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Meet the team: Francesca

Francesca imageCiao, I’m Francesca and, as you can guess, I’m Italian! I’m a teacher of Italian as foreign language and I have been in this profession for over a decade. I joined Radio Lingua in 2014 when I witnessed the birth of Coffee Break Italian! I assisted Mark in the production of Season 1 and at the moment I’m contributing to the development of Season 2.

What is your role in Coffee Break?

My role is varied as I am not only the Italian voice you hear in the podcasts, but I also deal with the design of course outlines and content. In other words, I’m in charge of deciding which grammar points, vocabulary and communicative situations are presented in each episode of Coffee Break Italian. I also enjoy the Radio Lingua team at events where we get to know our listeners and tell them more about language learning.

Francesca and Pierre-Benoît at the Language Show in London

What experience have you had speaking and learning other languages?

I started learning English in Italy when I was about 11 and it was love at first sight! I think it gave me a new identity and a different way of looking at the world so I decided that I would have never abandon it. When it came to choosing my secondary school, I opted for Liceo Linguistico where, amongst other subjects and English, I learned French, German and Latin. I studied English and Russian at the University of Trieste, where I specialised in Translation and Interpreting. As part of my degree I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend some time abroad: I did my Erasmus year near London and I took part in an exchange programme with the Moscow State Linguistic University. I must say that my love for foreign languages includes my own beautiful Italian which I have been teaching for years after specialising in Teaching Italian as a Foreign Language at the University of Siena. I taught Italian in Kiev for a year and I have been teaching Italian in Scotland since 2009. I never tire of learning new things about languages and at the moment I’m trying to master Spanish.

Francesca in Ukraine
Francesca in Ukraine

What are your favourite memories of working with Coffee Break?

I have so many nice memories with the lovely people of Coffee Break, but my favourite dates back to April 2016. As you might remember, Mark, Katie and I were at Lake Maggiore filming and recording the last ten episodes of Season 1 of CBI. One day we decided to visit Pettinengo, the mountain village where I grew up and where all my family live. We went around interviewing all the locals (like the pharmacist, the barista, the owner of the only food shop), chatting with all the familiar faces and visiting my parents. It was very emotional for me being back home and listening to the tales (and jokes!) that everyone had to tell. Despite being away from Pettinengo for so long, on that occasion I felt I belonged there and I could never thank Mark enough for giving me such a privileged way to rediscover my roots!

Interviewing native speakers on the shores of Lake Orta

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

I would love a coffee break with the Italian writer Andrea Camilleri in a remote Sicilian village at the seaside. If accompanied by traditional paste di mandorla (soft almond biscuits), even better!

What’s your best language-learning tip?

Language learning must be a pleasure and it only happens when you are enjoying it and you are highly motivated. My tip is try not to be afraid of making mistakes and accept them as part of the learning process. Once you have overcome that barrier things will get easier. Grab every single opportunity to speak and do something with that language. Don’t leave it in the grammar book! Learning by doing is the best way to put all those hours of study into practice.

Francesca and Mark winning the British Podcast Award for Coffee Break Italian

Quick-fire round

  • Favourite language: English
  • Favourite word/phrases in that language: I have a full list of words and phrases which I love in English. Here are three of my favourite ones:
    • Bob’s your uncle!
    • Whatever!
    • Glaikit (in Scottish!)
  • Favourite film: Pane e Tulipani
  • Favourite TV show: any cooking programme
  • Favourite book: La casa de los espíritus by Isabel Allende
  • Favourite singer: Franco Battiato
  • Favourite destination: I don’t have a favourite destination I think, but that magic of abandoning mainland to reach Venice by train is unbeatable.

Do you have a message for the Coffee Break community?

If you are reading this page it’s because, like me, you are also a language enthusiast. It’s great to see that the world is not monolingual and hopefully more multilingual people will contribute to making this planet a better place where we can all learn from one another. To quote Nelson Mandela: “if you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”. Obviously the same is true for women, too! Happy language learning, everyone!

