31 ways to make January your best language-learning month ever!

There are only a few hours left before we begin a new year, and it’s the best possible time to make a resolution to challenge yourself to become a better language learner next year. And this doesn’t necessarily mean hours and hours of study every day!
At Coffee Break Languages, we champion the idea of making your down-time your do-time: by using any spare moments of time you find yourself with to work on language-learning, you can make real progress. On this basis, we’ve done the hard work for you, and compiled this list of New Year language-learning mini challenges that can be completed in short bursts, on each day of January 2018. Whether it’s your New Year’s resolution to jump into German, or to freshen up your French this coming year, this list of challenges will help you on your way to language mastery in 2018!

Think of this as a daily checklist – you can take your own path through these challenges, but we’d love to hear how you get on!

My daily challenge for January 2018

Today I will…

  1. Listen to 1 episode of a language-learning podcast
  2. Learn 5 new words, complete with spelling and pronunciation
  3. Watch a TV episode or YouTube video in my chosen language
    – Top Tip: If your chosen TV show offers subtitles, why not challenge yourself and turn on the subtitles in the language you’re learning, as opposed to the English subtitles? This will really help with your comprehension, spelling and pronunciation, as you’ll be able to both hear and see the words.
  4. Read a paragraph in my chosen language aloud
    – Top Tip: Record yourself speaking and listen back to the recording to try and identify where you can improve.
  5. Listen to the radio in the language I’m learning for 10 minutes
  6. Say something to a native-speaker of the language I’m learning, or to a fellow learner
  7. Write my shopping list in my chosen language
  8. Translate my to-do list into the language I’m learning
  9. Introduce myself – by either speaking aloud or writing down what I would say – in the language I’m learning
  10. Work out how to say the current time in the language I’m learning three times during the day
  11. Find 5 words that I’ve partly forgotten since I learned them and learn them again
  12. Listen to a song written in the language I’m learning
    – Top Tip: Read the lyrics of the song while you listen to it – this will help you to understand it (and of course help you to sing along!)
    – Top Tip: Listen to the same song a few times so that you start to distinguish words and phrases more easily
  13. Review 20 words and repeat them to myself out loud
  14. Read a recipe written in the language I’m learning (and use it, if time allows!)
  15. Write 2 sentences in the language I’m learning that demonstrate the last grammar point I learned
  16. Read a page of text in my chosen language
  17. Write out all the conjugations for 3 regular verbs from memory, and learn any that I get wrong
  18. Write out all the conjugations for 3 irregular verbs, and learn any that I get wrong
  19. Read a news article related to a country where the language I’m learning is spoken, either in the language I’m learning or in English
  20. Write a paragraph in the language I’m learning about what I’m doing for the rest of the day
  21. Write out a script or comic strip of a pretend conversation in the language I’m learning
  22. Learn 20 new words, complete with spelling and pronunciation
  23. Shop online for something on a website written in the language I’m learning (you don’t actually need to buy anything!)
    – Top tip: Lots of international companies have equivalent websites for many different countries. Just search ‘Amazon España’, for example.
  24. Write a short paragraph in the language I’m learning about what I did yesterday
  25. Learn a new fact about the culture of a country that natively speaks the language I’m learning
  26. Narrate my life in the language I’m learning for 5 minutes
    “I’m walking into the kitchen because I fancy a cup of tea. I can’t remember where the sugar bowl is. Ah yes, I put it through the dish-washer last night. Now I need to refill it….”
    – Top tip: With this exercise you’re likely to quickly come across words that you don’t know. Write these down in English at the time, and look them up after the exercise. Try repeating the exercise later/the next day when you know the vocabulary.
  27. Describe my surroundings for 2 minutes in the language I’m learning
    – Top tip: As with the previous exercise, you’re likely to quickly come across words that you don’t know. Write these down in English at the time, and look them up after the exercise. Try repeating the exercise later, when you know all of the vocabulary.
  28. Test myself on 40 words that I’ve learned before
  29. Write a poem or song (~4 lines long) in the language that I’m learning
  30. Read 5 pages of a book written in the language I’m learning
    – Top Tip: There are lots of books available which have the foreign language and English printed side-by-side, or why not try starting out with a children’s novel?
  31. Set myself a vocabulary test: test myself on all of the vocabulary I’ve noted down over the past month!
    – Top tip: A great way to test yourself is to take a notebook and fold each page in half, from top to bottom. Then, write down all of the foreign-language words you’ve taken a note of over the past month on one side of the fold, and all of their English equivalents on the other side. Cover one side of the page and recite the translations of the words out loud, one by one. Then cover the other side of the page and translate in the opposite direction.

