This post goes out to my fellow Spanish learners who are looking for more than language.
Especially to those of you who are a bit beyond ser vs. estar—those who can watch a movie in Spanish without subtitles and at least follow most of what’s going on.
As good as you get, you are by no means done with your learning and, in fact, the advanced and nearly-fluent stages is where language learning can get really fun.
If you can follow longer-form authentic audio, you now have access to the world of authentic podcasts, i.e., those produced by Spanish speakers for Spanish speakers. If you are a podcast junkie in your own language, you already know the pleasure of being able to enrich yourself and be entertained while biking, doing chores around the house, exercising, etc. Now you can do the same with entertainment and news podcasts from around the Spanish-speaking world.
If you are newer to the idea of listening to podcasts, you will soon find these to be the perfect learning materials to fill in any odd minutes during your everyday life.
For those of you who may still find authentic podcasts to be a bit of a challenge to approach, see the section on strategies below for some tips.
The Advantages of Learning with Authentic Spanish Podcasts
Listening is intrinsically an important part of language learning, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has made any progress in their studies. Here are the advantages of using podcasts as part of this learning process.
Learn Real, Current Spanish
Textbooks are written by just a few people, and at times you risk getting only their version of the language. They might be more academically minded and focus on formally correct language (and well they should, for the sake of formal students). If you love speaking with rare academic confabulations, great; otherwise finding podcasts by people closer to your own milieu can be a great source of vocabulary and phrases.
Also consider that they might be learners themselves, or they might hail from just one small corner of the Spanish-speaking world. It is virtually impossible to account for the massive diversity of Spanish in one lone textbook.
Learn a Variety of Spanish Dialects
In spite of what the Real Acaedemia Española might have you believe, there is no one perfect version of Spanish, but rather a lovely variety of ways to speak that have developed (and are still developing) around the Spanish-speaking world.
The Motivation Factor
If you are listening to a podcast because you love the comedians or hosts who produce it, or you value its unique take on news and information, you are going to be both much more motivated to learn the words that you do not know and less likely to quit or get bored than if you are just studying grammar and vocabulary in isolation.
The Best Strategies for Learning from Spanish Podcasts
The following strategies can help you integrate podcast listening with the rest of your language learning, and may be particularly useful if you do not yet have a level of Spanish that makes podcasts easy to understand.
1. Listen for Understanding
Make sure you are listening for a particular purpose; to a certain degree, it is a myth that you can just soak up a language by osmosis. On a first listen, for instance, try to see how many words you recognize and, if possible, to get the main gist and know the characters/people involved.
2. Listen for Structures and Words
On your second listen you can pause the audio and look up words and structures that are unfamiliar. You may just want to listen to a short sample of a few minutes, in order to make this task more approachable.
3. Integrate What You Learn
If you have chosen podcasts from the list below that fit your personal interests, it should not be hard to get motivated to write about your response to a podcast episode! This is a great way to ensure that you remember what you are learning and that you not only understand but can use your new vocabulary and structures.
But don’t just treat this as a language exercise! Most of the podcast producers below are accessible by Twitter, email, Facebook, etc. Give them a piece of your mind!
Another method for actively integrating material is to prepare lessons for yourself with tutors or language exchange partners based on the podcasts that you are listening to, in which you discuss and respond to them.
12 of the Most Interesting and Authentic Spanish-language Podcasts for Advanced Learners
In no particular order, here are the Spanish-language podcasts that I have found to be the most interesting. You might not love all of them, as this is an extremely varied list. My goal was to give you a selection of the most interesting and listenable of a wide range of podcasts, and I do think there is something here for everyone.
If you love learning with authentic material, you’ll love FluentU.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos topics, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used.
Plus, if you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re studying with the same video.
You can also check out our YouTube channel to watch a short video about learning Spanish with four fabulous and authentic podcasts.
Below, I have provided links to the podcasts’ homepages, but you can also access them (probably more easily) by running a search in your mobile device’s podcast app, and adding them directly there.
This comedy talk radio program from Spain is hosted by Sergio Fernández and Arturo González-Campos.
Popular culture is a frequent focus. For example, a couple of recent episodes covered “True Detective” and the Harry Potter franchise. The conversations are wandering and sometimes repetitive, but the latter can be a plus for language learners.
“RFI Podcast español informativos”
I listen to radio news in a variety of languages, and I have been somewhat underimpressed by the quality of offerings in the Spanish language for straight news. The best Spanish audio news I have found is actually produced by the French RFI. Stories are global, carefully-researched and quite diverse.
It may be a challenge for some learners to approach the variety of Spanish accents and the speed of speech, although the audio quality is great and the reporters speak quite clearly.