CBG 2.24 | Wovor fürchtest du dich?

In this episode you’ll learn to use reflexive verbs in German. In addition to being able to talk about “washing yourself” and “scratching yourself” (among other things!), you’ll also learn to talk about looking forward to things, relaxing, deciding, catching a cold, getting annoyed, remembering things and complaining! Reflexive verbs are hugely important and this lesson will equip you with everything you need to know!

Ab Donnerstag im Kino: our top six film recommendations for German learners

What better time is there to celebrate recent films from the German-speaking world than in the run-up to the 67th annual Berlin International Film Festival, taking place next month, from February 15th-25th? The variety within the German movie industry really is astonishing, but we have managed to find some of the most highly-rated films to give you a taste of what’s produced for the silver screen there. They can be enjoyed with or without subtitles.

One thing, just before we get started. Did you notice the title of this blog article? Ab Donnerstag im Kino means “from Thursday in the cinema” and it’s a common phrase associated with films because new films are traditionally released on a Thursday in Germany. Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s sit back and relax. Schnapp’ dir eine Schüssel Popcorn und los geht’s!

 

1. Nirgendwo in Afrika [Nowhere in Africa] (2001)

This film is based on Stefanie Zweig’s autobiography, telling the story of a Jewish family’s escape from Nazi Germany in 1938. Walter Redlich had worked as a lawyer in Germany, but takes on the role of a farm manager when he arrives in Africa. His wife, Jettel, and daughter, Regina, join him later. The little girl adapts quickly to life in her new country with ease and enthusiasm, whereas his wife misses their old life and finds it takes longer to adjust. Together, the family learn to cope with their changed circumstances in a new land.

2. Good Bye, Lenin! (2003)
 

Set against a time of great change, der Mauerfall and die Wiedervereinigung, “Good bye Lenin!” relays the tale of a young man’s efforts to hide the true events of German history from his mum. He does this with the best of intentions, as she is not to receive any shock that may have a detrimental effect on her health, after being in a coma. Consequently, Alex goes to great lengths to maintain the pretence that everything is as it was, never letting on to his Mum that the Berlin Wall has fallen. How far will Alex go in contriving elaborate schemes in order to shield his mum from the reality of the outer world?

 

3. Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage [Sophie Scholl: The Final Days] (2005)

Based on the life of anti-Nazi heroine, Sophie Scholl, played by Julia Jentsch, this story is set in 1943 in Munich. The plot deals with the interrogation process and the last 6 days of Scholl’s life. Genuine incarceration records were used to help make the film. She and her brother were members of the student resistance group “The White Rose”. They have been detained after distributing leaflets which criticise the regime. The police inspector Robert Mohr, played by Alexander Held, is unsuccessful in retrieving the information he needs from Sophie. With her firm idealist values, Sophie does not budge on her stance for a lighter sentence in return for accomplices’ names. At its core, the film is a debate over which side is freer: those who bow down to the regime in fear or those who defy it and remain true to their beliefs. The former may conform to survive, but can anyone truly ‘live’?

 

4. Die Fälscher [The Counterfeiters] (2007)

In 2007, this picture won best foreign language film at the Oscars. A Jewish prisoner of war has skills that are valuable to the camp commandant. His counterfeiting abilities are used by his captors against the Allies. Do the prisoners go along with the guards’ plan for their own self-preservation in a desperate situation, or do they try to outsmart the guards and remain loyal to the Allies?

 

5. Oh Boy! [A Coffee in Berlin] (2012)

This black and white comedy introduces the viewer to Niko. He’s unemployed, having dropped out of his Jurastudium 2 years ago, but didn’t let his dad know this important detail about this change in his life. His dad isn’t happy to learn he’s been funding his son’s carefree lifestyle. Niko begins to learn that his dry wit will only get him so far in life. When he strikes up a romance with a former school friend, he confides in her, Kennst du das, wenn man so das Gefühl hat, dass die Menschen um einen herum irgendwie merkwürdig sind? Und dir wird irgendwie klar, dass vielleicht nicht die Anderen, sondern dass man selbst das Problem ist? Is Niko beginning to look at his choices in life again?