So, there you have it: the perfect blueprint to starting the year with a language-learning bang!

Over to you

The Coffee Break team will also be taking the challenge, and we’ll post our updates over on Instagram. Let us know how you’re doing in the comments! Good luck!

Dream Destinations for practising your German this Winter

There is a myriad of winter activities on offer across the spectacular resorts in Germany, Switzerland and Austria and so many chances to try out the German you’ve been learning. From snow-boarding to bob-sledding, “fat bikes“ to swimming (yes, outdoors, in winter!) there is something for everyone in the winter playground around the Alps. If you hit the slopes this winter, it can be a great opportunity to practise your German – as you buy your lift pass at the foot of slopes, heat up with eine heiße Schokolade you order midway through your day or relax and chat with friends in a restaurant am Ende des Tages. We hope you find as your skis are going downhill, your language skills are reaching new peaks.

The thrill of the slopes

Garmisch-Partenkirchen lies on the the border between Austria and Germany and is home to Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze. It has more than 40km of ski runs on offer as well as Kinderland for beginners. If high octane sport or entertainment is more your thing, then the same resort has a Sprungschanze or ski jump. The New Year sees the Four Hills Tournament, where adventurous winter athletes ski off the end of a 140m jump at almost 100km/h. Auf die Plätze, fertig, los!

Walking in a winter wonderland

Do you prefer your winter sports at a more leisurely pace? The Salzkammergut in Austria provides a picture postcard setting to try Langlaufen or cross country skiing. While not as speedy as its more traditional downhill cousin, cross-country skiing gives participants a fantastic work out, over a longer period and the opportunity to enjoy panoramic views of lakes and mountains en route. You hopefully still have enough breath to carry on a conversation auf Deutsch with your fellow Langläufer as you wend your way through the picturesque landscape.

Another gentle activity to try is snowshoe hiking. The large surface area of the shoes lets walkers make their way through the magical snow scenes with minimal effort. Walking and talking, in German, can make the kilometres pass more quickly. There are many guided walks and trails in the Tirol for hikers to experience the freshest air, in untouched snow, at their own pace. Take a deep breath and enjoy!

Fast and fearless

Do you fancy trying something a bit new and different? Möchten Sie etwas anderes ausprobieren? What about “fat-bikes”? Their name refers to the wide tyres that give extra grip on icy terrain. Not for the faint-hearted, this sport is available in Gstaad, Switzerland, alongside airboarding, where intrepid souls hurtle down pistes on a piece of equipment that’s a cross between an inflatable toboggan and a body board.

If outdoor swimming in the winter months appeals to you, then there is no shortage of spas across the Alps. Can you imagine your delight at being able to ask for a massage in German? The steaming pools cater for swimmers all year round, meaning those bold enough to make the short walk outside can appreciate the Alpine views, while revelling in the warmth of thermal waters. Don’t forget your towel for when you get out!

Skating, skiing and sledging for all

The more traditional winter pursuits of Schlittschuh laufen, Schlitten fahren und Skifahren are enjoyed in towns and resorts throughout Germany, Austria and Switzerland. For example, if the Outer Alster lake freezes in Hamburg in northern Germany, the inhabitants of the city enjoy this natural, open air ice rink as part of the Alstereisvergnügen. The town of Essen creates an ice rink in an old mining facility, beautifully floodlit in the soft winter sun. In Wien, die Haupstadt von Österreich, locals and tourists alike, sledge on the hill behind the Schönbrunn Palace in the city. Wouldn’t it be nice to get to know some local people as you all enjoy the winter snow together with a friendly wie geht’s? or Servus!

Downhill skiing is what comes to most of our minds when we think of winter sports and Sölden in the Tirol, near the borders with Germany, Switzerland and Italy, is a scenic spot with miles of pistes to suit all abilities of skiers and many lifts over heights up to 3000m. Vergessen Sie nicht ihren Hut!

The best of the rest

The Weissensee or White Lake, near Klagenfurt in southern Austria, sees an early morning gathering of speed skaters whistle round the ice, making their noiseless pursuit look effortless and slick. You can hear the local people shouting words of encouragement to the speed skaters. What a great way to experience their culture! Some lakes in Switzerland freeze so solidly that ice hockey and curling can take place on them. One such place is the Obersee in Arosa, Switzerland, where skates can be hired throughout the winter and early spring for you to enjoy all sports on the ice in an idyllic setting.

