Meet Kerstin, Coffee break Italian learner

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

Hi, my name is Kerstin, I live in Hamburg, Germany, and I’m German. I’ve been learning Italian with you since sometime last summer … so about 9 months or so.

Which language or languages are you learning with Coffee Break?


What experience have you had speaking and learning other languages? 

I have always liked languages ever since I started to learn English in 5th grade. I added French in 7th grade and Latin in 9th grade (quit Latin after two years though …). I studied English Literature at university, and during my time at university I also learned Swedish because I did my Erasmus year in Sweden and totally fell for the country. Starting to learn Italian was something that happened a bit by accident, I would say. It wasn’t something I had planned to do really.

What are your favourite memories of learning a language?

I love speaking English anywhere any time simply because I can do it effortlessly. It’s so much fun having mastered a foreign language. I love that by learning the language you also learn about the culture and the people. It broadens your horizons, makes you question things, and it feels like exploring new territories. As for my (still very basic) Italian: I was in Bologna on a business trip recently. I checked in at the hotel in Italian, I asked how to get to a supermarket, I ordered food in Italian, I bought stamps at the post office and and cheese at the market in Italian. Everything worked out well and I was soooo proud of myself.

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

I think I already had the perfect coffee break: On the shore in Greenland after we had been hiking on the inland ice shield and while we were waiting for our boats to pick us up again. But if you give me holidays, Italy, sunshine, a nice view and a good cappuccino (even in the afternoon … sorry Francesca!!) I’m pretty happy too!

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

If you are motivated and if you are enjoying what you are doing everything else will follow. Listen to music, look for blogs and podcasts. If you are advanced enough read books and watch films. Like that you learn without even noticing. For learning vocabulary I write flash cards. That’s a bit boring but necessary I guess … Sometimes I talk to myself.

Quick Fire Round

  • Your favourite language: Usually I’d say English, but I go for Italian now.
  • Your favourite word or phrase in the language:
    1. Quindi. Maybe a weird choice but I like the sound of it and I think it is a very useful word. I don’t know much Italian yet but quindi is one of the few words I know to tie two sentences together elegantly.
    2. Sogni d’oro. Just sweet.
    3. Allora. Maybe the most Italian of all words (except ciao …)
  •  Do you have a favourite film, TV show, book or singer in the language? Marco Mengoni and Tiziano Ferro have some really nice songs I think.
  • Your favourite destination to practise your language: I’d love to go to Stromboli one day.

Your final comments

Thank you Francesca and Mark (and Katie and Isla) for the work you put into CBI. I enjoy your lessons A LOT! I wouldn’t have started to learn Italian had I not come across your podcast but you make it really easy. I listen to you while cooking or cleaning, while jogging or on my way to work. And without even noticing I have mastered the A1 level  of a new language … Thumbs up! Grazie mille!

¿Cuándo es tu cumpleaños? – Talking about birthdays – Coffee Break Spanish To Go Episode 1.06

In this episode Marina’s question is ¿Cuándo es tu cumpleaños? – “When is your birthday”. Using the answers you’ll learn to say when your birthday is in Spanish.

Here are the words and phrases you’ll need:

When is your birthday? – ¿Cuándo es tu cumpleaños? (informal)
When is your birthday? – ¿Cuándo es su cumpleaños? (formal)
My birthday is … Mi cumpleaños es el
I turn 15 tomorrow – Cumplo 15 años mañana

Note that you can use the verb cumplir which literally means “to accomplish”.

In the first part of the video, watch the interviews without subtitles and try to understand. In the second part of the video, we’ve provided subtitles in Spanish at the top of the screen. You can choose to turn on subtitles in English using the Subtitles/CC button.

In this first series of Coffee Break Spanish To Go, Marina is in the city of Málaga, in the south of Spain, and in each episode she’ll ask passers-by one question. Of course, that one question will result in many answers, and it’s through these answers that you can practise your Spanish and build your vocabulary.

Coffee Break Spanish To Go will be published every two weeks here on YouTube, and each Season will be filmed in a different part of the Spanish-speaking world.

If you’d prefer not to wait for all 10 lessons of Season 1 to be published, you can access downloadable versions of the videos along with audio versions and lesson notes / transcripts in the Coffee Break Academy.

Coffee Break Spanish To Go is based on the popular podcast series and online course Coffee Break Spanish. For access to the free podcasts, please click here.

Meet Krissie, Coffee Break French learner

Meet Coffee Break French learner, Krissie, a 21 year old final year Biology student from London. Krissie recently spent some time working with the Radio Lingua team so we caught up with her to discuss her language-learning experience with Coffee Break.

