A year of language learning

While 2020 has probably not been the year we expected or planned, there has been one thing which many of us have had to do over the past 12 months more than ever before: we’ve adapted.

Simple things like communicating with the people closest to us have become more complicated, and many of you have told us how your in-person language classes have been cancelled or moved online. It has been difficult or, in many cases, impossible to travel to practise the languages we’re learning, but through live lessons and virtual travel experiences, we’ve adapted.

Now the good news: an ability to adapt is actually one of the most important attributes to have as a language learner.

Let’s imagine you’re reading a text book or listening to one of our podcasts. You hear a particular phrase or expression which doesn’t quite fit what you want to say. You need to be able to adapt that phrase to fit your situation. This often involves changing certain words, the tense of the verb or adjective agreements. You’re adapting the example to fit your needs.

When we do eventually get the chance to travel again and can put our learning into practice, we are likely to be faced with the scenario when we don’t know a particular word, just when we need it. Again, that’s when we need to adapt, and reword things using words we do know.

Hopefully then, the fact that we’re all experts at adapting after this year means we’re better language learners!

Of course, here at Coffee Break Languages we’ve had to adapt too, but we’ve tried our best to bring you high quality language-learning materials throughout the year with all members of the Coffee Break team working remotely. We’ve missed working in the office and in our recording studio, but hopefully it won’t be too long before we can return there.

Month by month

We launched a brand new Coffee Break language back in January with episode 1 of Coffee Break Swedish. Mark also challenged Pierre-Benoît to learn a poem in Scots for a special Burns Day video.

We travelled to Francesca’s village, Pettinengo, in a video we released back in February, and we also started a new “Question of the week” series on Instagram.

As things began to change in March we wanted to make sure that learners in schools had access to materials which they could use to continue learning while at home. Our Learn at Home page was accessed by tens of thousands of parents and teachers around the world. We also held a special lockdown concert for World Piano Day in which Mark was joined by other members of the Coffee Break team for some multilingual songs.

Despite having to rethink our recording processes completely, with no access to the studio, we launched a brand new course in April, Aprende inglés con Coffee Break English, aimed at Spanish-speaking learners of English. We also started broadcasting our first live lessons on Facebook in French, German, Spanish and Italian in April and the Coffee Break Community have been enjoying participating from home and practising reading and listening skills.

In May, with learners in many places around the world at home, we decided to put together some tips for how to learn a language in lockdown. Hopefully Mark’s suggestions came in useful! Of course, our ongoing lessons continued throughout this period, with episodes of Coffee Break Swedish, Coffee Break English and our Coffee Break Spanish Magazine being published regularly, along with blog articles introducing members of the Coffee Break team and the community.

May also saw the culmination of a special project which brought the community together for the Coffee Break Choir. Over 100 learners sang the famous Nat King Cole song L-O-V-E in five languages and were joined by the Coffee Break team for this historic multilingual video!

“The truth was out” in June with the release of our advanced course for French learners, La Vérité éclate toujours. We also released new series of our popular video series Coffee Break German and Spanish To Go.

As language-learners, most of us love travelling and discovering new places, but it soon became clear that that was not going to be easy this year. We started to look at new ways to experience travel from the safety of home and came up with the Coffee Break Travel Diaries which launched in French and Italian in June. We joined Giulia and Paolo virtually as they travelled through Tuscany, while Lara and Noah took the train through the south of France. The Travel Diaries series gave us the opportunity to discover new places, follow the story of our characters and improve our language skills at the same time!

In July we launched Coffee Break Conversations, a new podcast which focused on “conversations about life, learning and languages”. The launch episode featured CBI host Francesca, and later episodes included conversations with Coffee Break learners and some well-known faces in the world of language learning and teaching.

The Coffee Break German and Spanish Travel Diaries began in August and we started following Karin and her family through the German Alpenstraße, while Victoria and Abel headed to the north of Spain for their honeymoon.

In September we continued to publish episodes of Coffee Break Swedish, La Vérité éclate toujours, Coffee Break German and Spanish Travel Diaries and we also released a video shot in Salamanca while we were making our CBS To Go series.

In addition to new seasons of Coffee Break French and Italian To Go (for the first time with extended podcasts) which launched in October, we also answered a question many listeners often ask: how many languages does Mark speak? Watch the video to find out!

One of our most popular posts on Instagram was a special video we put together for World Hello Day in November in which our entire team shared their “hellos”. In addition our live lessons continued on Facebook and YouTube, with thousands of learners taking part each week to practise their language skills.

And so we’re now in December and all this month we’ve been publishing newly updated Festive Phrases videos in which you’ll learn to send festive greetings to over 3 billion people around the world in 25 languages. The Festive Phrases series has been used in thousands of schools worldwide and we’re delighted to have released an updated version this year. December also saw the return of Coffee Break English and we launched Kulturhörnan, a mini-series of podcast episodes on Swedish culture in our mid-season break from the normal Coffee Break Swedish lessons. This month our Coffee Break French and Spanish Masterclasses are coming to an end, so we hope that the students in this year’s cohort have enjoyed their experience!

To round off a year of language-learning in a suitable festive way, Mark and the team put together a seasonal multilingual singalong concert on Sunday, so feel free to join them and hear Pierre-Benoît sing White Christmas in French and English, and Mark sing Winter Wonderland in six languages!

The year in numbers

We always like to have a look at the numbers at the end of the year, and despite everything that 2020 has thrown at us all, we’ve been busy! We published 145 podcast episodes, 114 videos on our YouTube channel and we delivered 68 live lessons over the course of the year.

We delivered 28.7 million free language lessons, meaning that every 1.07 seconds someone, somewhere started a new Coffee Break with us, and in our Coffee Break Academy, students completed over 300,000 learning sessions.

What’s next?

We’re already excited about a whole new year of language-learning in 2021 and we have some exciting plans that we’re looking forward to sharing with you. We’ll be starting the year with a brand new series of Coffee Break Travel Diaries in French, German, Spanish and Italian, and our live lessons will return in the new year.

La Vérité éclate toujours, Coffee Break Swedish and Aprende inglés con Coffee Break English will continue, but we’ll also be extending our Coffee Break English content to appeal to learners of English everywhere.

In addition to all of this, we have some other exciting projects which we’ll keep under wraps for now, but we’re sure that you’ll continue to enjoy learning with our range of materials next year.

1 thought on “A year of language learning”

  1. Although all the Coffee Break Academy creations have helped me immeasurably to fill the time this crazy year, I realize I feel so much more confident in the progress I am making. My receptive skills for Spanish are blossoming but I am still struggling with spontaneous expression. I know, I know, this is typical for language development! Building confidence is my mission for 2021.


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