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Meet James, Coffee Break Spanish, Italian, French and Swedish learner

This week, 31 year old Gardener, James from the South of England, tells us how he transitioned from having no knowledge of any foreign languages to becoming a language enthusiast, thanks to learning with Coffee Break.

For the past 20 years, James has been making trips to his holiday home in Torrevieja, just south of Alicante in Spain. However, admittedly, it took him some time to start learning Spanish. He tells us how he came to the realisation that a little language goes a long way:

“It didn’t even occur to me to start learning Spanish because the natives are so keen to speak English to tourists and it didn’t feel overly necessary. One day however, I noticed that my brother was attempting to speak in Spanish to the waiters etc a lot more and with some success. It was on that holiday 7 years ago that I was first introduced to Coffee Break. Fast forward to today, and I am now able to speak, write and read Spanish very well and will be sitting my A-level exams this year.”

James also credits Coffee Break Spanish for playing a part in meeting his other half: “Coffee Break also played a part in me meeting my now fiancée, who is French, which we’ll come to in a moment. I’m a gardener and I listen while I work. I was working at her rented accommodation listening to CBS when she overheard the Spanish. Somewhat intrigued, this led to a long conversation about languages, which led to our first date and the rest as they say is history!”

After meeting his French fiancée, James felt motivated to start learning French with Coffee Break. “Given that I was now dating a French girl I felt I ought to make an effort to learn French. 5 years on and I’m now speaking French to a good standard, all thanks to Coffee Break French!”

He didn’t stop there! Having gained a solid understanding of Spanish and French, James felt it was time to try his hand at Italian. “The fantastic Coffee Break Italian has allowed me to reach a good standard of Italian”. James is fortunate enough to have 2 Italian clients with whom he can practise what he learns from the lessons.

With three foreign languages under his belt, James admits that he caught the bug for language learning and has now set his sights on learning German and Chinese: “I couldn’t resist Coffee Break German and Chinese and again, thanks to Coffee Break, I have reached a basic level of both languages.”

It seems that this is only the beginning of his new found passion for language learning as he shares his plans to use some of our other courses: “I was absolutely delighted to hear the news about Coffee Break English for Spanish speakers because I can learn from the Spanish spoken in the lessons! Also, the announcement that Swedish would be added to the Coffee Break family was music to my ears.” He had previously been learning Danish but after hearing news of Coffee Break Swedish he decided to take a different route: “Given that Swedish isn’t too different from Danish I have decided to switch to learning Swedish and I can’t wait!” James has also been learning Portuguese on the side and hinted that he’s awaiting a Coffee Break Portuguese course!

It is clear that James has a passion and enthusiasm for language learning which has benefitted him greatly. James reflects on what language learning has done for him:

“Being a gardener who often uses machinery such as lawnmowers and strimmers, I can often expose myself to up to 10 hours a day of language listening at work. Coffee Break has been a godsend to me in these hours and has turned me from somebody who knew absolutely no foreign language, to somebody who can now converse in over 7 languages. Perhaps even better though, is the fact that being able to speak the language of a country, it unlocks so much more culture that wouldn’t be available to anybody not able to speak that language. I was able to attend una feria in a small village in Almería where very little English was spoken, and really experience that aspect of the culture as a native would, just because I was able to speak with the locals.”

James finishes with the following message for the Coffee Break team:

“Thank you so much for all you do, to Mark and indeed everyone at Radio Lingua… it feels great to share my amazing Coffee Break experience with you all!”

Meet the team: Emma

Hej! My name is Emma and I’m the Cultural Correspondent for Coffee Break Swedish and I also manage the Social Media for Coffee Break Swedish. When I studied at Glasgow University, I volunteered as a Swedish teacher for a charity and this is how I met Mark. I started to work for Radio Lingua in 2019.

What is your role in Coffee Break?

My role as the Cultural Correspondent is to provide interesting information about Sweden and the Swedish language. I love to be able to share my culture with the Coffee Break Swedish community and hope to inspire more people to learn Swedish. I also manage the Social Media for Coffee Break Swedish. On the Facebook page I publish cultural posts as well as interactive posts that give our learners a chance to practise their Swedish.

What experience have you had speaking and learning other languages?

When I was 17, I went on an exchange year to the US. Although I had studied English in school for quite a while before this, it was during my time in the US that I started to become comfortable using the language. Since then, I have used my knowledge for the English language whilst travelling in Australia and New Zealand, as well as when I studied at Glasgow University.

In addition to English I also speak Spanish which I learned at school, and I have used my knowledge whilst on holiday in Spain. I also learned Finish at home from a young age since my mum is from Finland.

