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CBC 1.22 | Parts of the body and dealing with illnesses in Chinese

When you’re travelling things don’t always go according to plan and you may have to visit a doctor or pharmacist. In this lesson you’ll learn the words for various parts of the body in Chinese, and to explain that you’re feeling unwell. By the end of this episode you’ll be able to explain to a doctor or pharmacist which part of your body is sore and if you have any other symptoms.

Meet the team: Andrea

Andrea

My name is Andrea and it’s my job to teach Mark German in the second series of Coffee Break German. I knew about Coffee Break for a few years before I joined the Radio Lingua team in 2016. I am a qualified language teacher, translator and interpreter, but I started out in a completely different career when I did a degree in hotel and restaurant management in my early 20s. When I am not recording Coffee Break German, I will probably be at The Language Hub C.I.C., a social enterprise offering language classes to children and adults. In my free time, I enjoy hillwalking, eating good food and spending time with my family.

What is your role in Coffee Break?

I work with Mark on the Coffee Break German lessons. While Mark writes the content of the lessons, I help to come up with the examples for each lesson. Mark really is learning in each episode – I can’t let him see everything beforehand! Together we work out the best way to explain grammar points, rules and any tricky language or pronunciation.

What experience have you had speaking and learning other languages?

At school in Switzerland, I studied French, English and Italian in primary and secondary school. It was easy to practise French and Italian, as Switzerland has a French and an Italian-speaking part, which I visited occasionally. Later, I spent some time in Scotland to learn better English and I spent a few months in Spain to learn Spanish. Having studied at universities in Italy and Scotland, these two languages have become languages I feel quite confident in. I also studied some Farsi (Persian) and some British Sign Language as an attempt to keep my brain active. Both languages posed challenges I had not experienced before. Now, I work with people from all around the world and can keep my language skills active on a daily basis, which is brilliant.

What are your favourite memories of working with Coffee Break?

I love recording Coffee Break with Mark. Although we try to be very efficient, we still manage to fit in a few laughs. And I enjoy our chats over lunch time.

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

My ideal coffee break would be on top of a Swiss mountain on a sunny day. I would not even need anybody else to be there. Maybe my mum’s dog Cooper.

 

What’s your best language-learning tip?

Just talk to people. Don’t worry about sounding silly or making a mistake. Everyone will applaud your efforts. Also, why not watch some DVDs in the language you want to learn? You can get well-known TV series that have been dubbed. As you already know the content, you may find it quite easy to follow, even though you don’t understand every word. Or you could get films and series that are originally in the language you want to learn and then switch on the subtitles.

Quick-fire round 

Favourite language 

 Italian

Favourite word/phrase in the language 

Schadenfreude (what else?)

Favourite film / TV show / Book / singer?

I have to admit that I love Star Trek and I have seen all episodes and films!

Favourite destination

 Iceland

Andrea visiting Gullfoss in Iceland

Do you have a message for the Coffee Break Community?

Thank you for listening to the lessons. I hope you enjoy your language learning experience and will soon have the possibility to put your skills to the test on a holiday or a business trip.

 

 

CBI 2.22 | Preparavo la cena quando Luca è arrivato

We’ve now learned both the Perfect Tense and the Imperfect Tense in Italian, but when do you use which tense? ​In this episode of Coffee Break Italian we’ll be talking about “thtooms” and “dum-de-dum-de-dums”. This is Mark’s method of explaining how you can combine the Perfect Tense and the Imperfect Tense in one sentence to talk about what was happening when something else happened. You’ll also learn an alternative translation of the Imperfect which involves beaches at sunset!

Learning Chinese is easier than you think!

Have you ever wished you could speak Chinese but you’re put off by the difficulty? We often hear people, particularly in the West, say “Chinese is the most difficult language in the world”. People are often frightened by the seemingly complicated characters, the foreign quality of the sounds, and the speed at which native speakers appear to speak. But is it simply the fear of the unknown that is holding you back? We’re going to take a look at the two most daunting aspects of Chinese, characters and pronunciation. You’ll see that broken down, these aspects are a lot easier to learn than you may think.

The fear of Chinese characters 

It’s likely that your first experience with a foreign language may be a language like French, German or Spanish, which uses a Latin script, just like English. Therefore, when you see a phrase like “三个中国人”, the complicated appearance of the script itself seems unfathomable! How will you know how to pronounce it? How can you learn a language with no alphabet? How can you remember all those characters? Well, let’s see why Chinese characters are a lot more logical than they may appear.

