Do podcasts help students learn languages?

Do podcasts help students learn languages?

“Do podcasts help students learn languages?” Every year since becoming a teacher, I have been asked this question. My answer has always been a big fat, “YES!”

In 2014, I wrote a blog post for a blog called ‘Esperanza Education’ entitled ‘The Power of the Podcast’. Technology has come on leaps and bounds since then. This blog post revisits the topic of podcasts and reflects the changes I have noticed over the last few years.

The most striking difference is that there is a lot more content nowadays, about everything. As a result, companies such as Google and Amazon target their content towards users very well. People are a lot more selective about what they watch and listen to. Many prefer to go online nowadays instead of watch the television. If they do watch television, it is more often than not ‘on demand.’

So, what are podcasts?

They are audio files that people download onto computers and wifi-enabled devices. Sometimes they include video, too.  Some people download individual episodes, others subscribe to the podcast. Subscribing means future episodes are ready to download immediately or automatically.

iTunes and podcasts have a long way to go to compete with the likes of YouTube. Somewhere online, I read that podcasts are niche and have never really taken off. I would argue against this. If you decide to start listening to podcasts, you will see how popular some of the big names are.

From listener to podcaster.

Since 2014, I have hosted about 30 episodes of my own podcast entitled “The Teaching Tips and Tales Podcast.” I am a bit out of practice now though. I’d definitely recommend trying it – you really learn a lot! Teachers, if there are any of you reading, you might be interested in an episode or two.

So, how do podcasts help students learn languages?

Mastering the 4 key skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing in a foreign language is imperative for effortless communication and understanding. This is certain. So yes, listen to podcasts, but don’t neglect your other skills.

Practising one skill in isolation is almost impossible, but eliminating distractions helps a lot. Some benefits of podcasts are listed below:

  1. Listening to a podcast without video takes away the visual cues and helps the learner focus on the sounds.
  2. Reading along with the script (many podcasts offer free PDF downloads) makes you practise reading and pronunciation, too.
  3. Often, podcasts are free – as long as you have wifi. Listening to them will save you the cost of audio-courses.
  4. You can listen to what you are interested in. There is something for everybody on the Internet and iTunes. Taking an interest in something means you are more motivated to listen to and learn about it, right?
  5. Long-distance journeys, commuting to work, and exercising are all potential learning opportunities. Times like these usually call for music or radio. Why not whip out a podcast instead?

Modern advances in technology

When I first started learning Italian in 2003, podcasts were not really on the scene. According to Wikipedia, they started to catch on in 2004 but still, the content available was very limited.

Slow, dial-up Internet was the norm, and hardly anyone had the Internet on their phones. Those that did, didn’t have enough data. Note taking whilst listening to Italian Internet radio was how I learned. I couldn’t stop or rewind it either. The trip to the Italian Cultural Institute was tedious, but it meant that I could rent films.

Mind you, things are so much easier these days.

Nowadays almost everyone has a smartphone. These little devices allow us to do almost anything and facilitate the flow of information. If we want to practise our listening skills, or just listen to something for fun, it’s free and easy! This is why podcasts are great, and you can expose your ear to different voices from around the globe.

Take advantage of technology… that’s what it’s there for. And don’t forget to subscribe to us at speechrevision.co.uk/

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