Hiking in the winter months brings us back to where we started, Garmisch-Partenkirchen. There are trails here suitable for all levels of walkers who enjoy the spectacular backdrop as they trek in the snow on a clear, crisp day. There are little Hütten or huts, dotted around the mountains if you want to spend the night on a longer hike, talk to German-speaking walking companions and if you want to enjoy incredible views over hills and valleys the next morning. Genießen Sie den Sonnenaufgang!

At the end of the day

If all this talk of Alpine exhilaration has left you a little exhausted, will you still have energy for the part of winter sports some say they enjoy the most – the après ski? After a long day curling on a frozen lake in lovely Interlaken, bob-sledding in Berchtesgaden or para-gliding over the peaks in Obertsdorf, then the idea of some warming Glühwein in a cosy Weinstube might be very appealing. Or do you live by the motto “ski hard, après-ski harder”? A party atmosphere can always be found in St Anton and Ischgl in Austria. Wherever you go and whatever you may have the chance to do this winter, wir wünschen Ihnen viel Spaß!

Sie sind dran!

Are you a winter sports enthusiast? Do you have experience of visiting Germany, Switzerland or Austria in the winter months? Let us know in the comments.

New Year – New One Minute Languages!

We’re delighted to be launching five new One Minute Language courses for the new year. Starting on 1st January you can learn the basics of Czech, Slovak, Icelandic, Latvian and Hungarian with our weekly free podcast episodes.

1. Mondays: Hungarian

Hungarian is a language spoken by about 14 million people in eastern Europe. It’s the official language of course in Hungary, and it’s also spoken in parts of Romania, Slovakia and other bordering countries. One Minute Hungarian will be broadcast on Mondays for 10 weeks from 1st January.

Free podcast feed | RSS Feed | Immediate access to the video version and booklet

2. Tuesdays: Czech

Czech is a language spoken by over ten million people in central Europe. It’s the official language of course in the Czech Republic, and it’s very closely related to Slovak. In fact, Slovak speakers and Czech speakers understand one another reasonably well. Czech is one of the official languages of the European Union. One Minute Czech will be broadcast on Tuesdays for 10 weeks from 2nd January.

Free podcast feed | RSS Feed | Immediate access to the video version and booklet

3. Wednesdays: Slovak

Slovak is spoken by around five million people. It’s the official language in the Slovak Republic. Like Czech, it’s one of the official languages of the European Union. We’re producing One Minute Slovak in conjuction with Lýdia from Language Mentoring, and Lýdia explains that if you learn Slovak, speakers of most other Slavic languages will be able to understand some of what you say. One Minute Latvian will be broadcast on Wednesdays for 10 weeks from 3rd January.

Free podcast feed | RSS Feed | Immediate access to the video version and booklet

4. Thursdays: Latvian

Latvian is a language spoken by five and half million people in northern Europe. It’s the official language of course in Latvia, and it’s also spoken in parts of Russia, Sweden and Norway. One Minute Latvian will be brodcast on Thursdays for 10 weeks from 4th January.

Free podcast feed | RSS Feed | Immediate access to the video version and booklet

5. Fridays: Icelandic

We’re adding to our existing Nordic One Minute Languages this year with Icelandic, the official language of Iceland. It’s spoken by around 330,000 speakers and is a Germanic language, from the same family as Norwegian, Swedish and Danish. Icelandic is also very similar to Old Norse, the language of the famous Sagas. We’re producing One Minute Icelandic in conjunction with the lovely people at the I Heart Reykjavik blog and the show will be broadcast on Fridays for 10 weeks from 5th January.

Free podcast feed | RSS Feed | Immediate access to the video version and booklet

Can’t decide? Get them all!

Our Polyglot Pack is also available in the Coffee Break Academy, and this gives you access to all 31 of our One Minute Courses, from Arabic to Zulu, including our 5 new additions.

Find out more about the Polyglot Pack

8 ‘Digestable’ Spanish Idioms for your delectation

It’s said that in order to find out more about the culture of a country, one need look no further than the language, or languages, spoken by the people who live there. To prove this theory, let’s take the example of the United Kingdom, where two of the most well-known idioms are ‘it’s not my cup of tea’ and ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’… It’s quite clear that a country’s language reflects what is most important to the people who speak it.