A number of different feeds are available based on the time that they are updated each day (on UT, a.k.a. Greenwich time). If, for example, you listen to the news while walking to work, you might opt for a feed that updates an hour or two before that so that the most recent news is loaded up each day for your walk.
“El invitado de RFI”
Important Spanish-speaking cultural figures are interviewed about books, music, film and more in Paris for this program in Spanish from France’s RFI radio.
This is a big favorite of mine as someone who loves to travel and is always wishing I were somewhere else. Each episode is essentially an audio documentary on a small corner of the world, complete with interviews, history, travel tips (especially for getting off the beaten path) and enough depth to almost make you feel like you have been there yourself afterwards.
You can, of course, run a search of old episodes and use them as a travel guide or amuse-bouche as you prepare for your next trip. The show is hosted by Álvaro Soto and Esther García Tierno for Spanish radio, but you will hear a variety of accents in the interviews.
“La Biblioteca de Alejandría”
This thoroughly odd podcast features long lists of facts on history, science and oddities. It is definitely appropriate for trivia and science nuts and anyone on a mission to catalog all of the world’s information. I get the feeling that some people may listen to this in their sleep, in the hope of absorbing raw facts. The feed of old episodes is available but new ones may not be produced, or they may just end up being produced irregularly.
Think of this as the Spanish answer to “Science Friday.” The interviews are a bit more random and less carefully prepared, but relaxed and easy to follow. The shows cover all sorts of sciences: Astronomy, psychology, physics, etc., and also takes on science issues in the headlines, such as fracking, the math behind electoral systems and lots more. There is a bit of odd background music under the interviews, which you either like or you don’t.
This is a website and also an interview show about science hosted by Ángel Rodríguez Lozano. While it is certainly directed at a wide audience with more “popular” interests, it tends to go deeper into the weeds on topics to an extent that some might find a bit dull—and others might find fascinating.
For example, I was frustrated with a recent episode on drones—which I am personally very interested in—to get so much information on technical aspects and definitions without any real discussion of the new social or legal aspects of the technology. However, this is information that many people may certainly be interested in, and it is all great to know. If you are more of a nuts-and-bolts type of person, then this is for you!
That said, there is no music in the background for this one (always a plus in my book) and very knowledgeable guests are interviewed in a conversational style that is easy to follow.
On this Mexican podcast, Enrique Gánem offers meditations on particular subjects of scientific and historical interest. While it is certainly a place for your nerdy science fix, the show also gets into the people and stories behind humanity’s advances, portraying science as a very human endeavor.
The author says he is accessible by email and urges people to write in with their suggestions for themes for shows, which are always chosen by listeners. Highly recommended.
Like America’s “Fresh Air,” this program from Spain covers all sorts of aspects of current culture and politics. Javier Gallego delivers both opinion pieces and long-form interviews that delve deep into sexual politics, justice, the European Union and many other topical themes.
Some of the episodes on Spanish government themes may be hard to follow for those not familiar with the country’s politics, but such listeners should definitely give other episodes a try as there are many different subjects and often they are very approachable for non-Spaniards.
This music podcast from America’s NPR is in English, but worth mentioning here for the great variety and high quality of its music, which is mostly in Spanish (though there are also some Portuguese, English and Native American languages). If you are a language learner who gets motivated by tracking down song lyrics, this show will give you some excellent leads to get you excited.
It covers the eclectic soup of hundreds of genres of music from Latin America, although with a marked aesthetic that somehow unites them. It is also a good window sometimes into perspectives of Latino cultures in the USA.
“Café del sur”
This is the podcast for tango fans, offering up history, interviews, poetry and of course a lot of music. It is produced by Spain’s RTVE, but you are obviously going to hear a lot Argentinian speech. It is hosted by the matter-of-fact but friendly Dimitri Papanikas.
“Democracy Now! en español”
This is a shortened, Spanish version of the lefty news program “Democracy Now!”
Even (or especially) if your politics run a little more to the right, you may want to give this a shot, as it often covers human rights issues from around the world that are very under-reported elsewhere.
The translated audio includes snippets of a half-sentence or so in English before each new speaker starts in, so this can be a good way to situate yourself in the story if you are not quite at the level to take in Spanish-only news. Also, since it has an American perspective, it can be easier for Americans (or those familiar with the country’s politics) to follow.
This is, of course, only the tip of the iceberg of the Spanish-language podcast world.
As you visit the links above you will undoubtedly discover sister podcasts produced by the same broadcasters or their colleagues.
I hope, however, that this select list gives you a highly motivating place to start discovering this world.
Mose Hayward is a polyglot and has lived in Paris for more than a decade. He blogs about “20-minute fluency,” dancing and romantic adventures for travelers at TipsyPilgrim.com.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.