Some of the oldest characters, and the first Chinese characters you may learn are pictograms. In simple terms, this means that to write the word, you are simply drawing a picture of the thing itself. Take these words:

  • 木 mù means “tree”. Quite easy to visualise, right?
  • 林 lín means “woods”. (represented by 2 trees)
  • 森 sēn means “forest”. (represented by 3 trees)

By remembering one pictogram you now have three new words! Compare to French:

  • un arbre  
  • un bois
  • une forêt

You would have to learn these words individually, and learn how to spell them. If spelling isn’t your forte, Chinese is the language for you!

Many characters are also ideograms: they represent not something physical like a tree, but an idea. For example, the characters 一 yī, 二 èr, and 三 sān are abstract representations of the numbers one, two and three.

Abstract ideas are often represented through radicals. A radical is a small part of the character which tells you something about the meaning of the word. For example, the 口radical (meaning mouth) often features in characters which relate to eating.

Unlike basic characters like木 or 一, most characters are compounds. Compound characters are made up of components with different language functions. There are three functions:

  1. Meaning – there are 214 radicals in Chinese, which can tell us something about the meaning of a character such as: it’s made of wood, it’s related to water, it’s tall. Once you’ve learned some words which contain these radicals, it will get much easier to guess the meaning of a word by looking at the character. For example, most body parts contain the radical 月, like these: 腰 yāo (waist), 腿 tuĭ (leg), 脚 jiăo (foot).
  2. Pronunciation – Once you know a few characters, you can often guess the pronunciation of a word because the characters have similar elements. For example, take 爸 bā meaning father and 把 bă meaning to hold. Both contain the 巴 component which tells you that it is pronounced ba.
  3. Distinctive particle – A character may also contain an “empty component” which has the sole function of distinguishing it from other characters.

You’ll be glad to know that characters are the hardest part of Chinese! Yet hopefully now you can see that it’s not all squiggly lines and pictures: the system is logical when you get used to it.

Remember our phrase from earlier? “三个中国人” Perhaps it is a little less daunting now. It actually means “three Chinese people”.

  • 三 sān is an ideogram, it means three.
  • 个 ge is a measure word, which often follows numbers. This character is really useful. If you see it, you know that something is being counted.
  • 中 zhōng means middle. As you can see, it is a rectangle with a line down the middle, so it is super easy to remember!
  • 国 guó means country. It is a compound character made up of 囗 wéi, a radical indicating enclosure and 玉 yù, a component which represents the Emperor. Therefore, this character represents country or nation, defined by an enclosed area which is ruled or governed. Pretty cool right? For historical reasons, China is known as 中国 Zhōngguó, the middle kingdom. Most country names contain the character 国 guó e.g. 英国 Yīngguó (United Kingdom), 法国Făguó (France), 美国 Mĕiguó (United States of America).
  • 人 rén means people. Thus, 中国人Zhōngguórén means Chinese person.

In English, you can’t say “I am a middle country person”. You must use a completely new word, “Chinese”, to express the concept. Chinese is great for minimising the new words you have to learn!

Pronunciation panic

So much for characters. Let’s now consider one of the other main concerns people have about learning Chinese. You may have heard that Chinese is a tonal language, and this can put a lot of people off. This just means that two words may have the same pronunciation, but they are said at a different pitch. These pitch patterns can take a while getting used to, but natives are often very patient and will mostly understand you even if you don’t get your tones quite right. Thankfully, Mandarin has only 4 tones, compared to several other Asian languages with many more – like Cantonese or Thai. Even compared to several European languages, Chinese actually has a lot less sound variation.  Here are two lovely things about Chinese pronunciation:

Stress 

You don’t have to stress about stress! Compare these three sentences:

  • English: English isn’t easy.
  • Spanish: Inglés no es fácil.
  • Chinese: (Yīng wén bù róng yì)

We’ve put the stressed syllables in bold. Did you notice that the Spanish sentence had two accented words? If you’ve studied Spanish you’ll know that if a word doesn’t follow Spanish stress patterns, it needs an accent. Each Chinese syllable is given equal stress, so stress patterns are one less thing to memorise! In fact, most Chinese words have only one syllable anyway – no need to worry about getting tongue tied pronouncing long words! Each syllable is made up of initials and finals (word beginnings and word endings), and once you learn these sounds, you will be able to pronounce any initial and final combination.

