Are you listening?: Podcasts improve language skills

Listening to podcasts is a great way to brush up on language skills before, during or after an international experience.

Those who are close to me know how much I love podcasts. I simply can’t get enough of This American Life, NPR’s Planet Money and Snap Judgement.

Podcasts have taught me a lot about telling stories conversationally, how to tell long-form stories and how to make an audio story flow. They have also taught me a lot about pronunciation, cadence and delivery of a story. I may be a fluent English speaker, but I am not yet able to tell a story like Ira Glass. And if I have a room for improvement in English, I definitely have a lot to improve in Spanish.

This week, I met with several Mizzou students who were interested in studying in Pamplona as well. They all expressed concern about taking classes entirely in Spanish. My advice to them was this: if you can understand your MU Spanish classes that are taught completely in the target language, then you will be fine taking classes completely in Spanish.

But there are a few caveats. It does get tiring to continuously listen and keep up during a long lecture. And it can also be difficult if the professors you are used to hearing have a different accent than the accent of your study abroad country. For me, it took some adjusting before I was completely comfortable with the Spanish accent.

I have found that listening to Spanish podcasts is one of the best passive ways to keep up my language skills. I listened to them while I was abroad and have continued to do so now that I am back. Obviously, this is second to actually having conversations with a native speaker. But most of us don’t have a native Spanish speaker we keep with us 24/7, while most of us are never separated from our smartphones or laptops. Podcasts are portable and convenient for an on-the-go student who is commuting between school and home or while on planes, trains and busses while traveling abroad.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Notes in Spanish: This podcast series comes in three levels from beginner to advanced. The two hosts are a husband-wife pair, Ben and Marina. Ben is a Brit who speaks Spanish fluently, but with the occasional stumble. Marina is from Spain and helps Ben out when he makes a mistake. The beginner podcasts are geared toward someone who maybe had a few Spanish classes in high school but doesn’t remember much anymore. The intermediate and advanced podcasts speak at a comfortable pace and talk about Spanish culture and current events. This podcast is ideal for: Spanish learners at a variety of levels who want to acclimate themselves to a Spanish (that is, from Spain) accent.

Radio Ambulante: These well-produced podcasts are the equivalent of This American Life in Spanish. The 20-30 minute podcasts include a variety of stores centralized around a theme. They tell stories from all over Latin America. Some are lighthearted, while others are more serious. This podcast is ideal for: Someone with an advanced grasp of Spanish who enjoys radio journalism and wants to become comfortable with a variety of Latin American accents.

TecnoCasters: This is technology news in Spanish presented in a funny, casual way. It’s produced in the United States, but the producers are from Mexico. While they do speak quickly and it’s not as highly produced as Notes in Spanish or Radio Ambulante, it is great practice to keep up in a conversation between two native speakers. This podcast is ideal for: Someone with an advanced grasp of Spanish who enjoys technology news and wants to become comfortable with listening to Spanish for long periods of time, i.e. someone who is preparing to study abroad.

My next goal is to find Spanish language television shows to watch, either online or broadcasted. Does anybody have any suggestions?


One thought on “Are you listening?: Podcasts improve language skills

  1. Interesting and informative post. Dad

    Dean Davison
    Director of Communications
    Lockton, Inc.
    444 W. 47th Street
    Kansas City, MO. 64112
    +1 816 960 9309
    +1 816 810 0982 mobile

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