Podcasts have become one of the go-to resources for education and entertainment. They’re available for any topic you can imagine, they’re accessible on your mobile device, and they’re (usually) free.
They’re also a great resource for language learners. They give you a convenient and flexible way to immerse yourself in your new language, pick up new vocabulary and grammar, and improve your listening skills. The features of podcast players are ideal for language learners. You can slow down or speed up the audio, and you can repeat and review language easily.
In this article, you’ll learn how podcasts can help you learn a new language and get some useful tips to apply to your own study.
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Podcasts can help you learn a new language
Podcasts can — without a doubt — help you master a new language. Numerous studies back this up. Let’s take a look at why podcasts are so effective for learning a language.
Podcasts improve listening skills and boost motivation. Okay, improved listening skills sound obvious. But it’s worth highlighting as it’s the main reason to use podcasts in your language learning.
Podcasts are a rich source of authentic language and cultural information with the added benefit that they're flexible. There is no restriction on time or place. You can listen to podcasts whenever you want, wherever you happen to be. For example, while commuting, exercising, or even doing household chores. This means you can easily fit language learning into your normal routine.
Podcasts offer playback speed options. Playback speed control is a fantastic feature that most podcast players offer. You can slow down the content to focus on pronunciation and intonation for example. You can also rewind and repeat tricky parts.
There are podcasts on nearly every topic imaginable. No matter what your interests are, you’ll be able to find a podcast to enjoy. And finally, many of these resources are free or low-cost. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to learn through podcasts.
Listening to podcasts in another language vs podcasts about another language
All of these benefits come with a — quite a big — caveat. Podcasts are great for language learning if you choose suitable ones (and it’s a big if). We can categorize useful podcasts for language learning into two categories: Podcasts made in the language you’re learning and podcasts made about the language you’re learning.
How far along the process of learning you are plays a big part in which kind of podcasts to choose. For example, if you’re a beginner, podcasts about the language you’re learning are more suitable. They include lessons, grammar tips, and vocabulary in a structured format. But they’ll include your native language too. So you won’t be completely in the dark.
If you’re ready for a challenge, podcasts made in your new language might be better. Their audience is native speakers — not language learners. They include content such as stories, interviews, or news entirely in the target language. These are excellent for immersion and help more advanced learners get used to the natural flow and rhythm of the language.
Be careful when choosing your podcasts. If you choose one that isn’t a suitable challenge (too easy or too difficult) it can negatively affect your motivation. When picking content, aim for at or slightly above your current level.
The best podcasts for learning a new language
It’s impossible for us to go over all the podcasts suitable for language learning in this article. There are so many topics out there from so many creators. But let’s do a brief summary of some popular podcasts — you’ll notice that as you get to the more advanced levels, you’ll be listening less about the language you’re learning. And you’ll be listening more to stories in that language in podcasts not made for language learners.
Here are some of the best podcasts for beginners:
Busuu’s Learn Spanish Podcast teaches you all about the language and culture in easy-to-digest episodes under 15 minutes long.
Coffee Break Languages is a podcast offers lessons for several languages in a conversational format that’s perfect for beginners.
As you get better, you need podcasts that are a little more challenging. Podcasts with more difficult grammar and vocabulary. And podcasts on which the host speaks quicker. Here are some examples:
News in Slow - This podcast gives you all the current news in several languages at a slower pace so you can understand it (even if the topics are difficult).
Let’s Learn Japanese from Small Talk - This podcast is full of natural conversations that are perfect for intermediate learners. The talking speed of the hosts is getting close to a natural level, but they include word lists and a vocabulary review to help you out.
When you get to the advanced level, you can stick with language learning podcasts, or you can start listening to podcasts made for native speakers. There are so many of those that we couldn’t possibly list them all here. But you have your pick of the best content out there, so you’ll definitely find something interesting. Here are three suggestions:
Geschichten aus der Geschichte is a German podcast in which two scientists tell and talk about interesting stories from history. It has a wide range of themes to really test your vocabulary knowledge.
Story FM is a long-running Mandarin Chinese podcast that tells stories from all walks of life in China. With over 750 episodes available, you’ll never run out of content to listen to.
How to use podcasts to learn a new language
Using podcasts for language learning can be a powerful tool when done right. Here are some easy-to-follow tips to help you maximize the benefits of podcasts in your language-learning journey.
1. Set clear goals
Before you start, decide what you want to achieve from listening to podcasts. Whether it's improving your vocabulary, understanding grammar, or enhancing listening skills, having clear objectives will help you stay focused.
2. Be consistent
Make podcasts a part of your daily routine. Just like any other form of learning, regular practice and exposure lead to success.
3. Listen actively
Don’t just play the podcast in the background. Actively engage with the content by taking notes, repeating phrases, and shadowing the speaker to improve pronunciation.
4. Use the playback speed feature
Most podcast players allow you to change the speed of the audio. Slow it down when you need to. Remember, the challenge needs to be manageable — so if the content is too difficult, slow the podcast down to a more comfortable speed.
5. Repeat and review
Don't hesitate to replay episodes (or parts of episodes) or review your notes. Re-listen to difficult or interesting sections. One of the beauties of podcasts is the ability to do this — it helps with comprehension and retention.
6. Get transcripts
If available, get transcripts of the podcast episodes. This means you can read along as you listen. Of course, not all podcasts will have these. But if they do, they’re a fantastic resource.
By following these tips, you'll be well on your way to effectively utilizing podcasts as a valuable resource in your language learning journey.
The Learn Spanish Podcast from Busuu
When choosing a podcast to listen to — especially when you want one that talks about a language, made for language learners — choose one from language experts who know what language learners need. Because they’re the people who actually know how to teach a language. Let’s take a look at one example: Busuu’s Learn Spanish Podcast.
The Spanish-learning podcast from Busuu is perfect for beginner learners. You’ll learn real-life Spanish, in short and easy-to-digest episodes. Here’s a brief summary of what you can learn.
Find out all the information you need when you’re planning a trip to Spain on Episode 1 and learn how to find the best restaurants, and how to order food and drink. Ever wanted to visit sunny Spain and eat the best paella and tapas you can find? Now, you know how.
Accents and colloquial language are a key part of casual language. But they’re often not a part of language courses and textbooks. Luckily, Busuu’s Learn Spanish Podcast Episode 2 breaks down colloquial language and pronunciation for you.
Spanish is one of the most spoken languages in the world. But which country speaks the “best” (none, obviously. They’re all great.) Spanish? Learn all about the differences in accents and vocabulary in South America and Spain on Episode 3 from the Learn Spanish Podcast by Busuu.
Learn all about Spain’s festive season and traditions on Episode 4. Find out why Spanish people eat 12 grapes on New Year’s Eve and when they open their Christmas presents.
Podcasts are a fantastic resource for language learners
With all the features of podcast players and the amount and variety of the content out there, podcasts should be a part of your language-learning process. They offer flexibility, variety, and accessibility. Few other resources can match this.
But don’t listen passively. Be engaged in the content and your listening skills will improve. And integrate podcast listening with other skills work. Don’t stop reading, writing, and speaking. Keep reviewing vocabulary and grammar. And join language groups like the Busuu community to find people to interact with. Podcasts are great but they’re not enough on their own.
Master a new language today!
With Busuu, you're just a few swipes away from a community of millions to interact with. You can practice with native speakers, complete free online courses, and learn in your own way, on your own schedule