Spelling 

Throughout this article we’ve been using Chinese characters combined with words written in the “English” alphabet or, to give it its proper name, the Latin alphabet. This method of writing Chinese in the Latin alphabet is called pinyin. Pinyin can help beginners with pronunciation before they have mastered the characters. Pinyin also uses four different “accents” which represent the tones of the language, so this helps you know how to pronounce each word. And the great news is that once you’ve learned all the sounds of pinyin, there are no pronunciation exceptions!  For example, the words liáng, biáng, jiáng all have the same finals, therefore they will always be pronounced the same. Compare this to English words like rough, though, and through. Despite appearing to have the same endings, you must learn a different pronunciation for each one!

Like any other language, Chinese has its challenges. But if characters and pronunciation are the hardest parts, maybe Chinese isn’t the hardest language in the world after all. Chinese is very simple to learn after the initial hurdles. The hardest part is getting started! And talking of getting started, we have the perfect method to help you learn Chinese: with Coffee Break Chinese you can take your first steps in the language. Now you know it’s far from “the most difficult language in the world”, there’s nothing stopping you! Click here to find out more.
What have you found difficult about learning Chinese? Let us know if we’ve helped you conquer your fears by posting a comment below!

CBG 2.22 | Mein Vater wohnte lange in einem kleinen Dorf

So far in Coffee Break German we’ve learned to use haben, sein and some modal verbs in the Präteritum. In this lesson Andrea and Mark look at other verbs in the Präteritum which are not used commonly in spoken German, but you’ll find them in any story you read. You’ll also learn about some irregular verbs in this tense, including kommen and gehen, and Julia is on hand to tell us about two very famous German writers: Goethe and Schiller.

Meet the team: Kristina

My name’s Kristina and I’m Radio Lingua’s Operations Manager. I first started working with Radio Lingua as an intern in October 2016, during my final year of university. After graduating in June 2017, with a Masters in International Business and Modern Languages, I started working full time in our Glasgow office.

What is your role in Coffee Break?

As Operations Manager, I am responsible for coordinating the production of content and the work/roles of some staff. I am also involved in strategic planning and new initiatives to streamline and grow the business. In addition, I play a part in the HR side of the business and general business development.

Representing Radio Lingua at trade shows and events is great fun as it gives me the chance to promote our courses while chatting to fellow language learners. It’s always nice to hear positive feedback from our customers all around the world.

Kristina with the team at the France Show

What experience have you had speaking and learning other languages?

I’ve always been aware of the value of foreign languages, thanks to having German grandparents and a mother who is a languages teacher. I thoroughly enjoyed studying French, Spanish and Latin at school, so, when I started university, I decided to pursue my dream of speaking a foreign language by combining my business degree with modern languages. As French was my main foreign language, I spent a summer working as an au pair in Nantes (France), followed by a year studying in Grenoble. I had such a great time abroad that I decided to extend the experience by spending the following summer working for a French campsite in Spain. Although French has always been my favourite language, I have also studied Spanish and Italian which was made easier thanks to my knowledge of French.

Now, in my role at Radio Lingua, I have the opportunity to use and develop both the business and language skills I developed at university. I’m also continually working on improving my Spanish and have taken up learning German with Coffee Break.

What are your favourite memories of working with Coffee Break?

A highlight for me was a work trip to Málaga, Spain with Mark and my colleague, Flora. Not only did I have a great time adopting the role of ‘Production Assistant’, I was also lucky enough to see some beautiful parts of Spain I’d never visited before. I found being involved in such a project, through the various stages of production, extremely satisfying and rewarding.

Kristina filming in the village of Frigiliana, Spain

Another experience which I thoroughly enjoyed was going down to London for the France Show. Representing the Radio Lingua team was a fantastic experience as it gave me a greater insight into the industry as well as the chance to immerse myself in all things French for the weekend!

One final highlight is a trip to Toronto, Canada to attend the OMLTA conference. It was great to spread the word about our High Five French resource to schools across Ontario. I was also luck enough to have some time to see many of the sites around the city.

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

I think my ideal coffee break would be spent at a famous cafe in Cannes during the Cannes Film Festival. I’d love to speak to many of the famous film stars, including Bradley Cooper, as I believe he speaks fluent French!

