Meet Amanda, Coffee Break Italian learner

Originally from Australia, Amanda now lives in New York where she moved to work as a lawyer. However, she is now focusing on pursuing a career as a writer. Having Lebanese parents, Amanda can speak Arabic and has also studied Japanese. Amanda started learning Italian for a partner. However, even after the end of that relationship, she continued studying, having fallen in love with the language, culture and her friends at Coffee Break Italian. She is now “enjoying learning a language that you don’t have to learn a whole new alphabet for!”

After only 2 months of studying the language, her progress was put to the test on a trip to Italy. Although she was nervous at first, she managed to understand and follow conversations which boosted her confidence.

Amanda starts by telling us how she discovered Coffee Break Italian: “I was looking up ways to learn Italian then I came across the free podcasts and I started listening to them. I then went to the website and realised that I could purchase the package and get the notes which I found very helpful. There was this news article which had a list of podcasts which are useful for learning a language…which is where I came across it.” 

What Amanda enjoys the most about the lessons is the interaction between the hosts: “I really like the people that are a part of CB Italian, I feel like they’re my friends. I just feel like it’s very easy, even though there is no one there to judge me I feel like they’re patient. It’s not boring, it’s interesting, they seem like they’re having fun. I like the balance between Mark, whose Italian is great but they’ve also got a native speaker for pronunciation which I really appreciate.”

Amanda enjoys learning alongside another learner (featured on the podcast): “It’s good as I can relate to the learner, It’s actually quite comforting when you’re learning a new language to know that you’re not the only one  who can’t pronounce something….if she makes a mistake they leave it in there and correct her but they do it nicely so I then also know that ‘ok it’s not so bad if I make a mistake’. It sounds like they’re having so much fun which is really nice, it’s not boring. And it’s nice to have someone who is a native English speaker but who can speak Italian really well because it almost shows you what you can do but it’s also great having that native Italian speaker for pronunciation and just hearing it, it’s a great way to learn. I think it’s a really great set up.”

Amanda continues: I like the listening but I also appreciate that you can get the notes. I like hearing it and then seeing how (the words are) spelt. Being a native English speaker, I’m not learning a whole new alphabet but then it just helps me when I read it to make sure that I’m pronouncing the sounds that in English would be different. I really appreciate that. Having the notes is helpful if you want to look back on something but I learn more by hearing something and especially with language, I think that’s really important. So I really like that way of learning and because it is such a fun and casual setting, it makes me want to listen to it more than when it’s a bit more sort of in a lecture; it feels more like a chore that way.”

Amanda particularly enjoys the fact that the podcasts fit in around her busy lifestyle: “I can just listen to it on my way to work. In New York everyone is in a rush so I can just start talking to myself in Italian and no one really pays much notice. I can listen to it while I’m walking to work or on my lunch break and repeat it out loud. It’s a great way to be efficient with the time that I have….and then I go back home and look over my notes. It’s a helpful way to reinforce what I’ve just heard to look at them half an hour later.”

Listening to the CB podcasts means the Amanda can learn at her own pace, making her feel more in control of her learning: “I like that I can do this in my own time. It’s great because you’ve got all the online stuff, you can write comments, there’s a community to support you. I like the videos. I’ve also got the YouTube videos with CBI , it’s nice as you can put a face to the name. It just always seems like they’re having a great time. I’ve actually recommended it to a few friends who are learning other languages.”

Coming to terms with differences in the way in which things are said in another language is often difficult to get your head around. However, as Amanda points out, once you are aware of these differences and accept them, it become easier. “The biggest challenge I face is the order of the words because in English you might say: ‘Can you turn the light off?’, and in another language it might be: ‘Light off can you please?’, something like that. That for me is one of the more difficult things because I just want to be able to ask my questions or just speak, but I have to remember the different order. With Italian, it is always remembering that you have to put ‘the’ in front of everything which I think is very unusual but you’ve got to get past what you think is strange or what is unnatural and just let that go.”

As we mentioned earlier, Amanda speaks Japanese and Arabic, both of which are quite different to Italian. Amanda tells us about the key differences. “The thing with those other languages is that you’re learning a whole new script and very different sounds. Even though (Italian) is different to English, it’s still based on Latin so it’s not a difficult language to listen to or be able to pronounce. Arabic is a very difficult language to speak because you make one sound that you think is right and it could be something completely different, so that’s the good thing I think with Italian. The other thing is, because it’s Latin based, I think I underestimated how much easier it would be. It’s easier than those other languages but it’s still not easy, it takes a lot of effort.”

Amanda tells us the story behind one of her favourite Italian words: “It’s funny because there is a TV show called ‘Master of None’ here in the US and the main character is a well known comedian and he spends the first few episodes of the second series in Italy. He comes across the word allora (which just means ‘ok, so’). The way that the actor was saying it was in a very exaggerated way! So, when my friends found out I was learning Italian, they would keep saying this word to me every time I spoke to them. They’re like: ‘Allora, how are you?’, ‘Allora, how’s your Italian going?’ It’s this joke now that has unfortunately surpassed many pretty words, but I laugh every time. It’s a pretty language so I’m definitely happy to be learning it.”

Amanda ends our chat with a message for the Coffee Break team: “I really appreciate the way you guys do it, the way you guys have come up with it. Once I had started learning with CBI I realised that they had won an award for the podcast which they so deserve as it’s so well done! Another thing I like which they do are the scenarios in-between. They teach you words then they speak between themselves in different scenarios, it’s at a nice pace. I think they’ve done a fantastic job with it and I’m very happy I stumbled upon it.”