We’ve entered the age of the podcast and as this method of media has risen in popularity, so has the use of podcasts as a way to learn a language. From Spanish to Russian to Chinese, there is a plethora of podcasts out there that promise to help beef up your vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and hone your grammar skills. Can 30 minutes of listening a day really do the trick when it comes to not just absorbing but learning to speak a new language?
Can you learn a language from a podcast?
Using a podcast is the latest trendy way to get your language practice, especially for people who are always on the go. After all, with a pair of headphones you can listen anywhere, from the car to the gym, to the grocery store. But are podcasts an effective way to learn a language?
The short answer is, not really.
Podcasts can enhance your language skills and help train your ear, but they usually aren’t an effective learning method on their own. However, one of the criteria that indicates how successful you’ll be learning a language is how often you’re exposed to other speakers of the language. From this perspective, podcasts can be a great way to broaden your bandwidth and maximize the time you spend immersed in the language you’re learning.
That’s why Rosetta Stone also offers Audio Companion, a feature that allows you to download your lessons and listen offline. It’s perfect for times when you can’t engage with your lesson directly, like in a crowded train car, but you’d still like to get some benefit from reviewing vocabulary or getting more familiar with pronunciation. Podcasts can also be great tools for increasing cultural understanding since they usually cover topics relevant to the region. Rosetta Stone Stories provide a similar function, offering engaging tales told by native speakers that are based on aspects of the local culture.
Podcasts can also be great tools for increasing cultural understanding since they usually cover topics relevant to the region. Rosetta Stone Stories provide a similar function, offering engaging tales told by native speakers that are based on aspects of the local culture. You can get a taste by going to the extended learning section of the Rosetta Stone App.
Where can you find language learning podcasts?
If you’re new to the podcast scene, you may be wondering where to find podcasts. You can peruse and subscribe in places like the iTunes store, the Apple podcast app, Spotify, the Google Play Store, or other handy podcast apps like TuneIn or Stitcher.
Some podcasts will be free while others will require a paid subscription, so be sure you listen to a free episode or clip before you commit.
3 ways to learn more from a foreign language podcast
Much of the benefit you’ll receive in listening to a podcast will be directly related not only to how the content is presented, but how you listen to it. You can choose a few different methods depending on what level of proficiency you’re at and the sorts of advantages you’re looking to get out of listening.
1. Slow the podcast playback down
Similar to audiobooks, you can usually slow down or speed up the playback setting on your device and this can be an enormous advantage for language learners. When you first engage with a podcast, if it’s just a smidge above your understanding due to the speed of the conversation, slow it down until you catch up. Conversely, if you’ve gotten used to a beginner’s podcast but aren’t quite ready yet for a more advanced approach, you can speed things up to challenge yourself.
2. You’ll benefit more from the podcast if you’re engaged
It’s okay if you’re passively listening to a podcast in the car or the gym because you didn’t have time to do anything else, but long term you’ll get more out of it if you listen actively. That means removing distractions, sitting down, and focusing. If you’re not really an auditory learner, you may find your mind wanders as you listen so try to take notes as you listen to keep yourself engaged.
3. Keep the podcast transcript handy
Not every podcast will offer transcripts, but for beginners this supplement is a life-saver. Either read along or review transcripts later to figure out exchanges you didn’t understand and brush up on words that were hard to identify. Because listening engages similar areas of the brain, you’ll experience the same benefits whether you’re listening to or reading the podcast.
Top 18 podcasts to learn a language
Our recommendations focus on podcasts that straddle a few different areas, from general language learning tips to content geared towards speaking the language. Rosetta Stone is not affiliated in any way with the following podcasts, nor does our recommendation of these podcasts mean we endorse any of the specific content or recommend them as an effective language learning method.*
The best podcasts for language learning tips
The Fluent Show (formerly The Creative Language Learning Podcast)
Hosted by Kerstin Cable, The Fluent Show has been a crowd favorite for years. As a German language tutor, Kerstin’s passion for language learning shines through as she interviews guests, reviews language learning tools and products, and offers up commentary on language-related news. Stick around until the end so you don’t miss the most helpful segment of each episode, a collection of three tips for language learners.
The best language learning podcast series
If you’re looking for language learning podcasts, there are some reliable series produced that cover most of the popular languages, from Chinese to German.
These podcasts by Innovative Language cover a wide range of languages, with lesson discussions, deep dives on specific elements of the language, and notes available for further study. New lessons arrive weekly to Pod101, so you’ll have plenty of fresh content to keep you busy. Although you can listen to some trial episodes free, these podcasts do require a subscription to access the entire series.
News in Slow
Whether you’re studying French, Italian, German or European or Latin American Spanish, this weekly news-focused podcast can be useful to expand your vocabulary and stay up to date on current events. As the name suggests, News in Slow offers clips of real news broadcasts and slows them down so learners can digest what is being discussed. Printable transcripts are also available for beginners who want to read along.