 

6. Honig im Kopf [Head full of Honey] (2014)

Til Schweiger has not only written and directed this movie, but stars in it too, alongside his daughter, who plays his daughter in the film. It makes it clear that family is a core theme of the film, revolving around the grandfather’s Alzheimer’s disease. As the grandfather’s condition worsens, Niko, his son, decides he cannot keep sidestepping the inevitability of putting his dad in a home. Tilda, the granddaughter, has different ideas and in a bid to save her grandfather from this fate, sets off with him in an adventure to Venice. It’s a place full of fond memories as this is where he spent his honeymoon with his departed wife.There are laughs to be had in the granddad’s inappropriate remarks which raise a few eyebrows, and tears when reliving the past proves to be tough with a fading memory.

 

We hope you’ve enjoyed this small selection from the huge array of films produced in the German-speaking world this century. Es ist für jeden etwas dabei! Whether you’re a seasoned movie buff, looking for an exciting way to develop your language skills further or just fancy watching a different kind of film for a change, we hope something from this selection appeals to you – just in time for die Berlinale too! Let us know of any other films you would recommend: the more, the merrier!

Practice makes perfect: 1-on-1 lessons with italki

Since 2006 we’ve been providing language courses for learners around the world and we believe that Coffee Break provides the perfect solution for learners starting out with a language, or building their comprehension skills to take their learning further. Through Coffee Break French, German, Spanish, Italian and Chinese, you can build a solid understanding of the language and learn to use it in a wide variety of situations. However, one area we can’t help you with directly is with your speaking skills, and that’s why we’ve teamed up with italki, a leading provider of 1-on-1 language teachers and native speakers with whom you can practise what you’ve learned on Coffee Break.

italki offers lessons and practise sessions from the comfort of your own home. You can connect with hundreds of teachers and native speakers of your chosen language and schedule a live 1 on 1 session to put into practice the language you’re learning in your Coffee Break course.

How does it work?

Scheduling an italki lesson couldn’t be easier.

  1. Browse the italki profiles of professional teachers and tutors and select a teacher based on their experience and reviews from other learners. Many teachers and tutors offer a trial session so that you can decide if they’re a good match for you.
  2. Choose a time and date which suits you for your live lesson.
  3. Connect with your chosen teacher at the appointed time via Skype or other video chat software.

Watch the video below for more information on italki.

 

Why do we recommend italki?

Learning a language is about both “receptive skills”, or “input”, where you learn to understand the written and the spoken language. The Coffee Break lessons will help you develop your understanding, your knowledge of grammar and the patterns of the language, and your ability to use the language yourself. It’s also about “productive skills”, or “output”, where you’re “producing” the language by talking and writing it. Through our lessons and particularly our bonus audio materials, we help you to train yourself on knowing the right word or phrase to use at the right time. The missing element is getting the all-important feedback on whether what you are saying is, in fact, right. That’s where a friendly native speaker or teacher comes in, and that’s why we’ve partnered with italki.

A special offer for Coffee Break learners

We’ve also been able to put in place a special offer for Coffee Break learners: when you purchase your first live lesson with a teacher or native speaker on italki, you’ll receive a voucher for $10USD in italki credits. Please note that this offer is only available for new italki users.

Coffee Break language courses provide you with the best language training on the planet, and italki connects you with the best teachers and native speakers to practise what you’ve learned!

Meet the team: Flora

flora imageHello! My name’s Flora, and I’m Radio Lingua’s Digital Communications and Content Executive. I’ve been working with Radio Lingua since October 2016, when I started as an intern during my final year of university. I studied French and Spanish at the University of Glasgow, and started working full-time for Radio Lingua when I graduated.

