Target Competences:

Language Comptence


With a careful design and a solid collaboration between the two institutions, the project can be replicated.

How long did the project last?

An academic year.

How was the project organized?

  • A training session is organised in both universities before the students get registered in the eTandem course.
  • Once registered, the students are requested to post a detailed self-introduction in the &quot tandem-matching” forum to find their language partners (mostly one-to-one, several one-to-two). They exchange information/requests in the forum.
  • A course coordinator (also the tutor) smoothes the collaboration between the two universities and accompanies the students synchronically (via Skype) and asynchronically (via Moodle LMS, forum) throughout the academic year. The tutoring involves solving technical problems, managing language partners as well as animating the online learning ” atmosphere” .
  • The course is closely related to the ongoing curriculum of both universities. The carefully chosen themes correspond to what the students from both universities have learnt or are learning. The registered students log in Moodle to do theme-based exercises (not obligatory for every student) and download a detailed oral task instruction that serves as both preparation guide and real time exchange guide for the students. (A sample instruction can be found HERE )
  • Students are required to fill in an online self-evaluation form right after the real time exchange.
  • After the exchange, students write in their mother language a brief summary of what their partners have said and post it in the Moodle forum allocated to each theme.




Voyage – un theme tire du cours eTandem chinois-francais

Task types:

There are generally three types of oral tasks:

  1. Oral expression: theme-based oral description or narration (one language at a time, vocabulary/grammar learning and practice, peer correction)
  2. Communication: discussion (bilingual, communication skills and intercultural awareness)
  3. Mediation: written forum feedback (students benefit from the feedback / summary written by their tandem in their mother language).

How were the students assessed?

  • After each exchange, the students fill in an online auto-evaluation questionnaire.
  • An oral test at the end of each semester is conducted at both universities.
  • The course is evaluated by the University of Geneva from 2010.
  • An interview is organized by both universites at the end of each academic year with open-ended questions.



Additional resources:

Almost all students reported in the interviews of having benefited from this course, both linguistically and culturally. They enjoyed the learning procedure and were satisfied with the learning result.

What worked well?

  • The course design follows an iterative procedure, which assured the regular improvement of the course.
  • The participation rate was satisfactory.
  • The course instructions for each exchange session and the related course materials were adapted.
  • The physical and psychological support of the coordinator assured the online exchange.
  • A good support at university level.

What did students think of the project?

The students’ perceived benefits included improving their speaking skills and understanding better the cultures.

  • A lot of students noted the increased confidence in their use of the target language, as they were not afraid anymore of speaking Chinese/French.
  • The practice in the authentic target language with native Chinese/French speakers helped them to better know the target language as they were really put ” in the bath” during the exchange.
  • They also emphasized the precious experience of learning about the target culture through exchanging with people of their own age.

The obstacles that hindered the project, in students’ opinion, include:

  • The unstable Internet access (especially at Chinese side)
  • The respect to the principe of reciprocity
  • The organisation and communication between partners
  • The extra work load

What challenges did you face?

The challenges are as follows:


  • The enormous workload for the teachers especially the course designers. (This has been affordable till now since they are interested in doing this exchange project and they believe that this is vital for future foreign language learning.)
  • Lack of support at unit level
  • Keeping a solid long-term collaborative relationship with our partner
  • Balancing the participants in the exchange
  • Deciding the course content with teachers from both sides
  • Normalizing the eTandem course

What did the teachers think of the project?

  • The course coordinater’ s opinion: It is vital that all the teachers concerned should be involved more or less in the project. The learning outcomes anticipated in our project lie in that the participants develop lexical, grammatical comptences via multimodal communicative activities (speaking, chatting, writing, non-verbal communication modes, etc.) The collaborator consult teachers of different subjects to work collaboratively with them to decide the exchange subjects, the content as well as the tasks.
  • The fact: Most teachers found the idea good. However, they doubted the practice for several reasons: the extra work that the project brought, the realiability of the Internet access and the willingness of collaborating with other teachers. So some of them just &quot wait and see&quot .
  • There seems to be a conflict of pedagogical concepts among the teachers that needs to be resolved




What kind of institutional support did you receive?

We have obtained twice financial support from la Commission informatique (COINF) of the University of Geneva and a long-term support from the Formation Continue of the University of Geneva.