Shopping for the perfect language resource is like shopping for clothes.
But not that little black dress (or three-piece suit) you’re only going to wear on special occasions.
It’s more like jeans that fit just right. They need to be comfortable and match your style. Heck, you wouldn’t even mind paying a little more if you got your money’s worth. Am I right?
Unfortunately, finding the best resource isn’t as easy as stepping into a dressing room. It requires asking a number of questions and gathering facts.
In this review of Coffee Break Spanish, we take a look at the essentials and answer some critical questions so you can determine if the program is something you want to invest in.
Does the resource offer material for your current skill level with an opportunity to advance? Is it something you can realistically engage with on a daily basis? Is it within your budget or worth the cost?
Since your time is nonrefundable, let’s dig into the essential components of Coffee Break Spanish to help you decide whether or not it’s right for you.
Coffee Break Spanish Review: Is It the Right Fit for You?
What Is Coffee Break Spanish?
Coffee Break Spanish is a production of Radio Lingua that promises to help you “learn a language on your coffee break.” Designed to fit into a learner’s busy schedule, the resource offers a variety of languages along with Spanish, including Italian, Chinese, German and French.
Spanish learners can expect lessons that feature native Spanish speakers and Mark Pendleton, the Scottish host, who’s also the founder and CEO of the Coffee Break series.
Through a series of episodes, learners steadily expand their vocabulary and learn to formulate increasingly complex sentences with new words and phrases. Listeners will also grow their knowledge of grammar and Spanish-speaking countries in a back-and-forth conversational manner.
Coffee Break Spanish features podcasts that won the European Professional Podcast of the Year. Lessons are called episodes and each one consists of an audio component that’s typically less than 20 minutes long. Those audio portions are available as podcasts for free on iTunes and are divided into four seasons (courses) that each focus on specific levels.
Purchasing the courses from Coffee Break Academy makes you a premium member and gives you access to a host of goodies like videos (for seasons one and two), bonus audio, lesson transcripts, notes and a curriculum outline.
There are even translation activities in seasons three and four, where sentences are provided in English and the listener translates them into Spanish.
Signing up for the free trial allows you to test out whether or not a course is for you. You can even sign up for a trial of multiple courses so you can decide which fits you best.
Is Coffee Break Spanish Right for You?
Here are some factors to keep mind while you consider whether or not Coffee Break Spanish is something you should pursue.
Pro: Material for every level
As I previously stated, Coffee Break Spanish consists of four seasons (courses), with 40 lessons in each one. Every course coincides with language levels based on the European Framework of Reference for Languages:
- Season 1: Complete beginners (A1)
- Season 2: Refreshers (A2-B1)
- Season 3: Intermediate (B1-B2)
- Season 4: Advanced (B2-C1)
No matter where you are in your language-learning journey, you can find something that challenges you in these lessons.
Season one focuses on basic words and phrases you’ll need to get started, like numbers and food. Season two takes you deeper into the different verb tenses and gives you the vocabulary and phrases you need to talk about your daily routine, among other basic topics.
Seasons three and four weave in more cultural knowledge while continuing to advance your skills and confidence in the Spanish language. Advanced learners will appreciate the practice with idiomatic expressions, in-depth grammatical explanations and an engaging story of a verano español (Spanish summer) to bring it all together.
The first two seasons feel more like a Spanish classroom, while seasons three and four are more like a casual conversation between Spanish speakers.
I’m really impressed by how they’ve considered learners from all different levels. They even developed a course for children!
Pro: Created by a teacher
As a former teacher and lifelong planner (yes, I even create outlines for my vacations), I appreciate a program that follows a logical progression and includes a curriculum that learners can follow. I want to know what’s coming up, what I can skip and what to look up before starting a lesson.
Looking at the overview of the course components, it’s obvious that this resource was created by a like-minded educator. Lessons steadily build on each other and increase in difficulty. They’re also the perfect length and not overwhelming.
And if you’re like me, you’ll love the course outline that gives a short description of each lesson. Given the cyclical nature of the topics, you can be certain you’ll hear words and phrases multiple times in context to be able to internalize them.
It’s also evident that the developers of Coffee Break Spanish have geared the lessons toward language learners. You won’t get the immersion experience (although season four gets close), but I appreciate how the hosts take time to break down complicated expressions and new words and add a grammatical component that adult learners can appreciate.
Listeners are also challenged in the bonus episodes by translating sentences from Spanish to English and vice versa.
Pro: Easy to use and incorporate in daily routine
Just like the perfect pair of jeans, a resource needs to fit comfortably into your current lifestyle. If you’re too busy to devote an hour to studying a language each day, Coffee Break Spanish gives you the opportunity to learn a lot in a short amount of time.
Not only is the information manageable, but you can take the lessons to go! Listen to an episode on your way to work or during your workout. Premium members can also download the course materials to any device, easily accessing the videos or bonus audio on your lunch break or in between watching those Spanish YouTube videos.
Its easy-to-use format makes it a great complement to other resources. For example, you can put your new knowledge of words and phrases into action by using it alongside FluentU.
In fact, FluentU serves as the perfect supplement to Coffee Break Spanish. It takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos—topics like soccer, TV shows, business, movies and even magical realism, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used.
Plus, if you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and recommends examples and videos for you based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re studying with the same video.
Pairing these two resources will give you a well-rounded approach to learning the Spanish language.
Con: Limited material
Unfortunately, new content isn’t added on a continuous basis to the current courses. So while FluentU is continually adding new videos (the internet never stops growing), that’s not the case for these courses.
I also really wish videos were available in each season and that there were interactive activities to practice the new concepts.
While the hosts frequently pause to allow the listeners to respond to prompts, there are no opportunities for writing or reading (unless you’re reading the transcripts).
Here, again, FluentU provides a perfect supplement to this program since it does have ample opportunities to read and write. Each video comes with a full transcript and interactive subtitles in Spanish and English (both of which you can turn on or off at your discretion).
You can also hover over or tap on any word as a video is playing to see its definition and example sentence, a memorable picture and even other videos that use the word for more context.
Writing practice is also available on FluentU through quizzes, which combine video, reading and fill-in-the-blank questions into an effective learning experience.
The program will even keep track of your progress and show you appropriate questions, providing a level of personalization you simply can’t get on Coffee Break Spanish (or many other learning programs).
Although Coffee Break Spanish offers a free trial before you decide to purchase, the price can be a turn-off when the audio is already available on iTunes for free.
However, you can’t get access to the videos in seasons one and two and all the other extras if you don’t purchase the courses. I especially liked the bonus audio and translation activities in seasons three and four.
But is it worth the price? I recommend that learners take advantage of the free trial and look at the outline for the courses to decide if the new concepts you’ll be learning are enough to pay. (And by the way, FluentU also offers a free trial!)
Hopefully, you’re now armed with enough information to make an informed decision. Coffee Break Spanish is a professional production with lots of benefits.
Give it a try to see if it’s right for you!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.