Coffee Break Spanish … or French… or Mandarin … or ….

Over the years, I struggled to learn Spanish well enough to almost communicate while cruising Central America and the Western Caribbean.  Don’t underestimate the importance of speaking at least some of the local language.  Without it you will miss out on some amazing cruising experiences!

Unfortunately, now that I’ve been back in the U.S. for 18 months, not using my language skills, I have forgotten so much.  (I’ll do another post soon on the saga of me learning Spanish well enough to be almost conversant — I’ve tried every approach known to the universe & some worked much better than others, but that’s for another post!)

David with the Vegetable Ladies in Cartagena

Enter Coffee Break Spanish.  I’m not totally convinced yet, but my son, who was conversant in French but then spent the last 2 1/2 years aboard the U.S.S. Peleliu, a US Navy amphibious carrier, swears by it.  He didn’t need to speak alot of French aboard a carrier in the Middle East.  Now that he’s been transferred to Washington D.C., he’s trying to brush up the language skills that he’s lost.

Not only do I need to brush up on the Spanish language skills I’ve lost, but I’m also interested in learning a bit of language from other places we may cruise in the near-future … or for other travel possibilities.  According to Coffee Break Languages:

“Language-learning for your iPod, iPhone, mp3 player or computer. Take your lessons with you wherever you go by downloading our free materials or purchasing our courses to learn even more.”

So I’m trying the Spanish to brush up on my skills.  Starting with the first lesson, since I have no idea where in the 194 lessons I might benefit, I am impressed.  First of all, Coffee Break Spanish (or French or who knows how many other languages, including Chinese) is free on ITunes.  Each lesson is approximately 20 minutes and entirely verbal.  They also have the lessons available online with additional study materials available for purchase at Coffee Break Spanish.   The free format which is what I’m playing with is question and answer – with a long pause for you to respond and then the “student” responds so you know if you got it right.

Interacting with Local Culture in the San Blas Islands … or as David said “How Did We Inherit all these Kuna Kids?”

Two things make me a bit crazy.  Probably the most important is that the only version offered for Spanish is European Spain Spanish as opposed to Latin American Spanish.  There are some pronunciation differences.  Because I’ve studied the language for so long, it’s not a problem for me because I recognize the differences.  The instructor claims that any Spanish speaker will understand the pronunciation as given in their program, but I have my doubts.

David Taught Kids to Play Frisbee, But Not Without My Spanish!

The other  thing that makes me just a bit crazy is that I’ve never studied any Spanish with an instructor with a pronounced British accent.  I guess anyone with a British accent needs to learn Spanish if they travel in the Spanish speaking world, but it’s a bit disconcerting.  Both their Spanish accents sound pretty good to my unpracticed ear, so hopefully it wouldn’t matter to a new student.

Hustle & Bustle in San Andres, Columbia

I’m also not sure it would be a good way to start to learn a brand new language, but when I get around to that, I’ll let you know my thoughts!   🙂

Want to try it? (Why not, the audio lessons are free!)   Here’s a link to the ITunes preview where you can go to the ITunes store if you use ITunes.

If not,  here’s a link to the Google search that shows lots of other ways to access the free audio podcasts. 

Have you tried Coffee Break Spanish (or another language)?  What do you think?  Keep in mind, the subject of this post is directed just to Coffee Break languages — I’ll do a more comprehensive post on all the different language methods I’ve tried soon!   🙂   Please leave a comment and let us know!  THANKS!  Jan



  1. I spent a good bit of my childhood in Chile and was fluent, but after we came back to the US I lost it all. My husband wants to learn now so that when we cruise in Mexico he’ll be comfortable, so we bought the Pimsleur beginning course so that I could brush up and he could learn. It’s an excellent course that’s structured the same way you described yours, but with none of the issues you spoke about. It’s also not very expensive so you might want to check it out. I’ve been pretty impressed with it so far, and we’re on lesson 28.

    S/V Kintala

    • Hi Deb! Thanks for the input, I’ve not tried the Pimsleur course, but have heard good things about it. I have the Rosetta Stone program, stages 1, 2 & 3 – I’ll do a full post, but Rosetta Stone was what ultimately made me able to communicate. My favorite learning was taking private language lessons from a lady from Columbia, but when I moved away, I lost the opportunity. Thanks! Cheers! Jan

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