When you learned your native language, you absorbed all those sounds and words and grammatical structures on the spot without writing a single thing down.
Who says you can’t do that again with a second or third language?
Audio courses make language learning mobile so you can work towards fluency while you’re driving into the office, doing chores, sitting on the bus, whatever!
In this post, we’ll take a look at the best audio courses available to get you mastering a language in no time.
- 6 of the Best Audio Language Courses for Learning on the Move
- Advantages of Audio Language Courses
- Making the Most of Audio Language Courses
6 of the Best Audio Language Courses for Learning on the Move
LanguagePod101 offers language learning podcasts in dozens of languages, running all the way through the linguistic alphabet from AfrikaansPod101 to VietnamesePod101.
For any given language, you’ll have several courses to choose between based on your skill level. Each course contains dozens of short, engaging audio lessons that you can access online or download. Cultural tips are also sprinkled throughout the lessons.
LanguagePod101 is great for learning on the move not just because it’s an audio language course but because the lessons are short and entertaining, and the materials are conveniently available in a variety of formats.
Since each lesson is fairly short, these courses are ideal if you want to squeeze your language learning into smaller time slots throughout the day or if you like to learn in short bursts. This is a great technique for memory retention, as it gives you manageable lessons to learn and ample time to absorb and process everything.
This program also goes out of its way to make the podcasts fun and engaging, so they can be a nice break from traditional language courses that have less personality.
Overall, LanguagePod101 is a good option if you’re looking for a substantial introduction to a language but want your course broken down into short segments you can listen to on the go that aren’t too demanding in terms of sustained attention.
FluentU is an online platform for language immersion, where you can learn languages in context with engaging audio and video clips. It curates authentic videos specifically with language learners in mind and pairs them with tools to make learning seamless.
Because authentic content exposes you to the language as it’s really spoken, you’re able to pick up nuances such as pronunciation quirks, local vocabulary and even cultural shades. This will result in more natural-sounding speech, something that you won’t achieve with textbooks. Although you can learn through authentic content on your own, it can be slow-going wading through YouTube to find videos, or searching online dictionaries for contextual definitions.
Learning tools like interactive subtitles, key word lists and a contextual video dictionary on FluentU make this process much easier—and quicker. Just tap any subtitle for information about it, or to add it to your own personal vocabulary list to later turn into multimedia flashcards.
The audio courses are also specifically created for language learners, and although you don’t get all the benefits of authentic content, they give you an excellent overview of whatever language you’re studying.
The program can also be accessed as iOS and Android apps which have an audio player for more hands-free listening, and you can even download videos or audio to use offline—helpful for use on-the-go.
FSI Language Courses
The FSI language courses, available in several dozen languages, were created by the United States Foreign Service Institute several decades ago. Although they were originally designed for training diplomats in a focused, immersive environment, the courses are now in the public domain. This means that the audio lessons and accompanying texts are available freely for anyone to download.
Each lesson is structured around a dialogue, new vocabulary and several different kinds of drills. The method is based on repetition, so some learners find the courses tedious.
That said, the FSI courses are pretty comprehensive, and there’s a reason why they’re still around decades later—they work. They’ve even inspired several commercial derivatives. And of course, they’re free.
The staple course by Radio Lingua is their “Coffee Break” podcast series for learning French, German, Italian and Spanish. “Coffee Break” lessons build on each other and are structured as short, informal discussions with a teacher and a fellow learner.
Radio Lingua also offers several shorter audio courses in other languages. Most notably, their “One Minute” courses are available in over 20 languages and give quick overviews of some language basics.
Radio Lingua is a good choice if you’re looking for something light and easily digestible but effective that’ll get you started with the fundamentals of a new language.
Linguaphone courses are comprehensive packages that cover all aspects of the language, including comprehension, speaking, reading and writing. However, the methodology behind the way the courses are designed puts listening and speaking at the center of the learning process. Linguaphone currently offers courses in 15 languages.
Repetition isn’t as big a part of Linguaphone as many other language courses, so some learners find that Linguaphone’s lessons move at a very fast pace. For this reason, many people use Linguaphone in conjunction with something that allows for more methodical, repetitive practice.