Bearing this in mind, today we’re going to learn 8 Spanish idioms, or modismos, which are based on one particularly important aspect of Spanish and Hispanic culture: food. ¡Qué aproveche!

Note: the meaning of some of these idioms may vary from country to country, so watch out!

1. Ser la leche (Literally: To be the milk)

Ever wanted to enthuse about something in Spanish but already exhausted classic words like genial or bien? Well, next time you want to say that something or someone is really cool, you can use the idiom ser la leche.

For example: ‘Me encanta esa película, ¡es la leche!’ = ‘I love that film, it’s the best!’.

However, the catch with this expression is that it can also be used to mean the exact opposite.

For example: ‘¡Es la leche! Cómo puede ser tan terco?’ = ‘He’s really something. How can he be so stubborn?’. In this context, la leche is used to describe someone in a negative way. So how do people know when it’s being used as a positive or a negative word? Well, as with many expressions, it all lies in the context and the tone of voice of the person using it, so keep an eye (or an ear) out!

2. Estar de mala leche (Literally: To be of bad milk)

Our second idiom also uses the word leche, but this time with the verb estar. This is because this expression refers to a person’s current state and, as we know, changeable things normally use estar. So what does estar de mala leche actually mean?

Here’s an example: ‘Hoy es mejor no hablar con Juan, es de mala leche = ‘It’s better not to talk to Juan today, he’s in a bad mood’.

The word uva, meaning ‘grape’ can also be used instead of leche (estar de mala uva), but has the same meaning: to be in a bad mood.

Note: the phrase ¡Qué mala leche! can be used to express sympathy, like the phrase ‘Too bad!’ in English.

For example: ‘¡Qué mala leche que no pudieron venir a la boda!’ = Too bad they couldn’t come to the wedding!

3. Ser pan comido (Literally: to be eaten bread)

This is the only idiom on our list which can be directly translated into English with another food-related idiom, although in the English version it’s a different type of food. Can you think what it might be? Well, pan comido literally means ‘eaten bread’, although this still doesn’t help us to decipher the meaning of the idiom.

Let’s look at an example to make it clearer: ‘Con todo el trabajo que he hecho, este examen va a ser pan comido’ = ‘With all the work I’ve done, this exam’s gonna be a piece of cake!’.

So, ‘eaten bread’ is a Spanish version of the English idiom ‘a piece of cake’!

4. Importar un pimiento / un pepino (Literally: To matter a pepper / a cucumber)

How important is a pepper to you? And how about a cucumber? Apparently not very important, at least not in Spanish! This commonly-used idiom means ‘I don’t care’ or even ‘I couldn’t care less, if you’re really riled up!

Here it is in context: ‘A mi madre no le gusta mi novia, pero me importa un pimiento su opinión’ = ‘My Mum doesn’t like my girlfriend, but her opinion doesn’t matter to me / but I don’t care’.

5. Estar como una sopa (Literally: To be like a soup)

This expression is perhaps one of the easiest on the list to work out from its literal meaning.

Let’s have a look at it in a sentence: ‘Estaba lloviendo a mares y cuando la pobrecita llegó a casa, estuve como una sopa.’ = ‘It was absolutely chucking it down, and when the poor thing arrived home she was soaked to the bone.’

So ‘estar como una sopa’ means ‘to be drenched’.

Bonus point: ‘llover a mares’ literally means ‘to rain oceans’, or as we say in English, ‘to rain cats and dogs’.

6. Cortar /partir el bacalao (Literally: To cut / to share out the cod)

Who shares out the cod in your household or workplace? As you’ve probably guessed, this modismo isn’t actually talking about fish. Cortar el bacalao can be translated in many ways, but the closest equivalent in English is probably ‘call the shots’. Can you think of any other translations?

Here it is in an example sentence: ‘Tengo que hablar con la jefa antes de tomar una decisión mañana porque es quien corta el bacalao en esta oficina.’ = ‘I have to speak to the boss before making a decision tomorrow because she’s the one who calls the shots in this office.’

7. Ser del año de la pera (Literally: To be from the year of the pear)

Of the 7 on our list, this idiom is perhaps one of the most difficult on the list to deduce from its literal meaning. In Spanish, if something is ‘from the year of the pear’, it means that it is old-fashioned or dated.