What are your favourite memories of working with Coffee Break?

My favourite memory of working with Coffee Break was probably the first time recording for Coffee Break Swedish in the recording studio with Mark. I remember being nervous and excited to be able to record the cultural segments for the podcast but most of all looking forward to teaching more people about Sweden and Swedish culture!

Where would your ideal coffee break be and with whom?

My ideal coffee break would be at a café in Stockholm overlooking the water, on a sunny day, together with my friends.

What’s your best language learning tip?

My best tip for learning a language is to use the language! Take any and all chances to practise speaking or writing in the language. And this doesn’t mean you have to travel to the country, just find someone to talk to, either a native or another learner of the language. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, this is how you learn!

Quick-fire round

Favourite language: Swedish
Favourite word/phrase: Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder is a phrase that is commonly used in Sweden and it translates to “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes”.
• Favourite film: The Lord of the Rings series as I love both the story but also the amazing scenery shown in the movies.
• Favourite destination: New Zealand is my absolute favourite place on Earth as it has amazing nature with wonderful hikes and everything from nice beaches to beautiful mountains.

Please finish off with a message to the Coffee Break Community.

When I first learned to drive a car I remember that I didn’t understand how people could have a conversation while driving. I couldn’t concentrate on anything but the driving. But now, I no longer find driving a car difficult. Therefore, whenever something is tough, and I feel like it will never get easier, I try to remember the feeling I had when I was learning to drive. The same goes for learning a new language, what once felt impossible, will get easier if you keep practising.

La Vérité éclatera … le 1er juin 2020

We’re delighted to announce that La Vérité éclate toujours, our new advanced French course, will launch on Monday 1st June. Given the current situation we’re not able to access our studio, so we’ve been putting in place new systems for recording the content and we’re excited that the “truth will out” very soon.

La Vérité éclate toujours is an audio drama which we think you’re going to love. However, this podcast will not be available on the normal Coffee Break French feed. Instead you need to subscribe to a new feed specifically for this new show. If you’re using Apple Podcasts, click here. Alternatively, just search for “Coffee Break French” on your favourite podcast app and you’ll find the new feed for La Vérité éclate toujours there.

If you find La Vérité éclate toujours is at too high a level for you, please check out our other Coffee Break French podcasts.

You can find support materials for this show in the online course for La Vérité éclate toujours on the Coffee Break Academy.

Meet Heather, Coffee Break French learner

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

My name is Heather, and I live in Madoc, Ontario, Canada. I am Canadian, but come from Scottish parents. I started listening and downloading the Coffee Break French podcasts a few years ago.

What experience have you had speaking and learning other languages?

My immediate family speaks only English. I have had prior lessons in French, a very long time ago while in public school. French classes were mandatory in grades four to eight. I’m afraid that I did not enjoy those classes as they were not fun or engaging for me, and were only one hour a week.

I somehow stumbled upon Coffee Break French about a year after it started and listened just out of curiosity. I ended up hooked! My husband is in the military, and the Base where he is posted offered French lessons with wonderful and engaging instructors to military family members. I signed up, and because of Coffee Break French, I was allowed to start at a higher level, which I did complete. I used my Coffee Break podcasts to augment my learning. I signed up for the next level course, but it was cancelled because of a lack of students. Since then, I had a change in employment, which made it too difficult to attend classes in the evenings offered. My French learning was sidelined!I did try some other online French classes, but I grew bored very quickly with the picture and flash card techniques they all seem to use. Repetitive phases did not work for me, so I gave up on it.

Over the last year or so though, I found that I had learned enough French through Coffee Break, that I would often find myself reading the French side of pamphlets or other bilingual writings, signs, etc. I did not know every word that I read, but I would often get the gist of what I was reading. So, a couple of months ago I started listening to Coffee Break French again during my commute to and from work. Well, I came to the realisation that signing up for the course would take me to the next level, so I registered!

What are your favourite memories of learning a language?

I think my favourite memories of learning French is when I have made attempts to speak to my French speaking friends or to shopkeepers, etc., and was met with a funny little smile or chuckle because I had not quite got something right. They enthusiastically corrected me, but also said how much they appreciated my efforts. I found this especially true when I travelled in Quebec and France.

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

I would love to return to Nice and converse with any of the local people there!

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

With living in Canada, packaging on all store products is written in both French and English, as is any literature found in government buildings. I like to try reading the French sides of these items and then read the English side after to see how well I understood what I read in French.

