I have been learning, teaching, reading, and writing about foreign languages for over a decade. One of the most frequently asked questions for those already learning a language is how to improve listening skills. Are podcasts really worth it?
No matter which language you’re learning and your current level, listening is critical to anyone’s journey.
You cannot truly understand a language without developing an ear for that tongue. It also impacts how we speak, read, and write.
Talking or having conversations with a skilled teacher, native, or someone who speaks well is the best and the most effective way.
But that may not be possible for most learners living far from where it is widespread or not studying through immersion.
So, it is common for learners to try various language methods and tools to improve their listening abilities. To do that, they hear audio lessons and music and even watch videos.
Thankfully, plenty of resources can help you learn and improve your listening aptitudes. Some of them are ok, but most aren’t that good.
Music and audio lessons don’t always represent how we speak in daily life. Further, they are not natural tools and are less effective for learners.
To solve this, you can listen to one of the many podcasts to take your language skills to a higher level.
It is an incredible way to learn, practice, and improve the target language, especially pronunciation. Also, it helps build vocabulary, phrases, sentences, and speaking and reading skills.
So, let’s explore the benefits associated with Podcasts and how to do it.
Table of Contents
- Benefits of language learning with Podcasts
- Can you learn a language through only Podcasts?
- Final Words: Should Language learners use Podcasts?
Benefits of language learning with Podcasts
Today, you have endless resources to learn a language of your choice. So, of all the options, why should you listen to Podcasts in the first place?
You might wonder how Podcasts can actually help you learn a foreign language. Let’s explore the top advantages of Podcasts!
1. Podcasts help to cut down on screen time
As per various research, too much screen time strains your eyes, which can cause vision and other health problems. It also impacts our sleep and makes us live a more inactive lifestyle. In short, there are many negative aspects to it.
All online language resources like face-to-face study, video lectures, listening exercises, and apps need you to sit in front of a screen.
Learners are busy with work that demands visual attention and varying screen time preferences.
This is where language learning podcasts are unique and shining!
They do not count as screen time on smartphones or laptops. This is because we either switch the screen off or don’t need to constantly watch the screen to read or listen to anything.
Just pick your favorite channel, host, and even the topic, duration, and difficulty level. And finally, start listening to the Podcasts on the go!
You can listen and entertain yourself while commuting, doing daily chores, or just walking in the park. Learn and practice wherever you are and whenever you wish.
This eyes-free and hands-free form of learning makes you better at multitasking. As an outcome, you can enhance your language skills even with a busy schedule and less stress on your eyes.
2. Convenient and Time-efficient
A notable advantage of podcasts is their flexibility and convenience. You can easily subscribe and download the audio on a mobile or laptop device and access it anywhere and anytime.
Whether traveling in the metro, eating in a cafe, buying some groceries, or at home, Podcasts help you understand your target language. And in a better, more convenient, and relaxed way.
Being easily accessible anytime, you can turn back to podcasts on your smartphone. This encourages active learning in your comfort on the move.
That is the reason podcasts are thriving. They’re available when a listener wants to listen, whether 2 years old or the day they broadcast it.
Listeners can sometimes get hooked on podcasts when they have many episodes that can be played back-to-back. Do you miss something? No problem, you have the flexibility with a click to stop, start, and hear again.
This enables binge-watching, which improves your target language’s listening and speaking skills. And all this isn’t boring, but you will have lots of fun!
3. Podcasts are almost free
Most other language resources cost some money, either one-time or regular. On the other hand, podcasts are available for free in most cases.
You can listen and download from dozens of music streaming platforms. For example, the list is never-ending. Google or Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Overcast, Audible, PlayerFM, Spotify, TuneIn, and Stitcher.
Some of these services offer ads for free users. But the quality content you receive far outweighs those occasional pesky pop-ups. You can also pay for ad-free, better sound quality, exclusive audio, and other features.
Of course, many paid options require recurring costs too. But, while some are awesome at what they do, it is still optional for most of you.
You can start with the free ones. Then, later, if you feel you need some premium ones. Then, you can consider buying 1-2 subscriptions to take your language abilities to a higher level.
4. Improve your Listening and speaking skills
Language is all about communication. And to do that, we have four basic language skills — reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
All four are necessary as per situation and needs. Yet, speaking and listening play a much more essential role in personal and professional life.
And these two abilities are also the best way to learn any language. By listening to native or fluent speakers, you gain a deep understanding of the language you’re studying currently.
Native speakers create most voice content, allowing you to practice pronunciation in the actual way it is spoken. You will also know how locals use the language with slang and idioms in real-life.
Depending on your listening requirements and skills, you can always speed up or slow down the episode for better grasping.
Podcasts can improve your pronunciation, accent, syllable stress, and intonation. This also trains your ear and mind for the language you’re learning.
Repeating what you hear is the quickest way to speak and enhance your listening.
