In praise of podcasts

I’m an enthusiastic podcast listener. I find that after reading all day at work, it’s nice to switch to some audio media for some down time. I listen to podcasts while I’m exercising, when I need a mental break during the work day, while I’m keeping my daughter company during homework time, when I’m lying around before bed and sometimes even while doing mindless household chores like folding the laundry. I also find that listening to French podcasts is a good way to keep up with French current events and to work on my French listening comprehension. Here are a few of my favorite podcasts, and I’d love to learn about yours! I subscribe to all of these on my iPod using iTunes, but I’ll give you their websites n case you just want to listen to them online!

  • I’m only slightly obsessed with This American Life, a public radio show that features weird and wonderful stories on a different theme each week. The show is professionally produced but focuses on regular people and their interesting experiences. For example this week’s episode is entitled “The Right to Remain Silent,” and profiles people who had the right to remain silent, but didn’t.
  • When I feel like something a little more cerebral but still fun, I listen to Freakonomics Radio. This podcast is hosted by the authors of the Freakonomics books, who look at “the hidden side of everything,” but in a very engaging way. The most recent episode asks what would happen (in economic and social terms) if the 50 wealthiest Americans each gave $50,000 to 50 low-income families.
  • Another good one in the “nerdy but fun” department is NPR’s Wait Wait…don’t tell me news quiz podcast.

I also subscribe to a few French podcasts. If you’re learning French (or any other language), there are lots of great language-learning podcasts out there. One that I would particularly recommend for intermediate French learners is The News in Slow French.  If you’re fluent in French, this podcast will drive you crazy (because…it’s…very…slow), but if you’re somewhere between beginner and fluent, I think it would be great. The hosts cover one important news story, then discuss a few grammar points.

For those proficient in French and wanting to keep it up, I recommend:

  • RFI’s Le journal en français facile. Despite the name, the French in this podcast is pretty normal, but just read at a slightly slower speed than the regular news. In addition, RFI provides the script for each show, so that you can read along if you want to. A very good podcast for improving your listening skills.
  • My favorite French podcast is probably France Inter’s Le téléphone sonne. It’s very similar to NPR’s now-defunct “Talk of the Nation.” The host picks a topic, invites various commentators into the studio and then takes live phone calls. I love this podcast because it combines a current event with the challenge of listening to a lot of different voices and accents. For example yesterday’s show focused on the new school schedule in France: moving from four days to four and a half, and adding extra-curricular activities to the week. Various parents and teachers called in on the pro and con sides, and then the commentators responded.
  • I also subscribe to France Inter’s La revue de presse. I like it because it’s short (under 10 minutes) and covers a lot of material in that time. However because it’s so fast-paced, it’s often challenging to follow if you don’t know the background to all of the stories. But definitely worth a listen!

Anyone else have favorite podcasts that you’d recommend? Language-related or otherwise?

28 Responses to “In praise of podcasts”
  1. Language Boat October 3, 2013
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  8. Wendy Baldwin October 6, 2013
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