If you’re looking for a course that covers reading and writing while still keeping listening and speaking at the core of the learning process, Linguaphone should be high on your list. Of course, Linguaphone’s format makes it a little less portable than audio-only courses, but the heavy emphasis on auditory learning means there’s still plenty of studying you can do on the go.
Although most of Assimil courses are designed for French speakers, they do have several courses for English speakers too.
Assimil uses a highly dialogue-centric approach to language learning. Each course consists of a set of recorded dialogues and an accompanying book that includes the dialogues’ transcriptions and translations.
Because the same material is used for both Assimil’s listening and reading portions, there’s a lot of flexibility as far as how you want to divide your time between audio learning and text-based learning. So you can focus on the audio when you’re on the move, then return to the text when you have access to the book.
You should give Assimil a shot if you want freedom to switch back and forth between listening and reading as you see fit or if you want to learn vocab and grammar in the context of entire sentences and conversations rather than in isolated fragments.
Still haven’t found exactly the audio language course you’re looking for? Or want something a little more personal to complement one of the above courses?
No problem! Just create your own!
One way to really step up your language learning game is to keep an audio language learning scrapbook. While you’re going about your language learning, keep an ear open for audio clips you want to listen back to later.
Collect these clips as MP3 files, voice memos on your phone and so on, and soon you’ll have your own custom audio language course. You can also create new clips by recording yourself speaking or asking a native speaker you know (e.g., a language exchange partner) if you can record them. Then you can revisit your auditory scrapbook when you’re on the move and want to do some audio language learning.
What makes this technique so devastatingly effective is that unlike with a store-bought audio language course, you can tailor the audio clips you keep exactly to your language learning needs. Pick stuff that hits your weakest spots. Stuff you find interesting. Stuff you know you’re in danger of forgetting. Stuff that intersects with other aspects of your language studies.
Of course, a custom language learning course won’t provide external structure and direction the way a traditional audio language course does. But if you keep an audio language scrapbook along with all the other language learning materials you’d otherwise be using, you’ll take your language learning to a new level.
In the end, the reason curating a personal audio language course works so well is that which auditory language learning techniques work best for you will depend on your individual language learning style. The best audio language course is the one that works best for you.
Advantages of Audio Language Courses
Audio language courses are an awesome way of learning a language. Not just because they’re convenient when you’re on the go, but because they work.
Your brain is wired for learning language by listening. Language is first and foremost something that’s spoken, something we think about in auditory terms.
That’s why it’s easier to internalize a new language by listening to it than reading it. You remember language based on the way it sounds, so when you learn with audio language courses, you’re doing your brain a favor by letting it focus on the part of the language it cares about the most.
Therefore, audio language courses are an especially efficient way of getting down the fundamentals of a language. After all, you learned by listening the first time around, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
Making the Most of Audio Language Courses
That said, there are of course some differences in the way we learn things as adults. When you’re becoming familiar with a new phonetic system, it can save a lot of time knowing how things are spelled. And seeing a language written out can be a great way of reinforcing things and speeding up the learning process.
With these benefits of visual learning in mind, the way to make the most of audio language courses is to place the auditory learning at the center of your study plan but to branch out and supplement it along the way with visual resources.
This approach lets you keep the benefits of auditory learning as far as more deeply internalizing the language, making memorization more efficient and so on, while also shortening the learning curve by looking up how words are spelled, doing supplementary reading/writing and taking advantage of visual media.
When you put audio language courses at the core of a comprehensive, varied language study plan, the result is a learning process that’s powerful, streamlined and, of course, mobile!
With this in mind, don’t be afraid to try several audio language courses to find the right fit—in most cases, you’ll be able to get a free trial before you have to commit to buying anything. And definitely don’t be afraid to switch it up if things aren’t working.
It’s worth the process of shopping around for a good fit because once you find an audio course that works for you, you’ll start internalizing the language more quickly and be able to fully enjoy how rewarding it is to learn by listening on the move!