CBC 1.34 | Zhèr de bāozi hěn hǎochī!

In this episode of Coffee Break Chinese we join Hongyu and Mark at breakfast in the hotel where they get talking to another hotel guest and her son. We’ll take the opportunity to review vocabulary associated with ordering food and learn about some cultural aspects of eating breakfast in China. Crystal is on hand in the studio to help Mark understand everything.

CBI 2.38 | Adesso, esprimi un desiderio!

In this episode of Coffee Break Italian, the big day has arrived, La Notte di San Lorenzo. Mia, Anna and Giorgio are full of expectations for the romance of the evening ahead and hope that it will be the perfect opportunity for Maria and Riccardo to get together. Not only that, but Mark and Francesca are joined by a very special guest in the introduction to this episode…

Meet John, a Coffee Break French and German learner

Tell us who you are, where you live, your nationality and how long you’ve been learning a language with us. 

I’m John. I’m British and I live in Ashford in Kent, in easy reach of Channel crossings to France. I started on Coffee Break German some five years ago.

Which language or languages are you learning with Coffee Break? 

French and German

What experience have you had speaking and learning other languages? 

I’m an avid history buff and also a motorcyclist. Combining both interests, I’ve undertaken solo tours of Germany and Austria, visiting museums, battlefields and castles. It was Coffee Break German that gave me the confidence to travel in the former East Germany, where I found few English-speakers in some of the out-of-the-way places I visited.

What are your favourite memories of learning a language? 

Being able to compliment a chef in a remote German hotel on his excellent mustard soup! Making small talk with an Austrian hotel owner and finding out a little about her home village. I recently embarked on Coffee Break French. This is particularly useful in my role as a battlefield tour guide. I’ve just returned home from a trip to France and Belgium guiding Australian school kids around sites of the First World War. One of our coach drivers had no English at all but I was able to successfully get the group from place to place using the French that I’ve learnt so far.

Where would your ideal coffee break be, and with whom? 

I would love to travel back in time to meet Napoleon Bonaparte in Paris to speak in French about his rise from obscurity.

What’s the best language-learning tip you have found works for you? 

Take the opportunity to watch and listen to foreign-language TV and radio broadcasts. When abroad, ‘tune in’ to the locals by listening (without obviously eavesdropping!) to conversations around you.

Quick Fire Round

  • Your favourite language: German
  • Your favourite word or phrase in the language: Das Reinheitsgebot
  •  Do you have a favourite film, TV show, book or singer in the language? Das Boot
  • Your favourite destination to practise your language: Berlin

Any final comments?

Thanks to the Coffee Break team for a really inventive and practical way of getting to grips with everyday language in realistic situations. It builds confidence which will soon be rewarded when you put your learning into practice.


Give the Gift of Language!

We’re delighted to introduce our brand new Gift Card system where you can purchase any of our Coffee Break courses or the Reading Club for a friend or loved one. Until now the Gift Card system was a manual process where we had to create a Gift Certificate for you and send you the link. It’s now fully automated and you can simply choose the language and season you’d like to give, choose the date on which the Gift Card will be sent, and the recipient will receive a code to get 100% off the price of a course.

If you’d like to give the Gift of Language to someone this festive season, you can now buy your Gift Card on the Coffee Break Academy.

Please note that we currently offer Gift Cards for single seasons of Coffee Break French, German, Italian, Spanish and Chinese. We also offer Gift Cards for the premium version of the Reading Club in all four languages. If you are purchasing for someone who resides within the European Union, please use the correct “including VAT” option to ensure that they will not be charged anything when signing up for the course.

Here’s an outline of the process:

  1. Go to https://coffeebreakacademy.com/p/giftcards/
  2. Choose the language and season (taking care to choose including or excluding VAT, depending on the location of your recipient).
  3. Click “buy”.
  4. Enter the name and email address of the recipient.
  5. You can choose to send the Gift Card immediately, or on a specific day.
  6. Enter a message if you wish.
  7. Provide your email address and payment details.
  8. Either immediately or on the day you have identified, the recipient will receive the Gift Card by email. This email will include a code. The recipient should visit https://coffeebreakacademy.com/courses/ and find the correct course. They should then go ahead and click on “sign up”, and enter the code they have received in the appropriate area at checkout.

