June 23, 2020

Podcasts are a great learning tool


Podcasts changed my life. And they will change yours if you are trying to learn or practise a new language!

Listening to podcasts has improved my commute, made my daily walks more enjoyable and even queuing at the supermarket is not boring anymore! Not only can they be entertaining and informative, but they have also been an especially useful tool to make sound and visible progress in the foreign languages I have learnt.

Podcasts will help you with one of the four skills necessary in language learning process: listening. The advantage is that you can listen to them anywhere and at any time: only downside is that passively listening is not always the best option.

Here are a few tips to make the most of a podcast if you are learning a foreign language:

  1. Find the right podcast for you. For example, I flick through the options on my ARD Audiothek app every morning and find a topic which I find interesting, whether it is about travelling, identity issues or current affairs. All podcasts are in German and I feel like I am learning so much by being exposed to the language every day. If you are into cooking, you will gain more out of it if you find a podcast on a topic of your interest!
  2. Slow It! On many podcast apps, you have the option to speed up and slow down the audio. It can be a helpful tool, especially when native speakers tend to speak fast. Good thing you can always rewind it and listen to it again if you missed out an important piece of information.
  3. Focus on what really matters! Try to get the gist of the message, there is no need to understand every single word: when you get to that level you do not need to work on that language anymore! You should instead get the general message, the main facts and ideas: the level should not be too easy, nor too difficult!
  4. Keep a list of the new vocabulary: If you can, try to figure out the meaning of the word from the context, then go look up the word and write down the definition. This can sometimes seem long, but you can look back at the list of words a week later and test yourself to see how many you can remember.
  5. Look for transcripts: this will vary from podcast to podcast, but if you can find shows that publish full transcripts, it will be a real time-saver.
  6. Listen to your favourite podcasts again a few days or weeks after the first time and do something with the content you have learnt! You could summarise it in the target language, try to translate it on the spot, predict which words will come up next or do an old-style dictation with it (which means you will listen to the podcast and try to write down what you hear).