Let’s have a look at it in context: ‘Me encanta esta canción, pero es del año de la pera.’ = ‘I love this song, but it’s quite behind the times’.

This expression isn’t exclusively used for thing such as clothing or music; it can also be used to say that somebody’s views on a particular topic are outdated.

For example: ‘Armando es muy amable, pero sus ideas son del año de la pera.’ = ‘Armando is really nice, but his ideas are pretty outdated’.

8. ¡Vete a freír espárragos! (Literally: Go to fry asparagus!)

Our final modismo is slighter ruder, but no less useful. It can be used when you’re fed up with somebody.

For example: ‘Estoy harto de ti, ¡vete a freír espárragos!’ = ‘I’ve had enough of you, clear off!’.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article and are excited to have a go at using these 8 idioms in context, even if it’s just a case of talking to yourself in Spanish! The use of idiomatic phrases is one key aspect of language which will help you on your way to sounding more fluent. Although idioms can be quite tricky to remember – in any language! – they are an invaluable tool for more advanced learners who are wanting to take their language skills to the next level. It’s just a bonus that they are often quite amusing too!

2017: A Year of Coffee Breaks

It’s been a very busy year for us here at Coffee Break. In addition to starting our fifth Coffee Break language with Mandarin Chinese in January, we launched second seasons of Coffee Break Italian and Coffee Break German, and we’ve relaunched the Coffee Break French and Spanish Masterclass, with hundreds of students working through our six-month coaching course. Our new French series, En Route avec Coffee Break French, premiered in November, and a Spanish equivalent is already in production – there will be more information about En Marcha con Coffee Break Spanish early in 2018.

Over the past year, we’re delighted to report that we’ve delivered 19.7 million free language lessons to learners around the world – that’s one lesson every 1.6 seconds! We hope that you’re continuing to enjoy your Coffee Break Moments as you learn a language with us!

We have many plans for 2018, including our new One Minute Languages courses, the Coffee Break Reading Club and we’ll be continuing to publish new content in French, Spanish, German, Italian and Chinese. We hope your New Year’s Resolutions include improving your language skills further, and we’ll be delighted to be there to help you!

5 French Films for learners

Watching a film in a foreign language is a great way of improving your language skills. Not only does it do wonders for your listening and comprehension skills, but it is also a very enjoyable way of incorporating language learning into your free time. Tuning your ear into everyday colloquial French will massively enhance your ability to engage and communicate with native speakers.

If you are keen to make solid progress with your language learning then it may be a good idea to take a note of new words and phrases you come across when watching a French film. However, be careful not to get too carried away writing out the full script! Remember, watching a foreign film should be an enjoyable and relaxing experience; you will be absorbing the French accent without even realising it.

When it comes to choosing which French film to watch, it is important to consider not only your interests, but also whether the film has clear and continuous dialogue with the option to watch with subtitles. This is particularly important for beginners.

There is a wide range of French films to choose from which can make the decision process quite overwhelming. So, we’ve done the hard work for you and selected a variety of 5 French films which are sure to grab your attention!

1. Les Choristes

Les Choristes tells the story of Pierre Morhange (Jacques Perrin), reflecting on his younger years at a boarding school for boys with behavioural difficulties. With strict, old-fashioned policies instilled by overbearing headmaster, Monsieur Rachin (François Berléand), the school is in a state of despair. This soon changes when music teacher Clément Mathieu (Gérard Jugnot) arrives and introduces a school choir. In a bid to change the policies within the school, Clément chooses to encourage the boys rather than reprimand them. This transforms the lives of the boys and leads to the discovery of Morhange’s musical talents.

The outstanding soundtrack accompanying this heartfelt story will be sure to leave you wanting more.

2. Les Intouchables

If you’re looking for a film that will make you both laugh and cry, then look no further than, Les Intouchables. This award-winning comedy drama follows the unlikely friendship between Driss (Omar Sy), a young man recently released from prison, and Philippe (François Cluzet), a wealthy quadriplegic. Despite having no intention or desire to work as Philippe’s personal carer, Driss finds himself undertaking this position, and, to everyone’s surprise, excels at it, despite his unconventional methods.

A beautiful friendship between two men from completely different backgrounds blossoms into an unbreakable bond. Based on an inspiring true story, this film is a must see!