Quickfire round

• Your favourite language: French
• Your favourite word or phrase in the language: Any word where I get to roll my “Rs “.
• Do you have a favourite film, TV show, book or singer in the language? Céline Dion
• Your favourite destination to practise your language: Anywhere on the French coast!

Please finish off with a message to your fellow members of the Coffee Break community and the Coffee Break Team.

Thank-you Coffee Break Team for all the hard work you put into your language lessons. I truly believe Coffee Break offers the best resources to learn a new language as it goes well beyond just memorising phrases. I love the fact that you teach how to actually use and construct the languages, and that it is taught at a nice, easy pace. The explanations are always so clear and easy to understand. The best part of all is the amazing amount of free material to get you started and it’s taught with real life situations and in a mature manner.

To all my fellow Coffee Break learners, enjoy your learning experience! I wish you all the best in your endeavours!

Meet the team: Sophie

Bonjour, my name is Sophie and I’ve been working with the team since September 2019. I am half Belgian (from my father’s side) and my mother is half American, half Colombian. This means I was lucky to grow up in a multi-lingual family. I am from Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium, so my French might be slightly different from the standard Parisian in terms of certain expressions and numbers. I am currently studying Film and Philosophy at the University of Glasgow, and I love to explore philosophy in other languages as well as watch foreign films.

What is your role in Coffee Break?

I work with the Coffee Break French team and the main things I do are the weekly Facebook posts for the official page, write grammar points for Season 1 and create texts. I love helping out the team when necessary and look forward to recording some of my work.

What experience have you had speaking and learning other languages?

Thanks to my family, I grew up speaking French and English, but most of my environment was Francophone. I had the chance to go to an international school from nine to seventeen, where I could practise English outside of the household. That’s where I was taught Dutch, as all other Belgians citizens, who share the country with the Flemish. At sixteen, having even more luck come my way, I got selected to go on an ‘Erasmus +’ exchange for three months in Andalusia, Spain. Both scary and enriching, this experience allowed me to communicate practically fluently with my Colombian relatives. At university, I decided to make the most of my time and signed up for an intensive German course and a more laid-back Italian evening class. I am not comfortable speaking in these languages yet, but I grasp a lot of what is going on and I find that opens many doors.

What are your favourite memories working with Coffee Break?

In the little time I have been working here, one of the most welcoming, warming memories I usually think of before coming into the office on a crisp day is the excellent coffee waiting for me as well as some of Catriona’s homemade snacks. There’s always something tempting there! On a more professional note, I don’t really have a distinct memory, but rather a wonderful general feeling of being welcomed, accepted and challenged in just the right way. It’s lovely to hear some of Mark and Pierre-Benoît’s jokes and overall wit.

Where would your ideal coffee break be and with whom?

It would have to be with my Colombian Grandfather, in my mother’s childhood home in Medellín. I have never met him but heard enough stories to want to have a hilarious and meaningful chat with him. He was the kind of man who could really take a break, be in the moment and with the person in front of him. He took things seriously when necessary but knew how to lighten the mood, and I feel that that is strongly reflected in Radio Lingua.

What’s your best language learning tip?

Make sure you are motivated! I learned Dutch not being very motivated and didn’t make any progress, and Spanish with so much drive that I became fluent. One of the key things is to be interested in the culture of the language you’re interested in, and to me that also means absorbing any cultural aspect. I’ve found that watching films and TV shows with subtitles in the original version is an effective and fun way to progress.

Quick-fire round

• Favourite language: le français!
• Favourite word/phrase: Spanish: Maldito huevo / German: Schreklich
• Favorite film: English: Pride and Prejudice (Joe Wright, 2005) French: Astérix et Obelix Mission Cléopatre (Alain Chabat, 2002)
• Favourite TV show: I can always count on ‘Friends’ to keep my happy but I also like something dramatic such as ‘Gran Hotel’ in Spanish.
• Favourite singer: Ella Fitzgerald (and for live music, my father)
• Favourite destination: there’s no place like home, so my small village in Belgium in my family home, at the back of the quiet garden with a small river flowing.

Please finish off with a message to the Coffee Break community.

Languages makes my life better, and I want to share with my fellow Coffee Breakers that listening to songs over and over and watching TV and films in the language you’re learning will make the whole process so much more fun and culturally enriching. Enjoy!

CBE 1.03 | Where are you from? – ¿De dónde eres?

¡Bienvenido a Coffee Break English! En la Lección 3, aprenderás a decir de dónde vienes y a preguntar a los demás. Únete al profesor Mark y a la estudiante María, quien también es una principiante, y aprende inglés con ellos en este nuevo curso. ¡Solo necesitarás una pausa para el café!