I'm All Ears! 5 Ways Podcasts Can Help Learn a New Language
There’s an adage in English that says, “Anything worthwhile in life takes time and effort”. This wise saying clearly applies to acquiring foreign language skills.
There is no quick remedy to effectively learn a new language; however, there is a fun tool that can help you in your endeavors. Let’s take a closer look at a helpful resource which can go hand in hand with your inlingua courses: podcasts!
You heard right, podcasts! As you may have noticed, there has been a steady increase in the number of podcasts available on streaming platforms such as Google or Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Overcast, Audible, Player FM, Spotify, TuneIn, and Stitcher. Podcasts are very appealing because they are easily accessible (all you need is a phone or electronic device!) and most are also free of charge. There is also a wide range of topics you can choose from (Sports, mystery, true crime, comedy and of course language learning).
Here are 5 ways in which podcasts can help you learn a new language:
Imagine a large toolbox full of tools which you can use to help you accomplish different tasks. If your knowledge of a foreign language could represent a toolbox, the words you acquire while learning a new language can be compared to the tools within the toolbox. Podcasts give you the opportunity to add more tools to your language toolbox by learning new vocabulary. You can either listen to a podcast that is geared towards learning the foreign language of your choice (more for beginners), or by listening to a podcast that talks about a specific topic of interest in the language you are learning (for more advanced learners).
When learning new vocabulary words, it is recommended to keep a pen and paper nearby to jot down new words and phrases. You may find that this active form of listening is more productive than the passive alternative of listening while multi-tasking and doing other activities.
Language and culture go hand in hand. Fall in love with the rituals, customs, and cultural practices of a foreign country by listening to podcasts that feature these aspects of a language.
Culture can be a great motivator for some to keep learning the language. Furthermore, something you learn in a podcast could be great material for an interesting conversation with a native speaker one day.
Podcasts can open a door to different societies, traditions, art, music, practices, foods, festivals, and customs.
3. SLOW IT DOWN OR SPEED IT UP
Did you know that a lot of streaming platforms allow you to slow down or speed up the audio? If you are a beginner, you might want to consider slowing down the speed of the podcast to allow you to understand what is being said or write down words and phrases. More advanced learners may want to practice listening at a more “native” speed and might consider speeding things up a bit.
Manipulating the speed of the podcast might also come in handy if you print out the transcript of the podcast and read along with the audio.
2. Idioms, Expressions and Pronunciation
As you can imagine, listening to a podcast has certain advantages over reading a book. By listening to a podcast, you can get used to the natural sounds of a language including accents, syllable stress, intonation and different forms of pronunciation that are almost imperceivable in written text. Intonation and slang can also be picked up more easily.
As most podcasts are produced by native speakers, it will also give you a glimpse of what native speakers sound like. Podcasts may also give you an introduction to expressions and slang found in a more casual setting which might not always be the case with academic recordings and books.
One of the more difficult aspects of learning a language is understanding idiomatic expressions. Storytelling and context found within examples can help non-native speakers understand what is meant with these popular yet often confusing phrases.
1. Read, Write and Speak while you listen
Believe it or not, it is possible (and recommended) to exercise more than just your listening skills when listening to podcasts.
As most podcasts come with a transcript, practice your reading skills by reading along with the podcast. Reading along while listening may increase your focus. While having a candid conversation in real life with a native-speaker or a teacher is the ideal way to develop your speaking skills, you can also record yourself reading out loud and practice your accent, pronunciation, and intonation.
Keeping a pen and paper nearby will allow you to write down handy words and phrases which you can later study/practice. Keep a vocabulary journal and use the notebook to make a fun flash card game so that you can review the words later. Podcasts are a great way to practice comprehension based on context. Not sure what a specific word or phrase is? Perhaps the answer lies within another part of the text (transcript) or audio.
So, can you learn a new language only with podcasts?
The short answer is, “no”. Nothing quite beats a professional instructor who can correct and guide you on the spot as well as practice with other language learners and native speakers. This is one of the reasons inlingua courses are proven to be so successful. Nevertheless, you would be surprised by the progress you can make by listening to a podcast in a foreign language 20 minutes a day outside of your inlingua classes. Podcasts are convenient and helpful because they are easy to access and enriching. Perhaps the best solution would be to incorporate podcasts to your evening, weekend, and holiday schedule.
By: Chris A.
Lenhart, Jan. Incidental Vocabulary Acquisition from Listening to Stories: a Comparison between Read-Aloud and Free Storytelling Approaches, Jan Lenhart, Sept. 2017, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319465425_Incidental_vocabulary_acquisition_from_listening_to_stories_a_comparison_between_read-aloud_and_free_storytelling_approaches.
Palombo, Marielle. “5 Benefits of Using Podcasts to Teach Academic Language to Els.” Listenwise Blog, Marielle Palombo, 9 Sept. 2022, https://blog.listenwise.com/2022/03/using-podcasts-to-teach-academic-language-to-els/.
Qiang, Wei. Effects of Podcasts and Learning Styles on Language Proficiency and Attitudes, Wei Qiang, https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED546877.pdf#page=175.