Podcasts are Great… Especially for Language Learners
A guest post by fellow language educator, Adam Samuel.
Podcasts are audio files, mainly consisting of spoken word content on numerous topics that can be downloaded directly onto a computer or transportable media device, such as an iPhone. They can be downloaded as individual episodes or as subscriptions (meaning that future episodes are readily available for instant download on your device with just a click). Like blogs, podcasts offer a wealth of free and useful information, but the blog consumer faces the potentially painstaking task of having to sift through blog after blog in order to find what they might be looking for. Podcasts, on the other hand, are tidily collated into well-organised search engines such as iTunes, where they can be easily searched and located by topic or host/presenter.
As a passionate language teacher and learner, I’m very interested in the idea of learning styles. Would podcasts discriminate against those that are visual or kinaesthetic learners, as opposed to auditory? Well not according to an interviewee on the Smart Passive Income Podcast (and it’s these nuggets of wisdom that endear me to podcasts and podcasting). According to this expert, we all have elements of each learning style but we are all mainly visual learners. Gifted speakers are able to use spoken word as a vehicle to paint visual images in our mind – appealing to our visual learning mechanism.
Podcasts are also a perfect companion on long distance journeys, commutes into work, or gym workouts. The large majority of episodes that I listen to are 20 to 25 minutes long. This is probably because good podcasters are aware that anything longer than an hour, and you stand to lose your listeners – unless you provide such engaging content that the listener finds the time to continue listening!
My Podcast Picks
In my opinion, podcasts provide more of a personal and intimate experience in comparison to blogs. Notes in Spanish, the very first podcast I downloaded in 2005, dealt with a plethora of social and cultural issues relating to contemporary Spanish life, from the perspective of a mixed English and Spanish couple. The hosts styled their short podcasts in the form of an informal conversation in Spanish. If you closed your eyes, you could just imagine yourself sitting in their living room, listening in on an interesting chat over an afternoon coffee. The warmth and simplicity appealed to me as it most probably did to the thousands of other listeners who turned their podcast into one of the most popular language learning podcasts around.
There are many other language learning podcasts that can easily be found with a quick search in Google or iTunes (look for “French podcast”, “German podacst”, etc). Nowadays several radio broadcasters also choose to have most of their programmes available in podcast format, including renowned national broadcasters such as the BBC in the UK or RTVE in Spain. This means that a listener who didn’t manage to tune in and hear them live the first time has the option to hear the show they missed whenever they want. It also means that language learners can tune in to programs in their target language and have the power to press pause and repeat to help with their learning process.
Another great thing about podcasts is that there are just so many of them dealing with almost every topic under the sun. I currently subscribe to several relating to different interests of mine. There is Arsecast, a witty insight into the goings on at Arsenal, my favourite football team, Duendeando, a podcast that keeps me up to date with the world of flamenco music, and the Smart Passive Income Podcast, which offers useful information for entrepreneurs and small business owners. A quick search online revealed that there are billions of podcast episodes available for download.
Why not download one? If you are not sure how, just type in a topic you’re interested and the word ‘podcast’ and something is bound to come up!