What’s your best language-learning tip?

I have found that the best way to learn a language is to try to incorporate learning into your everyday life. Before my year abroad in France, I made a conscious effort to engage in French related activities as much as possible. For example, I used to listen to the French radio while exercising or cooking, and I regularly watched some of my favourite French YouTubers to familiarise myself with colloquial everyday French.

Another useful tip is to change the language settings on your phone to the language you’re learning. I always have the language on my mobile set to French as I think it’s a great way of learning useful vocabulary without realising it – always a bonus!

When it comes to speaking the language, I remember my language exchange partner telling me that his favourite way of practising his Spanish was to have conversations with himself out loud in the language (in private of course!). Although this may seem silly, it is a great way of getting your brain to think on the spot in the foreign language.

Quick-fire round

Favourite language

French

Favourite word/phrase in the language

C’est pas grave is such a simple but very common French phrase which always reminds me of the fantastic summer I spent working as an au pair in Nantes. I didn’t realise just how much it’s used in daily French until I heard how frequently my host family said it.

Favourite film

Les Choristes

Favourite TV show

Disparue

Favourite  singer

Belgian singer Stromae

Favourite destination

I have been lucky enough to have had the chance to visit some beautiful parts of the world, so, I have a few favourite destinations. I’ve picked my top 3 destinations (depending on what type of holiday I’m looking for):

  1. Côte d’Azur would have to be my number one holiday destination as I’ve spent many great family holidays in the South of France.
  2. If I’m looking for some good quality Italian food and spectacular scenery then the Amalfi Coast is a winner.
  3. My third and final choice has to be the French Alps as I spent many of my weekends skiing here during my year abroad in Grenoble.

Any further thoughts?

It’s true that learning a language is a lot of hard work, but it is also very worthwhile and rewarding. Being able to speak a foreign language opens so many doors both personally and professionally, so it’s important to push yourself to step outside your comfort zone and not to be afraid to make mistakes as that’s how we learn and progress. Always remember, no matter what stage of life you are at, it is never too late to learn another language. Allez-y, foncez !

 

CBF-ER 1.04 | Aux Halles de Menton

It’s market day in Menton and Mark brings you a fantastic episode, full of new vocabulary, featuring interviews with various stall holders in the covered market in Menton. You’ll hear about fish, spices, olives, fruit and vegetables and much more.

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 above 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 above, click here to access the lesson.

Accessing the Premium Version

thumb-cbf-enroute-season1
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

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts | RSS Feed | Purchase full course

CBI 2.21 | C’era molta gente e non faceva troppo freddo

In this lesson we’re focusing on a new tense, the imperfect, which is used for descriptions and to talk about repeated actions in the past. It’s a very straightforward tense, and Francesca shares some great news about the Imperfect in this episode! As usual, there are lots of examples and Mark and Francesca will test Isla on her understanding by the end of the lesson.

How not to be an imposter with your pasta!

Today, we’re bringing you the first of our Italian blog posts, and where better place to start than with a staple of Italian cuisine and culture: pasta! Far from being just an ingredient kept at the back of the cupboard, in Italy, pasta is so cherished that wheat often has to be imported in from other countries to keep up with Italians’ pasta-making demands! In this article, we have taken five common varieties of pasta and researched the origins of their names, which will not only help you find out more about the famous foodstuff, but will help improve your Italian vocabulary. We hope you enjoy this delicious learning experience, and that it takes you on a journey from “pasta imposter” to “pasta pro”! All that’s left to say now is buon appetito!

To get started, let’s have a look at the origin of the word ‘pasta’ itself. The English word ‘pasta’ was, of course, adopted from Italian, in which pasta also means ‘dough’. Looking further back, the word also derives from the Greek word παστά (pasta), strangely meaning ‘barley porridge’.

1) Conchiglie

Picture: Jameson Fink (Creative Commons 2.0)

The first pasta on our list is conchiglie. In English, a conch is a type of spiral-shaped seashell, and that’s exactly where the name for this shell-shaped pasta comes from. In Italian, the word for ‘seashell’ is conchiglia.

