Podcasts are becoming more popular. They are entertaining, informative, and you can listen to them wherever: on your daily run, whilst cooking or simply relaxing. At the same time there is an increase in language learning podcasts, thus my question about their effectiveness in helping us acquire a new language.

If your aim at learning a language is communicating, I understand that you feel drawn to language podcasts. They give you a taste of the way the language is spoken. You get also familiar to the correct pronunciation. They are indeed a great tool.

If your aim is learning and/or improving your existing language skills passive listening – having the language podcast as a background sound- is not the way. You must use it as any other learning material i.e focusing on it so to take advantage of the activity at hand.

Type of podcasts

There are two type of podcasts: those about any topic recorded in the language of your interest, and the second type are specifically made for language learners (language learning podcasts); they are structured to guide you through the learning process of this new language.

If you are new to the language, my advice is for you to start listening to the language learning podcasts. These give you directions on how to learn the language, they provide tips, help with grammar and new vocabulary as well as some explanations in your mother tongue.

Have a notebook at hand

You should keep a notebook to write down all the new vocabulary that you listen to.Try to guess their meaning in context, but at the end of the session find out in a dictionary the diverse interpretation these words have and, if you’re highly motivated, also right down a sample sentence for each. You can also make flashcards later to help you memorise these new words.

Be attentive to what you are listening to

You must concentrate on the activity -listening to what is said- because, contrarily to when listening in your mother tongue, if you lose your focus it will be more difficult even impossible to catch up.

Use transcripts

Most podcasts provide a transcript of the show. It would be beneficial if you could have a look at it when you struggle to figure out some words that are said. It will also make your life easier when collecting the new words whose meaning you are unaware of. It also provides you with a reading practice which is always good.

Listen to the same episode more than once

If you do listen in various occasions, you will be able to grasp the meaning of the words and/or expressions that you did not understand the first time, and you will also become more familiar to real talks by native speakers as well as different accents and intonations.

Use the podcast as a complement

There are people who think that listening regularly to language podcasts or podcasts in their target language alone will take then from zero to mastery. This is wrong.

If you are at an intermediate level and beyond, listen to these podcasts aimed at native speakers. You can find them by switching your podcast location to the desired country. It would be excellent if you can get hold of the transcripts as it will ease your task.

If you’re a beginner, you might be able to pick up the basics of the language as the language podcast is an excellent introduction to it. However, to learn and progress, regular classes or an online course are mandatory.

Have you ever used language podcasts to help you learn a language? Let me Know in the comments below.