An intercultural exchange program, connecting our Spanish students with English learners in Salinas. 

Building Relationships Through Language

I am hopefully leaving for the Peace Corps next year. And, you know, with that type of experience you need to have a language. I am part of Tandem. It’s a project where students who are learning Spanish go to Soledad, California and visit an organization called Mujeres En Accion, an organization for women in Soledad who wants to learn English but also gain valuable skills for employment.

Yes, we were there to practice our language, but inadvertently I was able to create a relationship with these women, and knowing more about their cultures, and where they’re from, and their life style. I haven’t taken a Spanish course since high school. It was intimidating at first, but I was able to catch up.

Remember what I needed, you know, just like conversational phrases, and eased right back into it. We’re learning the language not just to learn the language but how to use it in conversations of what we would use in our professional careers. If we were talking about politics or the environment or any other aspect of social issues.

There’s just so many benefits and advantages with having a second language, especially in this globalized world where you’re gonna cross paths with people of different cultures and different backgrounds. And Spanish becoming more and more the second most used language across the United States, I think it’s gonna be very helpful to have that.

I’ve learned so much about how to go into the field of development. Things are changing, the world is changing. So the Middlebury Institute is taking us onto new approaches and to new methodologies and tools that we can use.

We started Team Tandem in 2015 with these premises in mind:

  • Intercultural exchanges should be at the core of the language curriculum
  • Spanish is not a foreign language in the US
  • There is a need and desire for language skills in the community
  • We wanted to tear away the Californian “lettuce curtain”

We have worked with hundreds of learners and collaborated with different local organizations such as Mujeres en Acción, Salinas Adult School, Monterey Adult School in Seaside, and Hartnell College in Salinas, our current partner. We meet on a weekly basis and collaborate in English and Spanish, using a curriculum that evolves with each iteration of Team Tandem.

The concepts most highlighted through the history of Team Tandem are language confidence, awareness, and community, in all senses of the word. The physical sense, in its local implementation. The social sense, in its focus on learning through building relationships and creating new communities. And the political sense, in its connection through the lives of its participants to a wide variety of global issues.

Our overarching goal is to bring communities together and equip formal and informal learners with new strategies for interpersonal and intercultural growth. 

We are currently incorporating a Project-Based Language Learning approach. For the first collaboration, Middlebury Institute and Hartnell College students created an Employment Pathfinder for the Monterey County Free Libraries

Middlebury students can participate in Team Tandem by enrolling in Spanish in the Community for Spanish or ICC credit. If you want to know more about the program, please contact Professor Guillén.

If you are an English learner, please contact Professor De Pompeo to enroll in English in the Community at Hartnell College as a credit or noncredit course, which is free of charge. 

Team Tandem participants working on one of our activities

Frequently Asked Questions


You do need at least an intermediate level in Spanish, which means that you are able to create with language at the sentence level, ask and respond to simple questions, and manage a limited number of transactional situations. In the past, intermediate, advanced, and superior level students have been able to participate successfully. 


If you want to participate, please send an email to Professor Guillén and explain why you want to take the course, your placement level, if you want to take the course for Spanish or ICC credits, and other relevant information.


It is typically 22-35 minutes from campus, since we have the advantage of going against traffic. We carpool from the Institute, and drivers can request funding from immersive learning for gas. We usually host around 10-12 sessions in Salinas and 3-5 sessions at MIIS to train and reflect on the tandem experience. 


We partner learners by level at Salinas for the Friday session. Also, during the week, Spanish learners work asynchronously on reflections, listening input from Radio Ambulante, and assignments that target their specific language needs.