Learn New Languages (From Arabic to Yiddish) with 150+ Free Podcasts

I spend a great deal of time vis­it­ing unfa­mil­iar cities, spend­ing days walk­ing, cycling, or rid­ing trains and bus­es through them. Some­times the peo­ple of these cities speak lan­guages I know; some­times they speak lan­guages I don’t. Either way, dur­ing all these hours in motion, my per­son­al sound­track comes from an iPod loaded with lan­guage-learn­ing pod­casts. If you’d like to engage in this delight­ful­ly men­tal­ly stim­u­lat­ing prac­tice your­self — and I high­ly rec­om­mend it — you can get start­ed by brows­ing Open Cul­ture’s col­lec­tion of Free Lan­guage Lessons avail­able online. The list cov­ers no few­er than 40 tongues, and many of the lessons come in pod­cast form. Should you find your­self in need of shows offer­ing Bul­gar­i­an sur­vival phras­es, instruc­tion in Swedish expres­sions and cul­ture, or Pol­ish in one minute a day, here is the list you want. From my efforts in study­ing Span­ish, Kore­an, and Japan­ese, I can per­son­al­ly (and strong­ly) rec­om­mend sev­er­al of its offer­ings.

Cof­fee Break Span­ish and the more advanced Show Time Span­ish, both pro­duced by the Radio Lin­gua net­work (out of Scot­land, of all places) start you off from an absolute zero of pre­sumed knowl­edge and pro­ceeds to get you up to “cruis­ing alti­tude,” which I call the point in lan­guage acqui­si­tion at which you become able to learn from real, untrans­lat­ed speech. You might then con­sid­er down­load­ing a show like Notes in Span­ish, and espe­cial­ly the con­ver­sa­tion­al­ly focused Notes in Span­ish Gold. For Japan­ese, few lan­guage pod­casts cater to a wider vari­ety of pro­fi­cien­cy lev­els at once than does JapanesePod101, which I sup­ple­ment with Japan­ese nation­al broad­cast­er NHK’s lessons (which also come taught in quite a few lan­guages besides Eng­lish.) And for Kore­an, the lan­guage that first cul­ti­vat­ed in me this whole intel­lec­tu­al­ly and social­ly thrilling learn­ing addic­tion, you can do no bet­ter than Hyun­woo Sun’s Talk to Me in Kore­an, quite pos­si­bly the most thor­ough, fre­quent, slick, and enter­tain­ing lan­guage-instruc­tion pod­cast of any kind. Lis­ten­ing to these shows has con­vinced me that every moment spent not acquir­ing a new lan­guage is a moment wast­ed. But even if you don’t believe any­thing that extreme, it’s still a lot of fun. And doing it through these free pod­casts, you cer­tain­ly can’t argue with the price.

Here’s our col­lec­tion once again: Learn 40 Lan­guages for Free: Span­ish, Eng­lish, Chi­nese & More

Relat­ed Con­tent:

375 Free eBooks: Down­load to Kin­dle, iPad/iPhone & Nook

450 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free

530 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties

500 Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, etc.

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.