3. Le Chef

Do you love la gastronomie? Well, for all the food lovers out there, Le Chef will transport you to the world of French ‘haute cuisine’. This light-hearted comedy features Jean Reno as Alexandre Lagarde, a famous chef who finds himself in trouble when his status as a Three Star chef comes under threat. In danger of losing his reputation and beloved restaurant, Alexandre calls on the help of self-taught chef Jacky (Michaël Youn) in an attempt to modernise his cuisine. Follow the highs and lows of the duo on their mission to get the restaurant back on track and restore Alexandre’s reputation.

Providing a wide range of food related vocabulary and easy to follow dialogue, this film is perfect for French language learners of all levels.

4. La Famille Bélier

Louane Emera, who appeared as a semi-finalist on ‘The Voice: la plus belle voix’ in France, stars as 16 year old Paula in La Famille Bélier. Acting as an interpreter for her two deaf parents and brother, Paula is the rock in which her family depends on to run the family farm. However, upon discovering her gift for singing, Paula’s music teacher encourages her to pursue a career in music by moving to Paris to attend a prestigious music school. Knowing that her family is heavily dependant on her, Paula is faced with the difficult decision of whether to remain at home, supporting her family, or, to follow her dreams .

Based on communication and the interpretation of language, this film is a winner for language learners. You’ll also be able to brush up your vocabulary and learn more about popular French culture.

5. Populaire

For those of you who enjoy a bit of romance, Populaire may be the film for you. Set in the late 1950s, this French romantic comedy-drama tells the story of a man, a woman and a typewriter. It quickly becomes apparent to insurance agent Louis Échard (Romain Duris) that his new secretary Rose (Déborah François) can type with extraordinary speed. Keen to showcase her talent, Louis makes it his mission to help her win the title of ‘World’s Fastest Typist’ at a competition in New York. As the pair train together for the speed-typing contest, romance blossoms.

The lighthearted and entertaining nature of this film will undoubtedly lift your spirits and put a smile on your face!

À vous la parole !

There you have five of our favourite French films for language learners! Do you have a favourite French film that you would like to recommend to your fellow French learners? If so, please leave a comment below.

CBF-ER 1.02 | Menton, la Perle de la France

Mark has arrived in Menton and in this episode he sets out to rediscover the town after 25 years. In the course of this episode he talks to a number of native speakers of French including Eric, who works at the reception of the Office du Tourisme in Menton. In addition to building your understanding, this episode also introduces two useful phrases: être frais et dispos and c’est pas évident.

Listen to the lesson

The audio lesson is free, as are all the main audio lessons of En Route avec Coffee Break French. Use the audio player to listen to the lesson, or subscribe in Apple Podcasts to receive this lesson and all future lessons automatically. If you can’t see the player below, click here to access the lesson.

Accessing the Premium Version

In the full course of En Route you’ll get access to every episode as it’s released. The premium version includes additional materials which will help you move forward more effectively with your French studies:

  • transcripts: read every word of French included in the conversations;
  • vocabulary lists: in addition to the transcripts, we’ll provide vocabulary lists to help you understand everything that’s said;
  • bonus audio materials: where an edited version of an interview is included in the main lesson, we’ll provide the full recording in the course to allow you to develop your comprehension skills further;
  • exclusive video content: in addition to recording interviews in the south of France, the Coffee Break Team also filmed some video content and this video material is included in the course. Please note that these are not video versions of the interviews.

The En Route course can be accessed on the Coffee Break Academy.

Subscribe links

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7 tips to help you learn a language from scratch

Have you ever dreamed of learning a language but never had the opportunity? Perhaps your last language-learning experience was a very long time ago but you’ve always wanted to reignite your love of languages. Knowing where to start and how to study in order to achieve your language-learning goals can often seem like an insurmountable challenge. With this in mind, we have developed a list of 7 top tips to help you start learning any language from scratch. Whether you’re learning with our materials or not, the tips we’ve listed below should help you get started. Good luck!

1. Find your favourite method

There are thousands of resources available to help you learn a language, from the traditional textbooks and language exchanges, to apps and, of course, our series of podcasts. Sometimes, the sheer number of different resources that are out there can be quite overwhelming, as it’s impossible to try out everything before getting started. While many people prefer taking face-to-face classes, others work better at home using resources which guide their learning in a certain direction. This allows people to soak up information, without having to worry about what to learn next. Once you’ve decided which method works for you, the fun part can start: you’ll need plenty of colourful pens and notebooks to practice your writing skills and learn your vocabulary.

