How Podcasts Help You Learn a Foreign Language

A How-to Guide on Learning Podcasts and Their Benefits!

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With the internet reaching nearly every corner of the globe, resources for learning have never been more abundant. A tool that has grown in popularity in recent years has been the Podcast. This term is derived from the words “Pod” and “Broadcast” – marrying iPod and radio technology into a library-focused outlet for information. From the comfort of their homes (+ offices, cars, anywhere!) people can create recordings of themselves spanning any topic they wish.

While much of these are recreational, the podcast can introduce learners of foreign languages – blurring the lines between recreation and education. As an immersive, convenient tool, the Podcast has solidified its place in many people’s daily routines and has become an excellent tool for learning languages. In this blog post, we will explore the many ways the humble podcast can aid your learning experience.

In Nataatmadja and Dyson’s article The Role of Podcasts in Students’ learning, they explore how Podcasts can provide an element of flexibility to students from the comfort of home. Especially in terms of extra material. The professor or student may create their own podcasts to enrich the learning environment outside of the classroom. For students and teachers interested in incorporating podcasts into their learning environment, there are unlimited options.

According to the University of Wisconsin, to optimize learning, it is suggested that the following rules are incorporated into your use of Podcasts to maximize their potential:

  1. Choosing appropriate content
  2. Setting learning objectives or goals 
  3. Designing the content
  4. Producing the podcast
  5. Integrating the podcast into the subject

The above-mentioned guidelines are especially helpful for those looking to produce quality, informative podcasts for their classroom. In Laing and Wooton’s article on Podcasts in Higher education, they expand on this list with pointers for teachers especially. But a lot can be learned from this list from a student’s perspective as well. Below we will expand upon this list with tools to aid you in your language learning experience.

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  1. Choosing Appropriate Content

Because Podcasts are so convenient to play from your phone or laptop, chances are you will be incorporating them in a variety of day-to-day tasks. Because of this, it is important to avoid any dense or unfamiliar learning material which would require a read-along device or text. Podcast listening can be used as a tool to immerse yourself in language while practicing along. This tool will not be as effective for students trying to learn structure or grammar. When using a podcast to learn a language, its primary use should be pronunciation and sentence flow.

  1. Setting Learning Objectives or Goals

While it can never hurt to have the language you’re learning incorporated into your listening activities for passive learning, it is important to not keep it too passive. Identify a goal in your process, whether it be improving your listening abilities, improving your dialect, or expanding your vocabulary. Keep the Podcast learning as focused as possible to get the most out of it. Otherwise, you might find yourself listening to a language without truly learning.

  1. Designing the Content

As a student, producing your own Podcast content might not be the first tool to come to mind. However, it can be invaluable for a teacher to identify any errors in your dialect. In order to design a quality piece of content for your instructor, try recounting a conversation, or walk through the events of your day. Keeping the content of your podcast short and simple at first while increasing the difficulty with each submission.

  1. Producing the Podcast

Make sure the tools you use to record yourself are of decent quality. A simple microphone from a cellular device will work. Make sure there is no sound pollution in the room like a boiling kettle or a TV playing. Above all, you want this to be a concise recording so your instructor can identify correct sentence structure and pronunciation. The same goes for listening to podcasts as well. It’s best to avoid this type of podcast listening with loud background noise. Otherwise you might lose your place and feel lost in translation.

  1. Integrating the Podcast into the Subject

Once you have followed the above pointers on listening to and creating Podcasts, you can integrate the use of them into your language learning experience. It’s important to make sure that any listening material you produce or listen to reflects the level of learning you have achieved. It will be harder to integrate native languages without reading material if you are just starting out, so be mindful of your process. Avoid solely listening to podcasts without additional reading material if you are just beginning to learn a new language,

Beyond the introductory how-to’s of Podcast listening, a lot can be said for the categories you choose and how this integration occurs. This is where genres of Podcasts come in.

What genres of Podcasts help with language learning?

It is important for the student to select the right genre of Podcast to keep them interested. If you’re trying to practice your language skills, but have no investment in the content, it will be much more challenging. This is why a lot of children’s french classes have the teachers exploring topics such as food and activities to keep the students engaged. The same applies to adults. Podcasts span every subject imaginable, and depending on your interests you can tailor the experience.

In Hasan and Tan’s article on Podcast applications, they state: “Podcast(s) can accelerate language learners’ learning not just in listening but also in other language areas such as pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, speaking and related learning activities”. Podcasts do not need to be designed for students in a purely academic manner. The student can access any kind of podcast to achieve these described benefits. The following list will define a few of the many genres a student can use in their learning:

  1. Comedy

This is by far the most popular genre of podcasts, with a staggering 22% of listeners, and for good reason. Comedy is fun and engaging for the listener. As a student in language, it will also help you identify tone and humour in the language you’re learning. Many learners place emphasis on the technical aspects of language, but identifying tones such as sarcasm is a true sign of fluency. Within this genre, you can find subgenres that span conversational, anecdotal, and scripted. Whichever your preference, a Comedy podcast is a perfect choice for those wishing to perfect their communicative skills.

