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Best Podcasts for Learning a Language

image for demaerre / Getty Images
demaerre / Getty Images
  • Listening to podcasts has become a very popular way to learn a variety of skills. Whether it's language a second language or weightlifting, there is a podcast for everyone.
  • There are several different podcasts that are particularly great for learning a new language, including Spanish as a second language.
  • From phrases to proper pronunciation, these podcasts can help you sound like a native speaker in no time. 

Thanks to podcasts, there's an unprecedented variety of resources for learning a language, available on demand. While audio language education dates back to the days of cassette tapes, there are far fewer obstacles to the production and distribution of podcasts.

Whether your goal is to become fluent in a language or learn just enough to impress your international clients, there's a language-learning podcast that suits your needs. They're not limited to major world languages, and the formats go beyond digitized versions of traditional language courses.

Here are some of the best language-learning podcasts.

Established in 2005, Innovative Language was one of the earliest adopters of the podcast format. It offers libraries of short, fun lessons in more than 40 languages, providing options that are accessible for beginners and more advanced students. The lessons focus on functional everyday speech, facilitating an intuitive understanding of a language, similar to the way native speakers learn and use their own languages. This approach is a refreshing alternative to outdated language textbooks, which often emphasize grammatical rules at the expense of practical understanding.

There's a difference between written and spoken language. When you're trying to get a handle on how people actually speak, it helps to hear a language in context and go beyond traditional lessons. However, it can be difficult to keep up with programming aimed at native or fluent speakers. The News in Slow series, available in French, Spanish, Italian and German, provides a solution. The show takes brief excerpts from news broadcasts in other languages and slows them down. Alongside these clips, it provides transcripts that highlight important vocabulary so you can follow along and absorb.

You've probably seen a movie or TV show where a hapless character, traveling in a country with an unfamiliar language, frantically searches through a phrasebook for the right thing to say, only to mangle the pronunciation (often with humiliating results). Comedy aside, sometimes you're traveling and need a few key phrases at your disposal. Thanks to Survival Phrases, an Innovative Language property, you can avoid looking (or sounding) like that character and even ditch the phrasebook entirely. As the name implies, you can learn the essentials you need to get by in 27 different languages, including Arabic, Cantonese, Hindi, Japanese, Russian and Turkish.

An enormous advantage of podcasts as a learning tool is their flexibility. Not only can you choose your area of focus and take your learning wherever you go, but you set the pace, fitting in your studies when it's convenient. Radio Lingua's Coffee Break series lives up to its title, providing lessons in Spanish, French, German, Italian and Chinese that last as long as a cup of coffee (or a similarly short chunk of free time). Though the name and format may suggest a limited focus on basic vocabulary and phrases, the lessons are designed to help listeners work toward fluency, however gradually (though advanced lessons are currently only available in Spanish and French).

The Fluent Show describes itself as "a podcast all about loving, living and learning languages." Though the show doesn't focus on teaching a specific language, it's perfect for getting you in the spirit of learning a new language. There's an emphasis on helping listeners with the challenges that arise when learning a new language, even with access to all the right educational tools. The hosts and their expert guests offer plenty of helpful, widely applicable advice, and their enthusiasm is infectious. Recent topics cover learning multiple languages at once, finding language-learning communities, and moving past the intermediate plateau.

Spanish is the most spoken non-English language in the U.S. Even if you have not taken Spanish classes since high school or college, Spanish-learning podcasts take a friendly approach to teaching the language.

These two podcasts are the best for different people. Whether you are looking to learning about culture or Spanish pronunciation, you will be able to sound like a native speaker in no time.

This free, daily podcast started as a nonprofit by two brothers aims to promote Spanish language and culture. Episodes are recorded in Spanish, but each covers an array of daily situations. This is not a school-style podcast with staged topics and responses. Each podcast provides an organic approach to learning so that language and culture can simultaneously be appreciated.

Complete with a blog and guides to a variety of Spanish topics, Spanish Obsessed provides all of the resources necessary to grow and improve your Spanish language abilities. From grammar to conversation fillers, this website has everything. There are several different courses to choose from including Beginner Spanish, Intermediate Spanish, Advanced Spanish, Perfect Pronunciation and more. There is a membership requirement for this podcast, but it is free. There are additional premium features that require a membership fee, but the free resources are ample.

Besides being entertaining, podcasts are convenient for many people. They are a passive way to consume information, and because of this, more people can fit learning a new language in their lives a few minutes here and there during their busy day.

Business News Daily Editor

Business News Daily was founded in 2010 as a resource for small business owners at all stages of their entrepreneurial journey. Our site is focused exclusively on giving small business advice, tutorials and insider insights. Business News Daily is owned by Business.com.