What is your role in Coffee Break?

Among other things, I help to create, organise and manage all of the content we produce, whether that be coming up with social media posts, or helping with the creation of new language learning materials. I also play a role in customer support and help with various admin tasks. My job is extremely varied and I learn new things all the time. On any one day, I might be transcribing Spanish interviews for a new podcast, and then replying to tweets from the Coffee Break community. I’ve also been involved in internship recruitment processes, and managing and setting weekly tasks for teams of interns each year.

What experience have you had speaking and learning other languages?

I was interested in French from a young age because my family moved to Brussels for 3 years when I was three. Being surrounded by different languages at that age is definitely what led me to pursue them further. I loved my French classes all the way through school and also tried my hand at German for one year. When I left school, I decided to keep studying French at university, and also took up Spanish as a total beginner. As part of my degree, I spent one year studying Translation and Interpreting in Granada, Spain and 4 months working in Montpellier in an English centre, both of which were fantastic opportunities for improving my Spanish and French. I also recently started going to a beginners Italian class, which I’ve really enjoyed because it’s just been for fun.

What are your favourite memories of working with RLN?

I really enjoyed helping with our internship recruitment processes, which involved speaking to students at my old university, presenting at our information sessions and asking questions in the interviews. Kristina and I have worked closely with all of the interns this year, so it’s been nice to see the whole process come ‘full circle’, as we both took part in the internship too. We also launched the Coffee Break Reading Club, which we first started working on as interns, so it’s been great to have been involved in that from start to finish.

Flora recording with Mark in Ronda, Spain

Another great memory is the work trip to Spain in September 2017 with Mark and Kristina, which I enjoyed so much that I accidentally referred to it as a ‘holiday’ one evening! We were in Spain to record new content for our En Marcha series, visiting places in the Málaga region and chatting to locals. It was my job to get in contact with potential interviewees via email in Spanish and to create an interview schedule for the week so that we knew who we were seeing each day. I also learned how to record professional video and audio footage, conducted an interview in Spanish with an art expert from the Pompidou Centre in Málaga, and went on a food tour around the city. It was a great week and I’ve since enjoyed coordinating the production of the series and seeing how many people have listened to the podcast and how much they’ve been enjoying it.

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

My ideal coffee break would be a late-afternoon café con leche in one of the cafés at the San Nicolás viewpoint in Granada, overlooking the Alhambra Palace. As for the company, I’d have to choose the actor Miguel Ángel Silvestre, who stars in a few of the Spanish TV series that I’ve watched over the years. If he’s not available that day, though, I’d have to choose my two sisters.

Solo le falta a Miguel Ángel – all that’s missing is Miguel Ángel!

What’s your best language-learning tip?

For me, a huge part of language learning is overcoming the fear of making mistakes. I learned Spanish mainly through speaking it, whereas I learned French from textbooks in a classroom environment. When I started living in Spain, I could barely understand what people were saying, but made an effort to go to language exchanges each week. I made so many mistakes when speaking at first, and kept using French words by accident, but I found that the phrase ‘you can never make the same mistake twice’ is absolutely true for language learning, as making mistakes really helped me learn. I realised that nobody was going to laugh at me for mixing up a complicated verb conjugation or using the wrong past tense, and my Spanish improved much more quickly after that.

“Quick-fire round” (short answers)

  • Favourite language – Spanish and French
  • Favourite word/phrase in the language – I like the word for peninsula in French (presqu’île) as it literally means ‘nearly island’. I also like the word anteayer in Spanish, as it’s a really handy word which doesn’t exist in English.
  • Favourite film / TV show / Book / Radio Station?
    Spanish: Film – Julieta, TV show – Velvet (guilty pleasure), Chicas del cable and Sé quién eres
    French: Film – Les Intouchables, TV show – Les Revenants
    Swedish: Film – A Man Called Ove (adapted from the book by Fredrik Backman)
  • Favourite destination – In Spain: Granada or the Costa Brava, above Barcelona. In France: the area around Nice, or a wee town called St-Guilhem-le-Désert, near Montpellier.
Flora interviewing art expert Jaime Mena in the Pompidou Centre in Málaga

Any further thoughts?

