Learn Spanish With Free Podcasts: Coffee Break Spanish and Notes in Spanish Review

podcastsWill I get kicked off the internet if I admit that I’d never listened to a podcast before I started learning Spanish?

I’m not an early adopter. In fact, most of the time I’m not an adopter at all.

But I am a recent convert to the world of podcasts. In fact, I’ve listened to two – which pretty much makes me a podcast expert, right?

OK, maybe “expert” is a bit of an exaggeration. But I’m at least qualified enough to share my thoughts on the two podcasts that I’ve listened to so far: Coffee Break Spanish and Notes in Spanish.

Both of these podcasts offer extra material like transcripts and worksheets for sale, but the podcasts themselves are free to stream online or download to your computer in MP3 form.

Podcast for Beginners: Coffee Break Spanish

coffeebreakspanish

Coffee Break Spanish is a free podcast by Radio Lingua. There are 80 episodes in the series, each lasting somewhere around 15 minutes.

The first episode of Coffee Break Spanish assumes that you’re starting from zero, so it’s perfect for beginners. In the first episode, you’ll learn to greet people and introduce yourself. From there, each podcast builds on the ones before, constantly reviewing what you’ve already learned.

I really enjoyed listening to Marc (the teacher) and Kara (the student). They’re likeable, engaging and very easy to listen to. They’re both Scottish and speak with beautiful accents in English. The teacher’s accent in Spanish is – as far as I can tell – perfect. Of course, not being Spanish, I might be wrong!

Coffee Break Spanish was the very first resource that I started using when I decided that I wanted to learn Spanish a few months ago. I repeated words and sentences out loud until I felt comfortable with them. I really enjoyed the pace at first – the podcasts are short and engaging, and progress nicely for beginners.

That said, after about 15 episodes, I started feeling that I’d “outgrown” the podcast. Because I was using a variety of other resources in addition to this one, I quickly progressed to the point where I didn’t feel that I was getting as much out of it. Coffee Break Spanish includes an awful lot of English explanations, and I was ready for a more immersive approach, completely in Spanish. I do think that if someone were just using this podcast to casually pick up some Spanish before travelling, it would be well worth continuing through to episode 80.

Is it worth listening to Coffee Break Spanish?

Sure! I think that it’s a great introduction for absolute beginners. For intermediate or advanced learners, it might progress a little bit slowly, but it’s great as a springboard to get you started. It helps build your confidence by introducing new concepts slowly and in a logical order. Radio Lingua also offers a free podcast for intermediate learners – Show Time Spanish – but I haven’t listened to enough episodes to really give it a fair review. I really enjoyed the ones that I listened to, though!

Podcast for Intermediate Learners: Notes in Spanish

notesinspanish

Notes in Spanish offers three levels of free podcasts: beginner, intermediate and advanced. After “graduating” from Coffee Break Spanish, I was looking for something a bit more complicated – and with a lot more Spanish. I chose to start with the intermediate version of Notes in Spanish.

This podcast by husband-and-wife team Ben and Marina is based on a very simple premise: two people talking about whatever it is that they feel like talking about. Family, travel, fears, jobs, current events, the weather, traditions – basically Ben and Marina just chat with each other.

Ben is originally British, and it’s obvious that Spanish is his second language. This isn’t a bad thing! The fact that he’s still learning and sometimes makes mistakes is encouraging. It’s nice to be reminded that a second language doesn’t have to be perfect to be fully functional!

I enjoy the energy between Marina and Ben. They speak clearly, using a very natural vocabulary. Listening to the podcast has improved my understanding of the rhythm and cadence of conversational Spanish. In fact, I’ve started using “pues” during conversations with my Spanish language partners! I also find that my active vocabulary is increasing. While the intermediate podcasts don’t set out to explicitly teach vocabulary, it just happens organically and in context.

Is it worth listening to Notes in Spanish?

Absolutely! I enjoy the pace and the conversational tone of each 10-minute episode. I feel that listening to this podcast has already helped me hone my comprehension skills, making Spanish conversations easier to follow. Unlike Coffee Break Spanish, I don’t think that I’ll outgrow this podcast before I finish the set of 46 episodes.

What about advanced learners?

Well, I’m not an advanced learner yet. When I am, I’m not sure that I’ll seek out podcasts aimed at “advanced learners”. Instead, I’ll probably look for a podcast aimed at actual Spanish speakers.

Podcasts can help improve listening comprehension

Listening comprehension is, in many ways, the hardest skill to develop when learning a second language. Accents, speed of speech, slang, pitch and tone – there are so many variables that can make listening to a second language much more difficult than reading it, or even speaking it. Podcasts provide the perfect opportunity to work on listening comprehension without being able to use visuals as a crutch.

While I absolutely feel that Skype conversations and TV shows like Destinos are great at improving my comprehension, podcasts work my brain in a completely different way. I have to focus more deeply on the words, since there’s no body language to help me pick out the meaning.

And so – being the podcast expert that I so obviously am – I cheerfully and enthusiastically recommend including podcasts into any learning plan!

Do you listen to podcasts?

