People are always looking for interesting, engaging ways to practise the language that they’re learning, and listening to language podcasts is a great way of doing this. Podcasting is still relatively new to the world and it will be a long time before it can reach the same level as music, but its popularity is definitely growing rapidly. In fact, the number of weekly UK podcast listeners increased from 3.2 million to 5.9 million between 2013 and 2018, a huge increase.
At the same time, the number of language-learning podcasts out there is increasing. Across all the major languages there is a surge in podcasting, providing language learners with a fantastic opportunity to practise their chosen language in a completely different way. We’re going to look at some of the main benefits of language and Spanish podcasts, to encourage you to start listening to them now!
Improve your Spanish on the go
Many people believe that if they want to improve in a foreign language, they have to lock themselves away for many hours to be able to progress. In our modern world, this just isn’t the case anymore, as there are so many different ways to practise.
Podcasts allow you to learn Spanish wherever you are, as long as you have a device that plays sound. You don’t even need to be connected to the Internet to play an episode: on almost all of the major podcasting platforms you can download episodes while you have WiFi and listen to them offline, so there’s no need to worry about losing your connection.
This means that instead of having to wait until you get home to do your daily Spanish practice, you can do it wherever you are. I’ve personally used podcasts when walking between places, doing exercise and when cleaning around the house. The added flexibility that you get from podcasts means they’re an amazing way to learn Spanish.
Language learning made fun
Especially in the early stages of language learning, a lot of the resources out there can be very dull and monotonous, and it can feel like you’re back in school again being made to memorise things. Language podcasts provide a much more enjoyable way to learn a language.
The podcasts out there cover a great range of topics, allowing you to educate or entertain yourself while improving. The episodes aren’t usually just focused on a single grammar point but instead look at current affairs and real-world issues that will be of great interest. Plus, you’ll be able to learn vocabulary which will be useful for you when it comes to your conversational Spanish.
For example, each episode of the ESpeak Spanish Podcast has looked at a different country where Spanish is an official language and covered a topic related to this country. The episodes have ranged massively, from looking at the Crisis in Venezuela to an episode about Machu Picchu, and from the blue zone of Nicoya in Costa Rica to a whole episode dedicated to Shakira! As you can see, none of these episodes are very similar at all except for the fact that they all look at Spanish-speaking countries, so you’re provided with variety and entertainment every week.
You’re provided with variety and entertainment every week
Learn to speak Spanish by listening to fluent speakers
Reading in Spanish is great and you’re sure to pick up lots of great words, whether this is a novel or a BBC Mundo article. However, ultimately what we all really want is to learn to speak Spanish. Unfortunately, I can’t say to you that if you try to ask something while listening to a Spanish podcast you’re gonna get a reply from the podcast host. But what is great about podcasts is that you have an opportunity to listen to a fluent speaker speaking for an extended period.
Living in England, although perhaps easier than some other places, it’s difficult to find opportunities to hear people speaking in Spanish. So being able to hear somebody speak the language for 15 minutes is invaluable for your learning experience. You’ll pick up so many things from it. First, you’ll be able to hone your ability to understand Spanish, which is crucial if you ever hope to have conversations with native speakers. Also, you’ll be able to hear the pronunciation of words. This is so important when we go back to what I was saying about reading: we might be pronouncing words wrong in our heads and the more we do this the more ingrained it becomes. Being able to hear a fluent speaker say the word will ensure you are learning to pronounce things correctly.
Being able to hear somebody speak the language for 15 minutes is invaluable for your learning experience
Language podcasts don’t take up too much time
Many of the language-learning methods out there can take up a lot of your time, especially if you want to make significant progress within the space of a few weeks or months. Podcasts can give you a large amount of learning without having to spend a large amount of your time in return. This also prevents you from feeling overwhelmed, especially in the early stages of your language learning journey.
Looking at the ESpeak podcast, our longest episode is only 15 minutes long, including an intro and outro. This time is long enough to give you a really good amount of practice but short enough that you can finish a whole episode, if not two or three, on your commute to work.
Adjust the speed to fit your level
A great feature that a lot of podcasting platforms such as Spotify have is that you can speed up or slow down podcast episodes depending on your listening abilities. This is something I think makes language podcasts stand out so much when compared to Netflix shows or listening to music in a foreign language.
Podcasts are usually recorded at a reduced speaking speed anyway. But when you haven’t had much experience listening to people speaking in Spanish, for example, you may struggle with the speed at which the host is talking. Instead of having to constantly rewind the episode or just stopping all together out of frustration, you can make use of this feature to improve your Spanish at a slower pace. Then, once you’ve got the hang of this, you can rev the speed back up to normal.
Some people may also want to challenge themselves further and speed up the episode, which is also a great idea. I’ve done this for years with non-language podcasts: at points, I’ve listened to them at TWICE the normal speed, which meant I was absorbing a lot more information. But if you are considering doing this, make sure you’re comfortable with the original speed first.
Use transcripts to help consolidate your understanding
Since you’re a language learner and not a fluent speaker, inevitably you’re not going to understand every single word that is said in each podcast episode. To make sure that you’re not left in the dark and you can actually get your head around these things, many language podcasts provide transcripts alongside their episodes to provide a further great resource for you to learn.
Back to the ESpeak Spanish Podcast again, for every episode we put out we produce a transcript on our blog. These blog posts contain the text for the whole episode and the best part is that we provide the text in both Spanish and English. This is great because you can read parts you haven’t understood in the original Spanish version, then if you are still confused you can look at the English to guide you. You can find all of our podcast transcripts here.
Hopefully, from reading this you can see how great a companion language podcasts can be in your quest to learn a new language. I strongly encourage you to go ahead and find a podcast right now, and I assure you that your ability to speak your chosen language will flourish as a result (and if you’re learning Spanish make sure you choose the ESpeak Spanish Podcast!!)