New and Better Podcasts in Foreign Languages

August 15, 2016

Listening to podcasts is an integral, though nonessential, part of my overall approach. Podcasts provide language exposure and help to keep less active languages fresh in my mind, as well as providing interesting information and perspectives. If I practice shadowing with podcasts, then they also help me work on my pronunciation and speaking style and keep my speaking skills in shape during periods when I have limited opportunities to practice a language.

Yesterday and today was my most recent bout of searching for new podcasts. I found cool new podcasts in Spanish, German, Polish, Georgian, and Ukrainian.

Here is how I define a "good" podcast for my language learning needs: it is either full of intelligent conversation or contains a monologue on a topic of interest to me; I'm not usually a fan of entertainment, jokes, cool sound effects, or drama. But that's a matter of personal taste.

When I first started listening to podcasts in foreign languages, I would look for podcasts specifically designed for language learners, such as "Real Polish" or "Native French Speech."

I've now given up on this because these podcasts tend to lack spontaneity and excitement. I prefer to listen to normal podcasts oriented towards native speakers.

How to find foreign language podcasts in your Podcast app

Think of some really common words in the foreign language and search for them to see what comes up. So for Slovak that could be words like "prečo" (why) or "ako" (how). If I search for "a" (and) I will end up getting a ton of different languages, so I have to think about which words probably aren't shared by other languages.

For German I searched for "Wissenschaft" (science) and immediately found the SWR2 Wissen podcast, which has great discussions on topics from political correctness to the Amazon basin. I did the same for Spanish ("Ciencia" = science) and found "Ciencia y genios," which tells the stories of scientists and geniuses of the past.

In the case of Georgian and other languages that have a unique alphabet, searching for podcasts is incredibly easy: just enter each letter of the alphabet one at a time and see what comes up. I did that two years ago and found two good podcasts, but today I managed to find a new one (Radio Free Europe) that is better than what I already had — Voice of America — because it also features interviews with experts on matters of day-to-day interest in Georgia rather than focusing on events in America or worldwide.

Ideally, your foreign language podcasts should be so interesting in and of themselves that it doesn't take any willpower to choose to listen to them instead of a podcast in your native language. 

I'm slowly... gradually... bit by bit... phasing out my use of English language podcasts. I'm trying to find ones in other languages that are just as interesting or inspiring as those I've been listening to in English.

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