5. Improve your vocabulary and grammar
Podcasts offer language learners exposure to various topics, stories, and situations.
Research shows that incidental exposure to academic vocabulary through listening to stories helps students learn the meaning of unknown words.
Besides listening and thus speaking, it also helps you increase your vocabulary. Our brains are wired to achieve that. As a language learner, your level is usually determined by the progression of your word.
Your fluency level increases as you learn more words. While grammar helps, vocabulary always plays a most prominent role. Knowing more words will give you much more confidence when conversing with locals.
Listening to a language podcast will help you expand your vocabulary. It also gives you a feel for the different grammar rules and shows you how to make some good sentences in that language.
For a better learning experience, keep track of unfamiliar words on the podcast you’re listening to. Then, if you don’t understand the context or meaning, look for a dictionary and get a complete sense of what it means.
6. It enhances your reading skills
The podcast is a superb online language learning tool to improve your listening and reading abilities.
If you read the transcripts along with hearing the audio at the same time. In that case, you will surely enhance your overall language skills. When you read the words, you will know exactly how to pronounce and use them.
You can always slow down, speed up, rewind, forward, or pause to match your reading pace. Further, you can always reread something you didn’t get when you first heard it.
This may make it feel more like reading than listening to a podcast. But having both the written and audio versions can significantly assist you in learning new languages.
There is another incentive associated with reading and listening together. When you do it simultaneously, your focus and attention span increase.
Remember, not all transcripts are available for all podcasts. Finding the entire and suitable transcripts of the podcasts before starting to play will save you a lot of time.
7. Get a better understanding of culture
Language and culture are closely related. To have friendly conversations with people in a language you’re learning, you need to understand their culture.
Podcasts do not just help you learn some vocabulary, grammar, and how to sound correctly. It also covers diverse aspects of the country’s culture where language is valuable.
Listening to podcasts allows you to gain a more in-depth insight into native speakers’ cultures and traditions. Hear how they speak, and you’ll learn about their society, practices, festivals, foods, customs, and much more.
Most foreign-language podcasts also make studying entertaining. For example, if you listen to any popular Korean language podcast. Then chances are you will discover episodes of Kpop and Kdrama.
Likewise, listening to a French-language podcast could teach you about Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel. You will also get all the latest news in the Francophone nations, the Eiffel Tower, Montreal, French classes near you, and the different types of Baguettes served in Paris.
You’ll often study the cultures and countries of your target language. Plus, many language podcasts include culture discussions as part of the host and guest talks.
8. A variety of podcasts for everyone
There are a lot of different kinds of podcasts out there.
Podcasts are available for a wide variety of interests. Do you fancy podcasts for learning Spanish? K-movie? Life in Japan? Careers in Japanese language or Japan? Literature?
Podcasts are available for all these topics. There is something for everyone as per taste and need.
Students often get overwhelmed by the number of podcasts available and don’t know which to choose. To decide which is right for you, I advise trying a few.
It is vital to try a few and see which format and style you prefer. Since almost all are free, expect some platform-based subscriptions, and keep checking until you find some great ones and what you want.
Pick a topic of interest, difficulty level, and goal, and get started.
Can you learn a language through only Podcasts?
The short answer is no!
Podcasting is a modern language teaching platform across topics, fields, and ages. So, the technique can really help you improve your foreign language ability. But, I would suggest not depending only on one language tool, i.e., podcasts.
Podcasts can indeed be convenient and suitable. This is because most of you play a podcast and continue with your work while you listen to it in the background.
But this will not get you anywhere if it is to learn a new language from scratch.
Just listening won’t take you anywhere near the advanced level. You may even lose your passion and interest eventually.
It can best work as a supplement to take your existing knowledge to the next level and enhance your listening skills.
Nothing is better than an experienced teacher in terms of success. But by combining Podcasts with other standard and language hacks, you can surely push yourself to speak the target language in a better way.
Final Words: Should Language learners use Podcasts?
With so many language resources, Podcasts are a splendid study tool a language enthusiast needs. By doing so, you can achieve higher levels of fluency.
And why not?
It is readily accessible, free, and helps with tricky listening, reading, and even vocabulary. It also comprises a vast range of subjects of interest and curiosity for those who can’t get enough languages in their day-to-day life.
It is an excellent approach to enhancing your listening. Also, it provides the possibility of learning something new. Podcasts can also aid in increasing word power and improving pronunciation.
If convinced, you’re ready to tune in to the top language learning podcasts for your chosen level and topics. While some podcasts might be too hard to comprehend. So, you can use transcripts to create a more in-depth study.
You can start with simple and short ones that are easier to grasp. Then finally, you can move ahead with more difficult and relevant ones as you progress.
What do you think of Podcasts as an effective language learning tool? Do you have any perspectives to share? Write in the comments below!