There was a time, maybe back in 2008 (and I am so old that this seems like last year to me), when you would have heard the word "Podcast" and rightfully passed it by. Podcasts have been around since the 1980s but were always reserved for the nerdier folks among us. Maybe research scientists? Programmers?
The world is ever changing, and today though it's a different world. Podcasts are the best new way of getting into anything that you are excited about. A podcast (don't forget you can listen to the Fluent podcast too!) is a pre-recorded discussion, story or radio show. The beauty of these simple listening resources is not just that they are usually available for free, but that they are slowly on their march to completely replace the radio. You can download and listen to them anywhere, especially if you own a smartphone.
Personally, I have had so much fun making more podcasts this year. I have had the opportunity to share giggles and intelligent conversations with my colleagues among the learning landscape, and to give you guys an opportunity to hear my voice and get more insight into what I am like! In today's blog article, I'm going to give you the complete guide to what podcasts are all about and how you can use them as a language learner. Even if you don't care about languages at all, don't pass this article by because you are going to LOVE these.
How to Listen to a Podcast
The most common way for most users to subscribe to a new podcast is through Itunes itself (example link. The process is that when you click the "Subscribe" button, the app you are using will automatically know that you're interested in having it download any new episode that comes out. Often, they will also fetch the last published episode for you and put them in a convenient queue, meaning that you only have to hit "Subscribe" once and you'll always be up to date. There's also a podcasting app that now comes with IOS 8 on the iPhone. It looks like this:
If you want to see downloading and playing podcasts in action, and encouragement from a wonderful lady "on the dark side of eighty-five", here's a helpful video featuring podcast and American public radio master Ira Glass.
Here are some other listening possibilities beyond what comes built into your computer:
- For listening on your phone and on your web browser, Stitcher is an excellent on-demand service combining radio and podcasts. It's available on all kinds of platforms including Android devices.
- Downcast for IOS and Mac and Overcast for iphone are also fab, each with their own really useful advantages. Each of these lets you put together playlists grouped by theme, and in Overcast you can even set up priority podcasts that are listed at the top whenever a new episode becomes available.
- For Android users, I've heard good things about Beyond Pod.
Fab Language Learning Podcasts to Try
Number one: The Creative Language Learning Podcast with me, Kerstin Hammes. This podcast brings together interviews and tips that help you learn any language, coupled with tips of the week and current news articles. You can also find it on Stitcher.
The amount of podcasts that language learners can download at level A1 is absolutely immense. They're almost imposssible to count. The easiest place to find one that might be right for you is to type "__ (insert your target language) learning podcast" into the iTunes store or straight into a search engine. The category you will want to look for is Education > Language Courses. Here's an example of what's on offer for German learners:
How Useful are Language Learning Podcasts?
Personally, I'm not sure if a podcast alone would really serve me all that well when I'm trying to learn a new language. I'm a visual information processor and always itch to see how words are spelt and what they look like. So as a consequence, podcasts don't offer the learning experience that I crave when I'm serious.
Here's where I think language learning podcasts belong in your "routine": They're probably about as useful as Duolingo, in the sense that the most exciting use for a podcast is to create a useful add-on and immersion tool, allowing you to spend more time processing the target language.
My Favourite Podcasts
Whether you are learning English or not, I can definitely recommend This American Life and its recent spin-off, Serial. I also love most of what's made by the wonderful 5by5 Network, though their podcasts tend to be a bit more nerdy than I am. There is a wonderful writing show called "Write for your Life".
I'm currently looking into French podcasts too and found hundreds of resources about my kinds of stuff: Buffy The Vampire Slayer, entrepreneurship and music. I have also tried and enjoyed this Welsh learning podcast and Olga Mitchell's "Speaking Russian" podcast, which actually both went a long way to building my speaking confidence.
One Final Note as a Podcaster
Making a podcast is a labour of love and does take a little bit of time and work, so please do appreciate the effort that your favourite podcasters and bloggers are putting into their work. If you enjoy my own little piece of work, the Creative Language Learning Podcast and want to help support me in making more, better, greater ones, then you can now become my personal patron on the Patreon website. The system is now live and I'll be telling you more about it on the blog in the near future.
What are YOUR favourite language learning podcasts?