This pasta is traditionally made from durum wheat, and can be coloured with spinach, tomato or squid to produce green, red or black shades. There are many other pastas – like lumaconi – which have a similar shell-like form to conchiglie, and are large enough to be stuffed with delicious fillings and baked in the oven.

conchiglia (f) – seashell
lumaconi (m/pl) – slugs / large snails

Hai fame? Hungry yet? Take a look at this delicious recipe featuring conchiglie. In this easy-to-follow recipe, the shell-shaped pasta is stuffed with buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil leaves and homemade tomato sauce – three pillars of Italian cuisine.

2) Farfalle

Picture: eltpics (Creative Commons 2.0)

Instantly recognisable as bow tie shapes, farfalle are a true crowd-pleaser. However, the translation has nothing to do with bow ties. Can you guess the meaning of the word farfalle? In Italian, una farfalla is a butterfly, and farfalle is the plural form. Farfalle are best served with rich cheese or tomato-based sauces due to their large surface area, which takes on all of the flavour from the sauce.

There is also a mini version of farfalle, called farfalline, which is often stirred into soups.

farfalle (f/pl) – butterflies

We’ve found another mouth-watering recipe for you to try out: a healthy recipe which puts a slightly different spin on the classic pasta dish. Vorresti assaggiarlo tu? Perfect for summertime dinners or light lunches, this pasta salad can be whipped up in just half an hour!

3) Radiatori

Picture: Dave Prasad (Creative Commons 2.0)

The third pasta we’ve chosen, and perhaps the easiest to work out the etymology of, is radiatori. This ruffle-edged pasta is relatively new to the scene: introduced in the 1960’s, radiatori are medium-sized pasta shapes which are a popular choice for casseroles and other baked dishes. The literal translation of radiatori is – unsurprisingly – ‘radiators’, which is exactly what this pasta looks like: little radiators!

radiatore (m) – radiator

This third recipe is written in Italian, which will give you a chance to practise your food-related vocabulary, while trying your hand at this mushroom and crunchy pancetta radiatori dish. Serve this with a good glug of extra virgin olive oil and you’ll be good to go!

4) Tagliatelle

Picture: Jason Hamner (Creative Commons 2.0)

This versatile pasta – often eaten with creamy or meaty sauces – is probably the most well-known on our list. But what is the origin of the word tagliatelle? Its name comes from a verb which translates as ‘to slice’ or ‘to cut’: tagliare. So, tagliatelle literally means ‘small slices’, perfectly describing the long strips of this ribbon-like pasta!

tagliare (vb) – to cut / to slice
taglio (m) – cut / slice

Although most would associate spaghetti with bolognese sauce, it is tagliatelli which most frequently accompanies an authentic bolognese sauce in Italy. Cosa aspetti? Try making your own Tagliatelle Bolognese using this recipe.

5) Rotelle

Picture: cookbookman (Creative Commons 2.0)

Taken from the word rotella, meaning ‘little wheel’ or ‘cogwheel’, this pasta is often referred to as ‘wagon wheel’ pasta in the U.S. Similar to the flower-shaped fiori pasta, the large surface area of rotelle, provided by their ‘spokes’, means that they take on extra flavour when added to any sauce!

rotelle (f/pl) – little wheels
rotare (vb) – to rotate
fiore (m) – flower

To finish, we have another recipe in Italian for you. Follow this step-by-step guide to create a tasty Italian sausage sauce – the perfect compliment to this ‘wagon wheel’ pasta.

We hope that you’ve enjoyed the first of our Italian articles, and that we’ve reminded you that learning a language is not all about grammar books and memorising verb lists. There are countless interesting opportunities for incorporating language-learning into our everyday lives, including at dinner time! Do you have a favourite pasta dish that you’d like to share with your fellow Italian learners? If so, let us know in the comments below!

CBG 2.21 | Als ich ein Kind war, durfte ich nicht so viel fernsehen

In this lesson you’ll learn to talk about rules and regulations in the past using the Präteritum of the modal verbs dürfen and müssen. By the end of the lesson you’ll know how to talk about what you were or weren’t allowed to do as a child.

CBF-ER 1.03 | Une Visite à Sainte-Agnès

In this episode Mark visits the hilltop village of Sainte-Agnès, the highest coastal town in Europe. He talks to locals and visitors to the village. As with all episodes of En Route, this will give you the perfect opportunity to practise your French and find out about another beautiful part of the Côte d’Azur.

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 above 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 above, click here to access the lesson.

Accessing the Premium Version

thumb-cbf-enroute-season1
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

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts | RSS Feed | Purchase full course