Will 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
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
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?