Listening to Podcasts to Learn Spanish
Podcasts have come a long way since the term was coined in 2004 by joining up the words “iPod” and “broadcast”. Besides listening to them on your iPod or mp3 player, you can now download or stream them on your computer, tablet and phone, and, in fact, not that many people download them onto iPods or other mp3 players anymore!
They are usually available straight from their home pages or the home pages of the organisations that produce them.
If you have a Mac, iPad, iPhone or iPod, you can also get them from iTunes or on a range of apps such as Castbox or Radiopublic that are also available if you have an Android phone or tablet or you are listening straight from your PC. Spotify and Audible have also offered some podcasts for a while now.
Besides keeping up with the latest on just about anything or simply as entertainment, podcasts are also a fantastic tool for learning languages, including Spanish, because of the great deal of choice available for all levels. But it is precisely this abundance that can make it hard to know which ones to listen to. To save you some of the trial and error involved when looking for one that matches your level and interests, here’s a selection of podcasts to help you learn Spanish that we’ve listened to here at Chatterbug.
An oldie but goodie, first airing in 2008 (10 years ago!), Coffee Break Spanish is part of the Radiolingua language learning courses. Their free versions are almost complete standalone courses, with extra premium features that you can subscribe to if you choose to do so, and a great complement to any Spanish course.
Listen in on a mellow Scottish language teacher, Mark, guiding student Kara on her language learning journey for the first season and just chatting with Carmen in more advanced seasons. Coffee Break Spanish is great for learning and getting used to standard Spanish as it is spoken in Spain, with bitesize episodes that last for 10 to 15 minutes. Coffee break Spanish is present cross platform on just about all of the apps where podcasts can be found. They also have some visual content on Youtube if that’s more to your liking!
Staying with a “classic”, this time focusing more on a generic Latin American Spanish, this course does exactly what it says on the tin, and is designed to take you from beginner to intermediate without the need of a textbook or other materials while you drive to and from work or school on your daily commute. You could, of course also try listening to it elsewhere, but the method is based on getting you to do a lot of repetition out loud, making it ideal if you are driving on your own.
The 163 episodes of varying length are a great addition to any Spanish learning routine, particularly for beginners, and since difficulty is gradually ratched up, it is appropriate for learners who are not complete beginners as well; it is just a matter of finding the right spot where to start off from in that case. If you want to use Spotify for more than listening to music, this is a great place to start!
Podcasts for intermediate and advanced learners
If you were to just regularly listen to the two courses above, particularly if it were to be as a complement to other input, you would end up with a fairly solid command of basic Spanish. Time to take it up a notch! The following are some more advanced podcasts that are not designed as courses, but rather as input in paced language to help you to rev up your learning and quickly improve your Spanish language skills.
Nómadas (nomads in Spanish) presents itself as an “audio adventure that invites you to explore some of the most interesting corners of the planet”. Produced by RTVE, Spanish national public radio, this is an ongoing show that is like a travel documentary lasting around half an hour where every episode visits one or two countries or cities. It is like travel diary that is read out loud by Spanish voices. Because of the very descriptive nature that this kind of format requires, it uses a fairly rich vocabulary along with sound effects, but the speed used is relaxingly slow, particularly when compared to what is usually associated with Spanish. This makes it a great resource for both intermediate and advanced learners.
The result of a love story between a Gringo and a Colombiana, Españolistos was started to fill that gap in podcasts that help you to learn Spanish that are for intermediate to advanced learners. This podcast is done by Nate and Andrea and provides an American’s inside perspective on what it is like to learn Spanish. It comes with some helpful tips and tricks within episodes that are varied and entertaining and have a relaxed, informal feel to them. Bear in mind that the Spanish spoken here is mostly of the Colombian variety, since that is where Andrea is from. However, since some of the episodes are interviews with other native and non native speakers, you do get to hear some other kinds of Spanish as well. With a website accompanies the podcast containing some text articles in it as well, Españolistios is a great resource to add into any Spanish language learning mix to help you towards your goal of fluency.
If you are planning a trip along the Gringo Trail or elsewhere in Latin America, where you want to impress the locals with the breadth and depth of your Spanish, or you are just looking to considerably expand your vocabulary while listening to interesting place-specific stories from the Spanish speaking New World, then this podcast is for you. Radio ambulante is a panamerican show with speakers from various different countries where Spanish is spoken. This is a great way to get used to the distinctive melodies that Latin American Spanish has that make it different from European Spanish by listening to high quality stories that are like newspaper long-reads. Perfect for advanced learners to develop and maintain high quality vocabulary and the expression of complex thoughts.
Last to make our list and suitable if you are a an intermediate to advanced learner, you could do much worse than getting some of your daily news from the RNE news podcast. This is essentially a recording of all of the daily news newscasts. This is a full on, in terms of speed, Spanish language broadcast, so expect it to be challenging. The Spanish you will hear on it is standard Spanish as spoken in central and northern Spain although if you choose to listen to a regional channel, you might hear soft regional accent that could be stronger in some interviews. If you want to learn about Spanish current events and politics along with the language itself, this is the podcast for you!
Practice is the key to success in everything, and this is also the case when learning Spanish. But you shouldn’t just focus on reading about about grammar and doing exercises or memorising words using flashcards. No matter where you are or what you are doing, be it that early morning commute to work or a beach workout at sunset, podcasts are a great alternative to other forms of media input for you to mix things up a bit. Cleaning the house, doing the dishes, on a stroll, shopping for groceries or walking the dog are all also good times but… No time like the present!