“You’re usually not born as a natural, gifted language teacher, but this can be filled pretty well with AI”
The Icebreaker feature, included as part of Tandem’s latest iOS and Android updates, prompts users with conversation starters appropriate to skill level, ranging from asking directions through to philosophy.
“This Icebreaker just helps as a first step to add structure to these conversations and give people a bit of a learning assistant,” said Arnd Aschentrup, Tandem’s chief executive and co-founder.
Speaking with The PIE News, Ashentrup said the new feature was part of the company’s second phase towards providing learning technologies for users and would build on the community already created by German-based Tandem, which almost doubled in 2018 to reach more than 5 million.
“For me, Tandem works a little bit like WhatsApp, it never ceases because all of the time the friends I’ve made get back to me,” he said.
“After building the initial community, our focus now starts to shift towards building the learning tools within the app that help both Tandem partners actually make progress.”
Aschentrup added that while he believed artificial intelligence would create a way forward for the organisation, he said it was better served assisting user-to-user conversations rather than replacing them, such as through chatbots.
“Now we’re taking more and more steps towards this idea that we want to empower people to teach each other,” he said.
“You’re usually not born as a natural, gifted language teacher, but this can be something that can be filled pretty well with AI.”
During the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Tandem introduced a similar feature to allow users to choose their favourite team and discuss the latest results within the App.
Ashentrup said he expected more “event features” to launch in the future to tap into culturally relevant occasions, such as the Oscars or Olympics.