Krissie begins by telling us where her love for French began: “When I was little I really didn’t want to learn French. My grandpa has always had an absolute passion for French. He did a degree when he retired and he absolutely loves it. So, he always tried to get me to learn French when I was younger but I wouldn’t do it because I was an annoying little child. I was forced to do it at school during my GCSEs which my Grandpa loved. I sometimes loved it, sometimes hated it…and then I dropped it to pursue science. The reason I picked it back up again was because I wanted to communicate with my Grandpa more. I used to see him a lot before I went to University and I don’t get to see him that much now so I thought that if I picked up his hobby we would have something to chat about and I could write to him in French.”

Coffee Break French was the first resource Krissie found online after deciding to start learning French again. Impressed with what she heard, Krissie quickly became a loyal customer. Depending on her schedule, she often listens to Coffee Break French during her breaks at university. Sometimes she has time to listen to 3 podcasts a day! “I love listening to them when I walk my dog. If I’m out for an hour I will normally listen to three but when I’m studying I might manage one or two a week and sometimes none at all, but I just fit it around my schedule.”

Krissie mentions that the length of the podcasts make learning French more manageable: “I love it because it’s in such bitesize chunks and you’re only listening for 15/20 minutes at a time. The stuff that you learn is quite condensed so you learn things really quickly.”

A lack of listening practise while studying French at school has made it difficult for Krissie to understand the language when communicating with native speakers. However, since learning with Coffee Break, she feels that her listening skills have improved: “All the Coffee Break French podcasts are listening based so you’re hearing the text and you’re hearing people talk in the language so my listening skills have advanced massively.”

Thanks to her part time job at the London Eye, Krissie has the chance to practise her language skills with the huge number of French tourists that come to visit: “It’s really great to be able to speak to them in their language and they really appreciate it because so few English people speak French. My ability to speak to them has really come on…I’m only at intermediate level so I’ve got a long way to go, but if I ask them to speak slowly and they go easy on me then I can just about manage a simple conversation.”

In terms of overcoming the challenges that come with studying a foreign language, Krissie believes that perseverance is key: “It took me a long time to realise how long it takes to become fluent in another language, or just really confident in a language. To keep going when you know you have such a long journey ahead of you is quite difficult, but since Coffee Break French podcasts are so cheerful all the time, it kind of helps to keep your enthusiasm up.”

CBS EM 1.02 | La Vida Malagueña

What’s it like to live and work in Málaga? In this episode of En Marcha, Mark talks to Sara who works in the Tourism department of the Ayuntamiento de Málaga. They discuss the town, how it has changed over the years, and tourism in the surrounding area. There are also interviews with other Malagueños, and you can challenge yourself to follow the conversations and recognise the different accents used.

For the full online course which includes transcripts, bonus audio materials, exercises, vocabulary lists and exclusive video content, please click here.

Meet Jared, Coffee Break Spanish learner

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

I’m 25 and from the USA. I live in New York at the moment and I work in organic agriculture. I have been using Coffee Break Spanish since January.

Which language or languages are you learning with Coffee Break?


What experience have you had speaking and learning other languages? 

I spent a year backpacking and volunteering on small farms throughout South America. I then went back to Ecuador last winter for three months and did a similar trip.

What are your favourite memories of learning a language?

At the beginning of my trip my Spanish was so poor that I was asking for soap in a store in a small town Colombia by demonstrating washing my armpits and saying ‘sopa, sopa’. By the end of my trip I was fully immersed in conversations at dinner and going out with local friends.

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

I want to speak Spanish and share maté with Lionel Messi in the locker room of the Camp Nou.

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

When I was travelling I would write diaries and have Spanish speakers correct them for me. Now that I’m back in my country I try to maintain a lot of Spanish WhatsApp conversations with friends and listen to Spanish podcasts and music.

Quick Fire Round

  • Your favourite language: Spanish
  • Your favourite word or phrase in the language: Chévere
  •  Do you have a favourite film, TV show, book or singer in the language? 100 Years of Solitude
  • Your favourite destination to practise your language: Colombia

Your final comments

Learning a language is fun because it is a lifetime process. Each day you can learn something new and get a little better.


CBC 1.37 | Jīntiān tiānqì búcuò, wǒmen qù Chángchéng!

We have an exciting episode of Coffee Break Chinese for you today, as Mark and Hongyu have finally made it to Chángchéng, the Great Wall of China. In this lesson you’ll build your understanding of Chinese by reviewing previously learned vocabulary and acquiring new expressions and structures. As usual, Crystal is on hand in the studio to help.

