We’re lucky that we live in an age when we have so many options when it comes to boosting our skills in new languages. As it turns out, however, we don’t have to rely just on the most modern and cutting-edge tools. The older inventions and concepts of our time still have a place in language learning, namely: the radio.
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The Internet helped breathe new life into radio institutions, as the medium of Internet radio recaptured the hearts and minds of millions of people who had otherwise turned off their scratchy static-filled radio sets in favor of their iPods and high-quality home stereo systems. So how can Internet radio be used within the realm of language learning? Let’s find out more below.
1. Huge Variety of Programming
The richness of variety in Internet radio is astonishing. As long as a country has both the Internet and radio talent, there are stations pumping out content. From music and chat, to news and serious discussion, whatever you want to find, you can.
If you venture to a site like tunein.com, you can discover just how many different radio stations there are sorted by country. What’s more, access to the some 100,000 global radio stations and podcasts is absolutely free, but you can pay the premium rate for more content and fewer ads.
The diversity of programming allows you to seek out content depending on your mood and your needs that day. If you want to learn or practice your news/newspaper vocabulary, for example, then find a news show. If you’re interested in the culinary arts, you can find foodie shows where that’s all they talk about. If you’re more interested in learning a language through pop culture, then radio comes to the rescue once again. That list goes on and on.
2. Different Voices, Speeds, Accents
Networks like the BBC used to have strict rules about who could and couldn’t have their voice broadcast on the radio. Regional accents were out. All that has changed, and Internet radio of all kinds is much more diverse not only in programming but in the voices you hear. You can hear male and female voices, different accents, people talking back and forth, people interrupting each other...it actually becomes quite the advanced language training after a while.
Hearing a wider variety of voices, accents, cadences, intonations and more will tune up your ears, making them sharper and more receptive. You’ll get much better at picking up key details, hearing little quips and jokes, and catching the deeper meaning that lies beneath dialog. The beauty of radio is that it’s all voices and listening, so the benefits to your overall listening skills are immeasurable. Any listening test after 6 months of Internet radio will be like a walk in the park.
3. It’s Flexible - Just Minutes a Day
You only need practice for a few minutes a day to gain the benefit, perhaps up to 10 minutes in all. Obviously, longer periods of listening are good, but it needn’t eat into too much of your day if you’re busy. Even better, you can listen to it on the go, while you’re on the bus, waiting in line for coffee...anywhere you have an Internet connection and some spare time.
At the same time, radio programming is typically a 24/7 activity. There is content playing at all times, and much of it is recorded and stored so you can catch up with things you missed on demand. This means you don’t have to follow any particular programming schedule to get what you want out of Internet radio as a language-learning tool.
4. It’s a Great Way to Practice “Shadowing”
Finally, if you’re practicing the skill of shadowing, then Internet radio is a great way to do it. Shadowing is the practice of listening back to a particular sentence said by someone and then repeating not just word for word, but also imitating their cadence, intonation, pauses and more. It’s a way for language learners to elevate their speaking abilities to a level closer to native speakers.
Radio is the perfect resource for shadowing because it's the pure voice that you’re hearing. The absence of video and the distractions that it brings means you’re focused entirely on the speaker’s voice as you try to imitate them.
So, if you haven’t tried using Internet radio to help your language learning journey before, try it out for yourself today and see just how much rich content you’ve been missing out on!
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