  1. News

In a close second with 21% of listeners, News sources are a great option for beginners. With news outlets often sharing the same stories between countries, it’s an easy way to find duplicate information between them. For a beginner, you could listen to the news in your native language, then switch to your second language to spot familiar words and phrases. With abundant news stories being shared every day, this is a consistent resource for students. Out of all the options here, this is the most beginner-friendly.

  1. Sport

Much like News, sports have multiple versions of the same game in different languages. If you are a sports enthusiast, this is a fun and engaging way to learn your favourite terminology. It’s also a fun way to interact with familiar concepts while learning something new. With 17% of podcast listeners tuning into sports commentary, there is an abundance of options in multiple languages.

  1. Self Help

15% of podcast listeners are looking to boost productivity and improve their quality of life. This is where the self help genre can assist in more ways than one! While language learning is a productive pastime on its own, adding a self help podcast to the mix will benefit any multitasker. If you want to learn how to budget, wake up earlier, or boost your mood, advice in another language can be a great way to take in this new information. With an abundance of subgenres, a student can easily find something that feeds their mind, body, and soul while practicing their new language.

  1. Pop Culture

With 9% of podcast listeners gravitating to this genre, it’s sure to provide a wide array of topics. For instance, if you enjoy listening to podcasts about music, then try listening to a Pop Culture podcast about your favourite musician. If you recently saw a film you enjoyed, then try finding a podcast that’s reviewing it. This will keep you interested and engaged in the material while also identifying familiar words and phrases.

Finding your Platform

Now that you have chosen your method of Podcast use in and out of the classroom, you might be asking: What resources are available from the comfort of home? Many podcasts sites offer options with verbal material without written versions to follow along. This can be frustrating for a learner who wants to ease into this method.


Frequently Asked Questions

Can podcasts help you learn English?

The answer is a resounding yes! Podcasts are an excellent way to improve your listening skills and to pick up new vocabulary in a relaxed and enjoyable way. There are now hundreds of podcasts available for English learners of all levels, covering a wide range of topics and genres. Whether you’re interested in current affairs, history, or just want to have a good laugh, there’s sure to be a podcast that’s perfect for you. 

Can you learn a language through podcasts?

Listening to podcasts offers several unique advantages. First, it allows learners to hear native speakers using the language in a natural way. This can be helpful in developing an ear for the rhythm and flow of the language. In addition, podcasts typically offer a wide range of topics and genres, giving learners the opportunity to learn about interesting topics while also expanding their vocabulary.

What are English podcasts?

English podcasts are a great way to improve your listening skills and learn about new topics. Each podcast episode is focused on a particular topic, and you can pause and rewind as needed to catch every word. Many podcasts also offer transcripts, so you can follow along and check your understanding. Best of all, podcasts are free and easy to find online.

How can I learn English by listening?

By listening to English being spoken, you can gain an understanding of the rhythm and flow of the language. You can also pick up on common phrases and expressions. In addition, listening to English will help you to improve your own pronunciation.

What should I listen to improve my English?

There are many different ways that you can improve your English skills. One way is to listen to English-language materials that are at or just below your level. This will help you to better understand the language and to pick up new words and grammar structures. Another way to improve your English is to listen to materials that are slightly above your level. This will challenge you and help you to learn new vocabulary and grammar structures more quickly. 

How can listening skills improve your verbal efficiency?

Good listening skills are important in all aspects of life, but they are especially critical in the workplace. When you are able to listen carefully to others, you can better understand their needs and respond effectively. Additionally, good listening skills can help you build rapport with your colleagues and improve your verbal efficiency. By taking the time to truly listen to what others are saying, you can avoid misunderstandings and save time by getting straight to the point.

Why podcasts are good for language learning?

They offer an immersive experience that can help listeners to identify with the characters and follow the storyline. In addition, podcasts can be a flexible learning tool, as they can be paused and replayed as needed. This allows learners to review difficult concepts at their own pace. Additionally, podcasts can be accessed from anywhere, so learners can listen while commuting or doing chores. 

How can I improve my advanced English?

Study grammar and usage rules. Learning the rules of grammar and usage will help you to speak and write more correctly and confidently. Get a good reference book on English grammar and usage, and consult it whenever you have questions about how to use the language properly.

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Bethany MacDonald

Bethany MacDonald

Bethany MacDonald has contributed articles since 2020. As their Blog Lead, she specialises in informative pieces on culture, education, and language learning

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