Learning a language isn’t easy and can be an really frustrating process at times. It can sometimes seem that you’ll never reach a high enough level to be able to communicate with people fluently, and it’s so easy just to throw in the towel each time you hit a ‘wall’. However, if you manage to break through these walls, it’s so rewarding. Languages allow you to communicate with more people across the world, and meet people you never would have met if you had only spoken one language. They also broaden your mind and make you see the world in a totally different way; the advantages are endless!

CBI 2.23 | Cosa facevi quando ti ho telefonato?

In this lesson we’re focusing on combining the Perfect and the Imperfect which together allow us to tell stories in the past. You’ll consolidate what you already know about each of the tenses and you’ll recognise certain words and expressions which trigger the Perfect or the Imperfect. Francesca also has some mystery Italian personalities for us to identify in the Caffè Culturale.

Introducing the Coffee Break Reading Club

Here at Coffee Break Languages, we’ve been very busy putting together a brand new course in response to the Coffee Break community’s requests for more reading content. We’re delighted to launch the Reading Club today in French, German, Italian and Spanish!

The Coffee Break Reading Club has been designed to help intermediate learners build their vocabulary and comprehension skills, while learning about many aspects of culture of the countries and areas where the languages are spoken. There are texts on sporting activities, cultural events, tourist attractions, customs and traditions, and many more topics.

How does it work?

It couldn’t be easier to take part in this new course: we simply send you an email every week for the next year. If you can put aside 10-15 minutes – the perfect coffee break! – once a week, then you’re well on your way to improving your comprehension skills in the language you’re learning.

The basic version of the Reading Club is absolutely free: you can sign up and we’ll send you the weekly texts. If you prefer, there’s also a premium version of the Reading Club. If you’d like vocabulary lists, a comprehension exercise, and the exclusive audio version of the texts where you can listen to a native speaker reading the text at a normal speaking speed and a slower version, then you can access the premium version of the Reading Club.

Interested? Read on!

It’s really easy to access both the free version and the premium version of the Coffee Break Reading Club. Simply click on the links below:

We’re sure that you’ll enjoy building your reading skills with the Coffee Break Reading Club.

¡Es intraducible! Our 10 favourite untranslatable Spanish words

Have you ever learned a new word in a different language and wondered how on earth you would translate it into English? Have you then started to doubt your translation skills, thinking that you no longer even know your own language very well? Well… fear not! In every language there are words which are ‘untranslatable’, meaning that they cannot be translated into another language using just a single word.

Often, the reason for a word’s ‘untranslatable-ness’ is rooted in the cultural differences between the speakers of each language, as some cultural concepts which exist in the Spanish-speaking world simply don’t exist in the English-speaking world, for example.

In this article, we’re focusing on Spanish words which can’t be translated easily into English, although some of them do have direct equivalents in other languages, such as French or Italian. All of the words on the list are used relatively frequently in conversation, so listen out for them next time you’re practising your Spanish. You might even come across some of them in an episode of Coffee Break Spanish! ¿Estamos listos? ¡Vamos!

 

1) Estrenar

Familiar with the feeling when you’ve bought a new outfit and can’t wait to wear it? Well, fashion-conscious Spanish-speakers have a single word to perfectly describe the 11-worded English equivalent “to wear a new item of clothing for the first time”: estrenar.

  • Meaning: To wear something for the first time / to use something for the first time.
  • In context: Esta noche voy a estrenar el vestido azul que compré ayer.
  • Translation: I’m going to wear the blue dress I bought yesterday for the first time tonight.