Meet Coffee Break French learner, Asim

Originally from Dumfries in the South West of Scotland, Asim, 36, has been living in London since 2003 working as a specialist pharmacist. He has been learning French for the past 2-3 years, for professional and personal reasons. With a large number of his patients coming from the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal, Asim felt that learning French would be worthwhile as it would allow him to communicate with his patients more easily. Moreover, as a keen skier, Asim dreams of moving to the French Alps to start a career building ski chalets. Naturally, learning French is the first step towards achieving his goal. We recently had a chat with Asim to hear more about his experience of learning with Coffee Break.

Prior to learning French with Coffee Break, Asim attended evening classes in London. However, he found that he wasn’t making as much progress as he had originally hoped. This is when he discovered Coffee Break. “I found that a lot of it was dictated to you rather than having the chance to speak and there wasn’t much in the way of listening skills. Then I looked for podcasts so that I could improve my listening skills and CBF stood out. In fact, I think it was virtually the only thing that was there that was pretty much on my level. I’d been using apps and things and I still use apps on top, but none of them do anything for my listening skills.” 

After working through seasons 1-3 of Coffee Break French, Asim is now keen to join the Masterclass in order to help him progress to season 4. Asim is lucky enough to practise his language skills with his French friends and flatmate. “I’ve got loads of French friends as a result of learning French. Actually, all my friends are being taken over by French people, much to the annoyance of my other friends. I’m spending a lot of time learning French and surrounding myself in French culture and French language.”

Speaking of the two week intensive French course he attended in Montpellier in the South of France, Asim believes he gained a great deal not only in the way of language skills, but also in terms of the friends he made. “I absolutely loved it, loved the place, loved the people I met. I became good friends with the people. We would see each other all the time. In those two weeks we covered the equivalent of one year at my evening classes in London.”

One of Asim’s favourite aspects of Coffee Break lessons are how convenient they are for learning on the go. “The podcasts are good as I can do them on the tube, on the underground. There’s no wifi apart from in-between stations so it’s quite good to be able to do that offline.” Alongside listening to Coffee Break during his commute to work, Asim incorporates learning French into other aspects of his life: “Sometimes I do language exchange evenings because there are loads of them in London…(and)….“like I said I organise my holidays based on learning French, for example I went (on a trip) to Mauritius”.

Asim also enjoys listening to the interactions Mark has on the podcasts throughout all four seasons. As a fellow Scot, he particularly enjoys listening to the Scottish accents, especially the banter between Mark and Pierre-Benoît. Overall, Asim appreciates the fact that he can learn alongside another language learner when listening to the podcasts. He adds: “It’s quite touchy feely I guess rather than some of the other stuff that you get out there, it makes you feel rather comfortable.”

Asim dedicates as much time as possible to learning French: “I would do CBF for about an hour a day, five days a week, and then the other hour I would do something else.” To compliment the Coffee Break lessons, he uses a variety of apps which enable him to communicate with French natives, building his vocabulary. On top of this, Asim often listens to the French radio to improve his listening skills.

Speaking of challenges, Asim acknowledges that, while he finds grammar quite straightforward, he struggles with listening and lack of confidence when speaking French: “My biggest problem is listening comprehension. I can speak, but when someone speaks back to me, I’m lost.” His main focus now is to concentrate on his listening skills with Coffee Break. He also has a private tutor which he finds useful: “I’ve got a personal/private tutor as well who I meet up with once a week in the pub for an hour and have a pint and a French lesson, well colloquial French I guess, the common French you can speak rather than textbook French so that’s quite good. I (also) go skiing every year and I make sure it’s in France so I can utilise my French and practise there. I’m gearing up to move to France so that’s why I’m doing all this.” 

When asked if he had a favourite word or phrase in French, Asim mentioned a phrase that his flatmate had taught him: il n’y a pas de quoi which simply means ‘don’t mention it’ in English.

To finish, Asim sums up his thoughts on the Coffee Break style of learning French: “One of my preferred ways (to learn French) is to use Coffee Break French because it’s quite nicely broken down, it’s bitesize I guess and it perfectly ties in with my commute to work. It’s not too intense but at the same time it can be quite tricky.”

We wish Asim all the best for the future and hope that he manages to fulfil his dream of moving to France.

CBS EM 1.01 | ¡Bienvenidos a Málaga!

In this first episode of the new series, Mark and the Coffee Break team arrive in Málaga, the beautiful city in the south of Spain. This episode sets the scene for the series and you’ll be eavesdropping on Mark’s conversations in Spanish with native speakers, while experiencing the sounds of the city.

For the full online course which includes transcripts, bonus audio materials, exercises, vocabulary lists and exclusive video content, please click here.