Well, this post is not going to be what I expected.
Let me explain: I originally began writing this as a post about YouTube read-alouds. I had come across some of those videos when I was looking for Portuguese language materials for my son, so I bookmarked them and then, a few days ago, decided to investigate further. I leapt down the YouTube rabbit hole, thinking that I would find some great resources to share with you all here (as I promised in my last post). And yet, once I started searching I quickly noticed a major problem: the large majority of foreign language read-alouds available on YouTube are likely illegal, as they appear to violate U.S. copyright law. Big whoops.
So, let’s start over! I definitely don’t want to point you to questionable materials, so here are some quality FREE alternatives that I know are totally safe to use.
BookBox is the creator of some of the only legal free audiobooks available on YouTube—and they are actually great resources for beginner to intermediate language learners! BookBox is a company that writes its own children’s stories—hence why there’s no issues with copyrights--and animates and narrates them as YouTube videos. What’s more, the way that they animate and narrate them is actually based on solid language learning research: BookBox not only animates the images of it’s video-supported audiobooks, but also their text, so that language learners can easily follow along. It’s like having subtitles for an audiobook, and it is perfect for homeschool students working on their listening comprehension skills. BookBox makes many of its stories available for free on YouTube, but if you’d like more, you can also purchase their app for iTunes or Android. Stories in over 40 languages are available for you to enjoy simply by subscribing to their YouTube channel.
For those families learning French, Radio Canada has a lovely collection of children's books available in audiobook format--many of which are narrated by their authors. I loved perusing this collection and discovering French language books that reflect the diversity of the Francophone world, from Une patate à velo (about a bike-riding potato--which struck me as very French) to Les pouvoirs de Super Hakim, a story featuring a young superhero of Arab descent. There are long and short audiobooks to suit French learners of all levels, so dive right in to this collection and enjoy!
Okay, so this is more like a newspaper read-aloud than a picture book, but it’s still an excellent option for the intermediate to advanced language learner. This once-weekly podcast covers the top news stories with slowed-down reporting that is just the right speed for homeschool students who are still getting used to the sound of another language. It is available as a free app for iOS or Android devices, and provides you with snippets of the audio program and its transcript in the target language—the latter an essential tool to help students follow along with the reporting. I frequently recommended this program to my Spanish students at UVA and consistently heard from them how helpful it was. If you like, you can upgrade to the paid version of the app, which provides you with the full weekly audio program (usually about thirty minutes), vocabulary and grammar exercises, quizzes, and pronunciation help to go along with each episode. Please note: as this is a summary of weekly news items, not all segments are suitable for young children. I would reserve the use of this for tweens and up, given the seriousness of world events.
For your advanced homeschool language learner, you can search for free audiobooks available through Librivox—the Internet’s largest repository of public domain audiobooks. Public domain books are those that were published prior to 1922 and whose copyrights have now expired, so they are available to the public without purchase—meaning that anyone can access them (or record them) as audiobooks. There are hundreds of books available in each of the most popularly studied languages—Spanish, Chinese, French, and German—so if your language learner is interested in older works, this might be a good place to look! Here’s a tip: aside from the classics, think about downloading books of the Bible in your child’s target language. It’s a great way to study two subjects at once!
And again, as I wrote in my earlier post, don’t forget to ask at your local library for free listening resources in foreign languages. Happy listening!
Do you have other free (and legal!) audio resources to recommend? We’re all ears (pun totally intended)!