 

2) Tapear

tapear - to go out for tapas

Everyone who has visited Spain will be familiar with the concept of going out for tapas. While in English we say “to go out for tapas” or simply “to have tapas”, in Spain it’s more common to hear the phrase ir de tapas – literally “to go of tapas”. For example: vamos de tapas con José y Lucía esta noche. However, if this phrase is too much of a mouthful (excuse the pun), the Spanish have a verb to describe the activity of going out to eat tapas: tapear.

  • Meaning: To eat tapas, often with the idea of moving from bar to bar
  • In context: Este bar es uno de los mejores para tapear en Granada.
  • Translation: This bar is one of the best bars to go out for tapas in Granada.

 

3) Quincena

Although this next word does have a direct equivalent in French (quinzaine), the closest word we have in English is “fortnight” or “two weeks”.

  • Meaning: A period of 15 days, sometimes used in reference to the working calendar, as people are often paid bi-monthly in Spain. Commonly used to talk about the first or the second half of a particular month.
  • Context: En la primera quincena de julio llega la feria al pueblo.
  • Translation: The festival comes to town in the the first fortnight of July.

 

4) Friolero/friolento

Are you one of those people who always seems to be shivering while everyone around you is complaining about the heat and opening all the windows in the house? In Spanish, the words friolero/a and friolento/a are used to describe those who feel the cold more than others.

  • Meaning: Somebody who gets cold very easily.
  • In context: Javi es muy friolero, prefiere el verano al invierno.
  • Translation: Javi really feels the cold; he prefers summer to winter.

 

5) Puente

puente - a long weekend

You may have come across the literal meaning of the word puente before (bridge), but puente is also used in another very common context.

  • Meaning: A special type of long weekend, when a holiday falls on a Thursday or a Tuesday so you only need to take off one extra day off work to turn it into a four-day weekend, thus “bridging” the gap from Thursday to Monday, for example.
  • In context: ¿Qué haces el puente de Mayo? Yo me quedo en casa, las vacaciones son para descansar.
  • Translation: What are you doing during the long weekend in May? I’m staying at home, holidays are for relaxing.

 

6) Soler

Out of all of the words on this list, soler is probably the most commonly-used in everyday conversational Spanish. To describe habitual actions in English, we tend to use the structure “subject + usually + verb (infinitive)”, but in Spanish, we use the structure “soler (conjugated) + secondary verb (infinitive)”. Take a look at the example below to get your head around this unusual grammatical structure.

  • Meaning: To usually do something / to do something habitually / to tend to do something
  • In context: Suelo ir de vacaciones en junio.
  • Translation: I usually go to the beach in June.

 

7) Tocayo/tocaya

This one will come in useful for those of you who have a common first name!

  • Meaning: Somebody who has the same name as you / your ‘name-twin’, or namesake.
  • In Context: Me confundes con otra Elena, es mi tocaya.
  • Translation: You’re getting me mixed up with the other Elena, we have the same name.

 

8) Entrecejo

Ever wondered what that little space in between your eyebrows is called? No? Well, the Spanish clearly have, as they have a word to describe it!

  • Meaning: The space between one’s eyebrows.
  • In context: Pablo tiene muchas arrugas en el entrecejo.
  • Translation: Pablo has lots of wrinkles between his eyebrows.

 

9) Almorzar

El almuerzo is a light snack eaten between breakfast and lunch, and almorzar is its verb form. Some people think of el almuerzo as “lunch”, but when you consider that the main meal in the middle of the day in Spain rarely starts before 2:30 or 3:00, you’ll understand the need for almuerzo.

  • Meaning: Similar to ‘elevenses’ in the U.K.
  • In context: Almuerzo cada día sobre las 11 de la mañana. 
  • Translation: I have a snack every day at about 11am.

