I’m not ashamed to admit it: we’re kind of podcast nerds here in our family. My husband and I first got hooked years ago, listening to Serial and StartUp, and over the years, we’ve discovered many new favorites (and I’ve even gotten to be a guest on some!).
Given that fact, then, it probably isn’t too surprising to hear that podcasts are also one of the many learning tools that we use in our homeschool. We listen to science podcasts. history podcasts, and literature podcasts with our kids and get to learn right alongside them. And of course, as a bilingual homeschooling family, we also listen to foreign language podcasts.
Podcasts: Do They Work for Foreign Language Learning?
If you’ve been wondering about whether or not podcasts could help your children learn a foreign language—and especially hone their listening skills—I’m here to tell you a resounding, “yes!” Podcasts are an excellent tool for many homeschooling families, offering a whole host of benefits that include (but aren’t limited to):
Foreign language podcasts can help to get your children the regular listening practice they need as language learners, in a way that fits their schedule and interests.
Listening regularly to foreign language podcasts is one way to build towards an immersion environment at home, which supports kids’ second language development on all levels.
It can be one way to outsource some of your foreign language instruction, or at the very least, support what you’re already doing with your homeschool foreign language curriculum.
While it’s easy to enumerate the benefits of podcasts for language learners, it’s not necessarily so easy to find the kind of high-quality podcasts that can actually offer these benefits—but don’t worry, that’s where I come in!
Today, I’m sharing my recommendations of the best podcasts for homeschool foreign language learners, with resources for those studying Spanish, French, Italian, German, Mandarin, and even Latin. I’ve listened extensively to each of these, so you can know that they come with my strong endorsement (and are safe for kids). Happy listening!
For Beginning and Intermediate Language Learners
The Coffee Break Languages Series: Available in French, Italian, Spanish, German, and Mandarin, this language learning podcast is designed to teach basic vocabulary and conversational phrases. Its short episodes (usually between 10-15 minutes) provide helpfully scaffolded listening practice for beginner and intermediate language learners, and since they are organized by theme, you can match the episode that you listen to whatever your children are currently studying in their homeschool language curriculum (i.e. food, greetings, seasons, etc).
Duolingo Spanish podcast: The new podcast helps children develop their listening skills by presenting short stories in Spanish with some English translation alongside. The Spanish narration is extra slow, so children who are at an intermediate level or above will be able to understand it. The content is clean (from the episodes I’ve heard), but some episodes deal with difficult issues, such as political violence and homelessness, so choose what you listen to based on the maturity of your kids.
News in Slow… Series: This weekly podcast, available in Spanish, French, German, and Italian, presents a summary of the week’s current events and is available in different formats for intermediate or advanced learners. For a small subscription fee, you also get access to tools to support your language learner’s listening comprehension—transcripts, vocabulary quizzes, and discussion questions (read: no extra planning for mom!). Due to the content, it’s most suitable for middle school-aged students or above, and it was always a hit with my undergraduate students, who raved about how helpful and engaging it was.
For Advanced Learners
Allegro Mágico: Xavi and I can’t get enough of this Spanish-language podcast about classical music, written especially for young children. We look forward to a new episode every Friday and I’ve used the podcast as my spine for teaching music appreciation this year. This podcast is written for native speakers, so I’d only recommend it to advanced students and above, but as it is so well-produced, I wanted to be sure to include it here.
The AP Latin Podcast: For the serious Latin student, this podcast offers readings of Virgil and Caesar in the original, along with English-language translations and discussion. If your child is reading either of these authors, he or she can follow along with the host of this podcast—an experienced Latin teacher—as he reads aloud. This can be especially helpful for Latin students wanting to hone their own pronunciation skills!
Aventuras en Odisea: This is the Spanish-language version of Focus on the Family’s wildly popular radio show, Adventures in Odyssey. Though it doesn’t teach language skills per se, the series is educational in that it focuses on important moral and practical life lessons (from a Christian perspective). This is helpful for expanding the vocabulary of advanced Spanish learners and helping them follow the conversations of the characters in the series.
Do you have any other language learning podcasts to recommend? Leave your suggestions in the comments!
P.S. If you have an older student (middle school or above) interested in studying French or Spanish, I’ve got a special discount code for you for a curriculum that I love. From now until April 23 (one week!), Breaking the Barrier is offering a 25% discount to Language Learning At Home followers. Visit their website and use the coupon code SAVE at checkout to take advantage of this deal.