Last day of the 90 Day Challenge and I wanted to take this opportunity to list some of the great Spanish content I have found over the last three months.
When I started the 90 Day Challenge I was already studying fairly intensely, so I decided to step it up another level and set higher weekly goals. The biggest and most important step up was listening, and I wanted to push this up to 14 hours minimum and see if I could get it up to 21. I felt that it was a lack of listening that was holding me back in other areas. Now there seems to me a big difference between listening to half an hour a day and listening for several hours. Finding 30 minutes of interesting content a day is not too difficult. This is what I did initially, staying mostly with Notes in Spanish Advanced and Gold podcasts as well as Euronews news bulletins. Both of these have the advantage of coming with transcripts. However with the increased listening I needed much more content, and that is basically the most significant development that the 90 day challenge had on my language learning: an almost feverish hunt for new, interesting content. Each new discovery was in itself exciting and encouraged me to listen more and search out more. I want to list some of this content here as it will probably be useful for some people. In roughly chronological order throughout the 90 days:
Notes in Spanish
My starting point. Free podcasts, paid-for transcripts, different levels. These are useful mainly because they have that rare combination of advanced Spanish content, with transcripts, and genuinely interesting topics. The episodes where Marina interviews friends and family are particularly good.
Again good because you’ve got text and audio together. I am a news addict and for at least a few weeks I limited my news sources to Spanish language ones, and Euronews provided my breakfast news fix.
From here on though I gave up looking for the text+audio+interesting dream podcast. Even though listening with a text is very useful, I was not willing to sacrifice “level of interest” or Spanish-level, just to have transcripts. So here is when it started to get really interesting (for me):
El Podcast del Búho - Historia y Mitilogía.
Oh what a wonderful discovery! 74 episodes, 20-30min each, on topics ranging from the Battle of Hastings, through the Cuban Missile Crisis, Dracula, John Lennon and Ragnarok. But what’s really great about this podcast is it is put together by one guy, Jorge, who is clearly and audibly interested in the topics. His enthusiasm is what really carries this podcast. I have listened to most of them now, and can easily re-listen to them. Probably my favourite discovery.
La Biblioteca de Alejandria
Jorge’s podcast tipped me off about these podcasts. They are absurdly long (3-4 hours) and fortunately are also released in “shorter” 30m-1h podcasts as “El Pergamino de Alejandria”. These podcasts introduced me to the spanish concept of a tertulia, an informal gathering to discuss history, politics, science, the news at length. To anglo-saxon ears these seem quite anarchical, and an English equivalent is probably more likely to have a presenter, a stricter time-table, and be broken up by “features”. But for language-learners this is excellent stuff: it’s like you are eavesdropping on a very interesting all-night conversation. The conversation ebs and flows, sometimes you lose the thread, but soon it comes back to you. And all the time you are learning new things as well as practising listening.
Alejandria is the longest and most chaotic of this kind of podcast. I quickly found others: La Biblioteca Perdida (labibliotecaperdida.blogspot.com) is mostly history, La Biblioteca de Trantor (labibliotecadetrantor.com/) is science fiction and fantasy, and La Rosa de Los Vientos (La rosa de los vientos | Podcasts en directo sobre historia e investigación | Onda Cero Radio) is a mix of history, science and politics, El Abrazo del Oso (www.elabrazodeloso.es/) covers a wide range of issues. Each has hours and hours in their back catalogue in which you are bound to find something interesting.
Radio Nacional de Espana
I was already aware of their Documentales before starting the 90 day challenge. I then found Cinco Continentes (a 30 wrapup of the week’s international news), Otros Acentos (where they talk to experts from different countries about topical issues) and Un Idioma Sin Fronteras (a literary magazine podcast). However one of the best discoveries from RNE was Nómadas. This is a travel programme from a different city or place each week. The presenters are entertaining, and the vocabulary (things to do, things to see, things to avoid) is pretty straightforward. Plus you learn a lot about the places they visit, could come in handy later!
Diana Uribe - La Historia del Mundo.
Search www.ivoox.com for Diana Uribe
What I was really looking for was a Spanish equivalent of some of the English mega-history projects (google any of these: The World At War, Ascent of Man, This Sceptred Isle, The History of the World in 100 Objects, the History of Rome Podcast). I love embarking on a big TV or radio series like these. So, enter Diana Uribe! A Colombian historian with a MASSIVE output, including 30-or-so episode long series of the history of Russia, France, England, Brazil, the First World War, Second World War and the Cold War. I am currently two thirds of the way through La Historia de Rusia. The best thing about her podcasts is her enthusiastic narration. She exaggerates (so you get pretty used to the Spanish superlative) but it makes for great radio!
Two more to mention: Cienciaes.com is a simple 10-15 min science podcast, which makes a change from some of the lengthy tertulias that I have listed above. Also I already knew about this podcast but thought I’d mention it here as it’s probably the highest quality Spanish podcast you’ll find on the internet: Radio Ambulante (radioambulante.org/en/) is Latin America’s response to This American Life: beautifully presented real life stories from Latin America, some of them completely heartbreaking. If you like This American Life you’ll love Radio Ambulante.
I made all kinds of other discoveries over the last 90 days, about the language, about language-learning. I’ll try and write a similar post about some of these later in the week if I get time, but I thought this would be the most useful thing to post. And if anyone wants to share their own listening content discoveries, it would be great to get some more recommendations.
Happy language learning!
UPDATE October 2014
A few additions to the information above:
#1 Radio Ambulante now has transcripts! In my opinion this almost certainly makes it the most interesting/useful learning resource online.
#2 If you like science programmes, and want to listen to a very clear well-spoken Mexican, El Explicador is a great podcast http://elexplicador.net/
#3 Cinco Continentes (at rtve.es) now puts out 5 HOURS of news a week! News junkies like me will be very happy.
#4 Not mentioned above is http://www.newsinslowspanish.com/ which is subscription based but has transcripts. Is good for lower intermediate listeners. I enjoyed the Exploring Latin America series.
#5 Mentioned a few times that I think speed can be a real hurdle with learning Spanish. So I recommend making use of functions on your podcast app to slow the audio speed down. Just taking a little pace off the audio can really help.
#6 I haven’t checked this out, but @MikeK50 below recommends: Cheap and Reliable Web Hosting - fast shared hosting and KVM VPS
#7 An awesome comprehensive list of podcasts sorted by genre here: http://frikiamigo.com/los-mejores-podcast-en-espanol/