 

10) Sobremesa

sobremesa - after-dinner chit-chat

This may be one of the most well-known words on our list, as it refers to an inherent aspect of Spanish culture: the act of taking the time to sit around the table after a meal, talking to the people you’ve shared it with and enjoying each other’s company.

  • Meaning: The after-dinner chit-chat people share whilst still sat at the table. It can also literally mean “tablecloth”.
  • In context: Mientras los padres hacen sobremesa, los niños juegan en el parque de juegos.
  • Translation: While the parents take some time to chat at the table after eating, the children play in the playground.

 

We hope this list of ‘untranslatable’ words will help you on your way to sounding more Spanish in conversation! Remember that these words may vary from country to country in the Spanish-speaking world, so it’s always a good idea to read up on a country before visiting, just to ensure you’re saying the right thing! Let us know what you thought of this article in the comments section below. ¡Hasta la próxima!

Meet the team: Crystal

My name is Crystal and I work with Mark to develop and record Coffee Break Chinese.
I graduated with a Bachelor degree of English and International Business from Shanghai International Studies University in China and later on an MBA from Nottingham Business School in the UK. In my early career, I worked in a variety of companies in China including US business information company Dun & Bradstreet, and for the Finnish Consulate in Shanghai, assisting Finnish businesses entering the Chinese market. I also worked in large state-owned companies in China, involved in developing strategies to attract foreign investment into China.
In 2014, I established Crystal Pan-China Consulting in Scotland. My company specialises in cross-cultural awareness between China and Britain, in a business setting. I have provided consultancy services to the Scottish Government, Scottish Opera and Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and local companies both large and small in Chinese business culture and etiquette.
I am also a linguist with a genuine interest in history and the usage of language. I am one of only few that have obtained the “Certificate for Teachers of Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages”, which is issued by the Chinese Government. Since 2016 I embarked on the journey of Mandarin teaching and have never looked back.

 

What experience have you had speaking and learning other languages?

In China, English is a compulsory subject at schools. In cities, children start to learn English even at nursery schools. This continues throughout the primary, secondary and university education. In my experience of learning English, the biggest difficulty was a severe lack of language environment and access to English learning materials: text books were the primary learning material. We had to learn by memorising words and phrases in a hard way. So when I came to the UK to study for an MBA, I found my English was rather ‘book English’. Being immersed in an English-speaking environment, exposed to the nuances of the language, the English sense of humour and culture was the critical point in my English learning journey.  If only I had an English equivalent of Coffee Break Chinese which would have allowed me not only to learn the language, but also the culture in a relaxed way!

As a qualified Mandarin teacher, I am teaching non-Chinese speakers Mandarin and Chinese speakers English. It is said that “to teach is to learn twice”. I love constantly learning English as well as my native language Chinese as part of my teaching.

 

What are your favourite memories of working with the Coffee Break team?

One day when I arrived at the studio to record Coffee Break Chinese as usual, Mark gently broke the news that we were going to do our first live broadcast on Facebook. He kept on reassuring me there was nothing to worry about, and he would make sure I would be fully prepared for the live show. Believe it or not, the whole experience turned out to be surprisingly relaxing and enjoyable. Being able to meet and talk to our learners live was simply incredible!

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

I would love to learn French.  My ideal Coffee Break moment would be reading my favourite book, The Little Prince, in French with the author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, in a rose garden in the South of France.

What advice do you have for Coffee Break learners?

Using the language you are learning as much as possible.  Love each one of your successful mistakes in your language learning experience.

Quick-fire round

  • Favourite language: English and Mandarin
  • Favourite word or phrase: To forget a friend is sad. Not everyone has had a friend. (The Little Prince)
  • Favourite Book – The Little Prince
  • Favourite destination – Paris, where we celebrated my daughter’s 18th birthday; Tuscany where we had an amazing family holiday with my younger brother who lives in China.

Do you have a message for the Coffee Break community?