2. Understand the language-learning lingo

Most people first come across terms like nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs when they’re learning English as a small child. Although they don’t tend to come up in everyday speech, these terms are at the very foundation of learning a second language. Even though everyone has heard of these words before, it’s a good idea to have a look over their meanings before tackling a second language:

  • Nouns are “things”
    • E.g. the table, the wall, or the dog
  • Verbs are “doing words”
    • E.g. running, jumping or getting dressed
    • The infinitive form of these verbs would be ‘to run’, ‘to jump’ or ‘to get dressed’
  • Adjectives are “describing words”
    • E.g. blue, waving, happy or slanted
  • Adverbs describe the way someone does something
    • E.g. quickly, angrily, softly or sleepily
  • The subject is the person/thing conducting the action of the sentence
    • E.g. he, she, Sophie, the team

You’ll come across a lot more technical lingo during your language-learning journey, but this is a good place to start, and you’ll learn as you go!

3. Keep a vocabulary book

No matter which new language you’re learning, you will no doubt feel overwhelmed at some point when confronted with all of the new vocabulary that comes along with it. As it takes time to learn words, and even longer to retain them, it’s a great idea to keep a book in which you can record any new words you learn. To take the traditional route, take a small notebook, fold each page in half lengthways, and write the English on one side and the corresponding word in the language that you’re learning on the other side.

If you’re more technologically-minded, you may prefer to use a notes app to keep track of your words. Additionally, these apps often have a search feature, so you can look up words quickly and easily, making your language-learning more efficient. Spending just 5 or 10 minutes of a coffee break or a bus journey recapping words you’ve already learned goes a long way to helping you progress in your language-learning!

4. Visual or audial?

Similar to tip number 1, this tip is all about finding the most efficient way to learn, based on your personal style of learning. Many people are visual learners, meaning they need to see things written down to retain them. These people tend to learn vocabulary best by repeatedly writing or typing the words that they’re trying to remember, for example. Visual learners can also benefit from using colours and images, or even watching films.

Others are audial learners, and can best memorise points and words by saying and hearing the words over and over again, or by listening to podcasts, for example. Try out a few different techniques to find out whether you are a visual or audial learner. When you know what style works best for you, you’ll see your efficiency vastly improve!

5.   Get your pronunciations right

The alphabet of the language you’re learning may or may not be the same alphabet as English. Even if it is, beware that the pronunciation of each word could differ from the way in which you would read it if it were a new English word. Some languages – such as Spanish – are pronounced as they’re written, but others – like French – are not. For example, the French word “chose” is pronounced very differently to the English word “chose”, beginning with a soft “sh” sound rather than a hard “ch” sound. For this reason, it’s important that you hear how the words are said when you’re learning them. And, of course, there are many languages which don’t use alphabets at all: some languages use characters which can prove challenging for a learner. Using listening resources as as the base of your learning ensures that you always learn the correct pronunciation. It’s difficult to ‘un-train’ your ear and start using the right pronunciation of a word once you’ve learnt it with the wrong pronunciation, so try to get it right from the start.

6. Use a dictionary app

Every language teacher will advise learners to get a dictionary to use during their studies, but lugging around a chunky book is often impractical. At Coffee Break Languages, we champion language-learning anywhere, at any time. To enable this, it is often incredibly useful to have a dictionary app on your phone, especially if you live in the country where your language is spoken and often need to find out the meaning of a word very quickly.

Of course, in addition to a dictionary app, it’s good idea to have an actual dictionary at home. It should also be pointed out that, although translation apps and websites are constantly being developed and updated, they often can’t beat a good old-fashioned dictionary.

7. Be patient!

Here comes the serious stuff: learning a language to an advanced level can take a very long time and is not easy. This said, it is possible to make progress quickly, especially at the early stages. Constantly keeping in mind the reasons for which you’re learning your language and keeping track of the progress you’ve made will help you to stay motivated, so that you can still pick up your notes or vocabulary book during a well-deserved coffee break, or in the evening after a long day’s work.

Speaking positively about your language-learning to those around you, and using upbeat and cheerful learning resources will also help, as will setting and achieving your language-learning goals. Here at Coffee Break Languages, we believe that everyone has the ability to learn a language, so stick at it and be patient!

Over to you

We hope these top tips have inspired you to get started in learning a second language for the first time and that they will help you start making quick progress! To find out more about our language courses, head over the the Coffee Break Academy and search for your chosen language. Let us know whether you found the tips in this article useful by leaving a comment below!