Meet Doreen, Coffee Break Spanish learner

Doreen, from Phoenix, Arizona, has been working as a nurse for almost 30 years. Being so close to the Mexican border, there is a high Hispanic population where she lives. Therefore, a lot of her patients are Spanish speaking, which means that she requires an interpreter to communicate with them.“It’s fine that I have to get an interpreter but I want to be able to communicate with them so that I can calm them down to tell them we’re going to take good care of them and things like that. It’s been frustrating that I haven’t been able to. I’ve never taken a foreign language in my life so, I thought learning Spanish would be useful for this purpose. Also, all of my kids have left home now so I wanted to go back to school and learn a second language or something. However, it just doesn’t work out with my schedule, so when I found Coffee Break online I was pretty excited”. 

Doreen is not only using Coffee Beak Spanish to help breakdown communication barriers in her job, she’s also learning the language for personal reasons. Doreen and her husband often undertake mission trips in Bolivia. While her husband speaks the language, Doreen is often left feeling frustrated due to the fact that she cannot communicate with her host. “They always have an interpreter there but it would be so nice if we could speak the language”. 

On top of this, a Spanish speaking student will be coming to stay with Doreen for a month in the near future. Therefore, she is keen to make the most of the language exchange. “When she comes I’m going to be able to communicate with her. The last time when her mum came it was funny because we had Google translate on our phones – she didn’t know English and I didn’t know Spanish so we kept passing our cellphones back and forth to each other!”

Doreen first discovered Coffee Break while browsing for Spanish courses online. “I found a couple of online courses that weren’t very good and then I discovered Coffee Break Spanish and I really really liked it. The fact that it was online meant that I kept going back to the same lessons over and over again. I didn’t have to put a tape in or a CD in – it was nice, I liked it! I also thought it was funny that Mark was from Glasgow but was speaking Spanish so well. He’s very good!”

As a visual learner, Doreen particularly appreciates the video versions of the lessons which are now available on the Academy. “The new Coffee Break Academy has made learning a lot easier. I didn’t even know about the new Academy as I had put my Spanish aside for a while. However, I picked it up again when we found out our little friend was coming over to live with us for a while and I was really happy with the Academy. I also really like the fact that Academy allows you to write comments or questions. The team has always been so good about responding to me. The Academy is so much easier to access than the old site. I love the videos because the words show up on my screen. I also like how also Mark explains the literal meaning of things….he’s very good. The lessons are also at a very good pace which I really like”.

While Doreen enjoys watching the videos, she listens to the audio version during long car journeys as she is often on the go. “I’m always doing something so I wanted to be able to access lessons either in my car or on my phone and Coffee Break was the best way of doing this. I’ve had people tell me they want to learn Spanish and I always recommend the Coffee Break website. I like the fact that it’s online and that it is possible to print the materials if you have to”. 

Compared to other online language programmes Doreen has used in the past (e.g. cassette tapes!), the Coffee Break method is a lot more convenient. Therefore, the podcasts are the main resource she uses to learn Spanish. Another advantage of Coffee Beak Spanish is the fact that Doreen can learn alongside the learner featured on the audio, Kara. “The other programs I used to use didn’t have a second person like Mark does with Kara. The other person just stated things, followed by a long pause of silence which meant that you didn’t know if you were saying it right. I like Radio Lingua because they have interaction and Kara is learning along with us and that helps me”.

Doreen feels that she is learning at a slower pace than she first hoped. However, having the option to replay and re-listen to her Coffee Break lessons has helped progress more quickly. “I’m amazed at how slowly I’m learning. I go back a second time to listen to the lessons to make sure I’m retaining everything. I probably do each lesson two maybe three times. I think in my younger days I probably could’ve gotten by listening to each lesson once – not anymore!’

Keen to demonstrate her progress with Coffee Break, Doreen shared the Spanish introduction she normally gives to her Spanish speaking patients: ‘‘Soy su enfermera. Me llamo Doreen, estoy aprendiendo español e necesito practicar más”. Although pleased with her progress, she is slightly self conscious about her Minnesota accent. Therefore, she is currently focusing on sounding more Spanish. However, Doreen reveals that in the long term, her dream is to become an interpreter at the hospital: “I’ve worked in the field for so long so it would be great if I could be a Spanish interpreter”. 

To finish, Doreen reflects on her experience of learning Spanish with Coffee Break so far: “I appreciate the support and help. When I email I get an answer within a day or two even though the Radio Lingua team are 8 hours ahead….it’s a really great programme, I really like it, and the Academy is just so much easier”.


CBI 2.37 | Chissà quali sorprese ci regaleranno le stelle!

In the latest lesson of Coffee Break Italian, it’s the day of preparation for the famous Notte di San Lorenzo, and it’s all hands on deck at the campsite. This episode provides further practice of direct object pronouns, and we’ll also learn the verb servire which is used in a similar way to piacere. As usual, Francesca and Mark are on hand to explain everything.