Learning language is such an enjoyable and fulfilling experience. I cannot imagine what would I be and where I would be today without learning English. Go for it and you will fall in love!

 

CBF-ER 1.05 | Sur la Moyenne Corniche

In this episode Mark is travelling from Nice to Monaco, along one of Europe’s most impressive roads, la Moyenne Corniche. Clinging to the cliffs with sheer drops to the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean on one side, this road travels through Villefranche-sur-Mer, Èze, Cap d’Ail, Beausoleil and on to Monaco. As you join Mark en route, you’ll listen to a series of informative conversations he has with people visiting the region and working there.

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

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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.

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CBG 2.23 | Hilfst du deinen Kindern bei ihren Hausaufgaben?

We’ve already covered the topic of family in Coffee Break German, but in this lesson you’ll learn how to talk about your extended family, and deal with possessive pronouns in the nominative, accusative and dative cases. Is it mein, meine, meinen, meinem or meiner? By the end of this lesson, you’ll know!

5 reasons why learning Hungarian is “csodálatos” (wonderful!)

Hungarian is spoken by roughly 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. Some people find Hungarian difficult to learn, but as even just a little language can go a long way, we’ll show you why you’ll instantly fall in love with Hungarian!

1. Beauty from within

Most people will find the sound Italian or Spanish very melodious, whether they understand the language or not. Hungarian, even though it sounds nice to begin with, is a language that gets increasingly beautiful the more you learn. There are countless puns and twists in the Hungarian language, not only in poetry and idioms, but also in everyday speech. Very often these defy translation and are guaranteed to entertain any language learner.

2. A logical language

Every language has its own system, its own “logic”. When you learn a new language, it’s not just about the words, it’s also about understanding that logic. Learning a language based on a different logic helps you better understand how your own language works. Hungarian grammar is very different from English grammar. In Hungarian grammar, words are linked together through the way they sound which also gives the language a really nice flow and melody. Although it can be very complex, the grammar itself is mostly logical and, once you manage to get your head around it, it becomes second nature.

3. Overcoming the challenge

Hungarian is very different from most European languages. If you’re the type of person who likes a challenge and to do something entirely new, learning Hungarian is a wonderful option. The great news is, many aspects of the language are easier than you may think. For example, the alphabet is mostly phonetic, which means that once you learn how to pronounce each letter, you’re good to go. There’s even more good news: you only have to learn three tenses (past, present, future) and wait for it … there’s no gender!

4. A helping hand with the language

It goes without saying that Hungarians are a very friendly and welcoming people, but if they find out you’re learning their language, they will be even more delighted and eager to help you embark on this adventure. While English is spoken in larger cities, a knowledge of Hungarian, even just a few words, will unlock some of the most beautiful parts of the country, taking you off the beaten track and allowing you to meet people, make friends and learn more Hungarian.

5. A cultural wonder

From Aggtelek’s magnificent limestone caves, to the lively shores of the Balaton, the largest lake in Central Europe, from the fascinating Hortobágy National Park to one of the most beautiful European cities, Hungary’s capital, Budapest – Hungary has countless wonders to see. However, experiencing Hungary is so much more than the tourist attractions. Hungarian culture is one of the richest and most well-preserved in all of Europe. Catching a performance and táncház (lit. dance house) of Hungarian folk dances, as well as trying traditional food like the töltött káposzta or a proper pörkölt (stew) are essentials on a trip to Hungary. But most of all, they are going to make you fall in love with Hungary and leave you with a desire to learn Hungarian.

Talking of which, now that you know why it’s “csodálatos” learning Hungarian, if you want to take your first steps in getting to know this wonderful language, One Minute Hungarian is the place to start. While it won’t make you fluent in the language, if you follow each lesson and learn all the words and phrases covered, you will be well on your way to interacting with native Hungarian speakers. Click here to access One Minute Hungarian and start learning this beautiful language today!