I’d love to hear about your experiences with listening to podcasts in a second language. Do you find them helpful? How do you use them? Any in particular that you’d like to recommend?

14 thoughts on “Learn Spanish With Free Podcasts: Coffee Break Spanish and Notes in Spanish Review

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  2. Andy

    I have just seen you page by chance and saw some of the podcasts that I have have used to improve my spanish. Have you tried ssl4you ? , she is teacher in Zamora, Castilla y Leon. If you go to her blog http://ssl4you.blogspot.co.uk/ you can read the transcripts in spanish and english as well as listening to the podcast.

    Que tengas mucho suerte con tu aprendizaje de español.

    Reply
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  4. Taha

    Hi,
    Thank you for this great article, I’m Libyan, I also use podcasts to learn new languages, I used them to learn English (several podcasts from BBC) and now I’m using them to learn French ( as I’m beginner I’m using Coffee Break French) and I found this podcast very interesting and helpful.

    BTW Stephanie, I always read your articles on italki.com, and I’ve found them very useful, convincing, inspiring, and motivating.
    I recently came across your website and I added it to my favorite websites to visit it regularly 😉 and I also one of your followers on twitter 🙂
    my username on twitter is: Libyanation

    Best Regards 😉

    Reply
    1. Stephanie Post author

      Hi Taha! Thanks so much for your kind words! I’m glad you’re enjoying my articles and blog! What do you think of Coffee Break French? I was thinking about recommending it to a few of my students, but I’m not sure if it moves too slowly. I’d like to find a podcast like Notes in Spanish, except in French.

      Reply
      1. Taha

        Hi Setphanie,
        Thank you for following me back on twitter 😉
        Regarding Coffee Break French, and as I’m very beginner in French, I can’t make a fair comparison between it and other (French teaching podcasts), but when I decided to learn French I searched on iTunes for French podcasts, I found many, and I listened to the first few podcasts of about 4 or 5 of them, and I felt that CBF is the best one for me at this level. I sometimes listen to other podcasts just to get my ears used to the sounds and tunes of the language, but I don’t understand much of them because I’m still building up my vocabulary.
        The most thing I love about CBF is that Mark speaks to/asks his student and let a sound gap for the listeners to try to answer or reply to him. This helps me a lot to improve my speaking skills as a beginner.
        I usually listen to CBF when driving or walking or working in my home, it’s not the only resource I use for learning French, but sure it is very useful for beginners.
        my plan to learn French is:
        1- taking Duolingo Course as main course for gradually progressing my study.
        2- Listening to CBF to improve my listening/speaking skills.
        3- Using an app called Mosalingua on my iPhone to build my vocabulary with native speakers sounds for each vocabulary and it has Spaced Repetition System built in.
        4- After finishing Duolingo course, and learning at least 2000 vocabulary on Mosalingua, I will search then for a private teacher for 1 on 1 lessons (maybe on italki) or in person, to practice speaking and do as much conversations as I can, and to brush up what I have already learnt, and to level up to advanced level.

        this is my plan, what do you think of it? do have any suggestions or modifications to it?

        Thank you again 😉
        BTW, I’m also still learning English, so if you noticed any mistake in my sentences in this reply, or if you think some sentence maybe written in a better way, please do correct them or suggest better ones for me 😀

        Regards,

        Reply
        1. Stephanie Post author

          Very interesting! It sounds like you have a solid plan! Can I suggest one more resource? French in Action is a *fantastic* program for learning French, even if all you have access to are the videos – which you can find for free online. HIghly recommended!

          Reply
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  6. Alex M

    You are not the only one. Me too, never listened to podcasts before, and started learning Spanish with Coffee Break podcasts. Podcasts are great – my work is often a passive waiting, so CB Spanish was an excellent way to kill the time AND learn Spanish. Mark in CB Spanish is a top-notch teacher, a talent. He knows how to highlight all the links and similarities – our adult brains need explanations and something to “hold on to”, not just thoughtless memorizing like many textbooks suggest.

    I renamed all 80 lessons according to the main topic, i.e. Health, Taxi, Preterite and so on – so that I can go back and review it when I need.

    Podcasts will only bring you to beginners-intermediate level. To learn more, you need practice, practice and practice. Same with any other learning material like textbooks or videos. Talking would’ve been the best, but where are you going to find somebody to talk Spanish? So you need a podcast where they talk, not teach. Like Notes in Spanish. This is still not enough, so then you’re on your own – watch Spanish movies with subtitles, reading whatever you can – by that time you’ll be at upper-intermediate level.

    Reply
    1. Stephanie Post author

      Thanks for the comment! I didn’t make it through all of CB Spanish. I might have if I hadn’t been on such a tight timeline.

      “Talking would’ve been the best, but where are you going to find somebody to talk Spanish?” – Skype is the modern language learners best friend! At one point I was spending about seven hours per week on Skype conversing in Spanish. Now, I only spend two hours a week, since I’m also learning Tagalog. Look on http://www.conversationexchange.com for language partners and http://www.italki.com for tutors and language partners. Buensa suerte!

      Reply

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