Coffee Break Languages
Offered by Radio Lingua, Coffee Break Language podcasts come in five flavors, French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Chinese. These 30-minute podcasts can be an accompaniment to your morning coffee, lunch break, or walk around the block with different seasons of the podcast geared towards different levels of learning. While some episodes are free, you’ll have to pay a fee to get access to the full pour of Coffee Break’s podcasts.
The best French language learning podcasts
Hosted by a native French speaker, the DailyFrenchPod is geared towards beginners and intermediate learners. Be warned these podcasts are delivered exclusively in French, but the narration from Louis is clear and straightforward. The podcast episodes are centered around everyday situations and transcripts are available for newbies who need some help following along.
One Thing In A French Day (Intermediate)
French native speaker Laetitia’s podcast, One Thing In A French Day, is described as a “small slice of a Frenchwoman’s day” and covers daily encounters from grabbing a croissant to getting a haircut. With three fresh episodes produced every week, One Thing In A French Day is an excellent way not only to pick up some new vocabulary but to get a better handle on the ins and outs of French life.
Français Authentique (Advanced)
If you’re already well on your way to understanding French, but still struggling a bit to speak it at speed, Français Authentique might help. Host Johan covers a variety of topics while introducing French expressions and his diction is crisp and clear.
The Best Italian Language Learning Podcasts
Podcast MeetItalia caters to beginners with three different categories: travel phrases, experience, and history. They focus on delivering a podcast that will specifically help non-native speakers in their travels to Italy. While there is some grammar, MeetItalia also is sprinkled with dialogues and practical phrases presented alongside PDFs for further study. There’s even a quiz. You know—if you’re interested in that sort of thing.
Podcast Italiano (Intermediate)
In a mixture of colloquialisms and personal stories, host Davide Gemello leads Podcast Italiano listeners through episodes entirely in Italian. While you can select podcast episodes to suit your capabilities, those who aren’t quite ready for an immersive experience can follow along with transcripts on the website.
Maxmondo Incontro Italian (Advanced)
This audio magazine is geared towards Italian culture and because it’s prepared by an italian team and based in Italy, you’ll find the episodes are most useful to advanced learners. Subscribers to Maxmondo Incontro Italian get access to PDF transcripts of each episode alongside vocabulary and grammar notes.
The Best German Language Learning Podcasts
Slow German (Beginners)
Annik Rubens, a Munich journalist, shares her casual conversations in German, slowed down a bit for the beginning and intermediate language learner. There are some episodes in Slow German that are conducted in English, but they’re designed to help beginners learn to navigate specific situations like getting a taxi cab or ordering coffee.
A Flavour of German (Intermediate)
A Flavour of German follows a fascinating format with both a native German speaker and a German learner dissecting idioms and common phrases. Like the name of the podcast implies, these short episodes are only about eight to ten minutes long and designed to give listeners a taste of speaking German.
Deutsche Welle (Advanced)
Even if you’re not an avid podcaster or learning German, you’ve probably heard of Deutsche Welle. This German public broadcaster offers a collection of podcasts as well as news and other media. Pick topics that interest you at a level you can understand or opt to explore their “Learn German” section. Radio D is a good podcast to start with if you want something specifically geared towards beginners
The Best Spanish Language Learning Podcasts
Spanish Obsessed (Beginners)
Hosts Rob and Liz hail from the UK and Colombia and they produce Spanish Obsessed episodes geared towards every level of Spanish language learning, from advanced to beginners. As a real-life couple, Rob and Liz have the kind of chemistry that makes the episodes charming and easy to listen to. The stress here is on conversational Spanish that you’d hear on the streets of Latin America.
Españolistos is hosted by another interesting couple, a Colombian Spanish teacher and her American fiancee. Because the topics can wander into territory like online dating or politics, these episodes are a bit much for beginners but great for intermediate learners looking to expand their vocabulary.
Radio Ambulante (Advanced)
An award-winning podcast distributed by NPR, Radio Ambulante will challenge your Spanish proficiency with stories from all across Latin America. Because its goal is journalism and not language learning, these episodes are best suited for advanced learners but transcripts are available online if you get lost.
Other Language Learning Podcasts Worth Checking Out
Doesn’t this podcast have video? Yes. Yes, it does. But because the video is intended to complement the audio from the episodes, you can still listen to Yes, Japan without the visuals. Author George Trombley does an excellent job of leading both beginners and intermediate learners through grammar and vocabulary examples in an approachable and clear way.
This podcast can be particularly helpful to beginning learners of Chinese, who might initially struggle with the tonal aspects of the language. With episodes just under 10 minutes long and transcripts in both English and Chinese on the website, Slow Chinese a useful companion to a language learning program.
Talk the Talk
Language nerds and linguists unite for this podcast from Western Australia. Talk the Talk is all about language, from debates on semantics to the benefits of being multilingual. As this podcast is for folks who really like to dig into and dissect what makes languages work, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed during these podcasts are made solely by the creator and do not reflect the views of Rosetta Stone. Recommendations are offered for informational purposes only and are not considered an endorsement of the content.