One of the most popular posts here on the blog is the post where I recommend the 3 Best Podcasts for Becoming Fluent in Spanish. It seems that a LOT of us are interested in learning or improving our Spanish language skills!
So, when I saw that there was a new Duolingo Spanish podcast, I knew I had to review it.
Duolingo is by far the most popular and well-known language learning app on the market. I’ve used the Duolingo app to brush up on my Spanish, and to start my journey into learning German.
Pretty much everyone I know who has tried to learn a new language has used Duolingo. In my opinion, part of the reason for Duolingo’s massive growth over the years is because it offers users a ton of content for free.
I’m actually a bit surprised that the company is just now launching a podcast; it seems like a natural extension of the brand.
At the time of this writing, I have listened to the first 5 episodes of the new Duolingo podcast. In this review, I’ll give you an idea of what you can expect from the episodes, whether this podcast is right for your level of Spanish, and my overall thoughts of the show.
My Review of the New Duolingo Spanish Podcast
What The Podcast Is About
The Duolingo Spanish podcast is a highly-produced, narrated, story-telling podcast. There is an English-speaking narrator who helps to tell the real-life stories of everyday people from Central and South America.
The stories often include travel, but this isn’t a travel podcast. It’s also not about culture. It’s about a snippet of a part of someone’s life.
Episode 2 is about a young woman from Chile who moves to Argentina to live with her boyfriend. When she arrives, things don’t go exactly as planned.
Episode 5 is my favorite so far. It’s about an artist (also from Chile) who travels to Berlin to pursue her craft. She ends up getting scammed by a potential landlord, but the story has an awesome twist at the end.
Think of this podcast as a bi-lingual This American Life. Different stories every week, guided by a narrator, but with parts of the story told in first-person by the person who lived it.
Who This Podcast Is For
My husband and I are both at an Intermediate-Advanced level in Spanish. The Duolingo podcast says that the Spanish in the episodes is for individuals at an Intermediate level.
In my opinion, this podcast is for anyone who:
- Is familiar with three of the past tenses in Spanish (indefinite, perfect, and imperfect)
- Has built up a large knowledge base of vocabulary among many different topics (more than just words about the kitchen or the classroom)
It’s important to have an idea about the conjugations and usages of the different past tenses because every story is being told in past tense. “When he arrived in the city…” “I didn’t speak any German…”
The English narrator really helps to summarize each chunk of Spanish as the story progresses, but you’ll get the most out of the Duolingo podcast if you have some knowledge of the past tense.
Appropriate for Teens!
I am happy to report that the Duolingo Spanish podcast is appropriate for teenagers (I’d say 14+). There is no violence or age inappropriate material discussed in the first 5 episodes (which I expect will remain true).
So, if you’ve got a smarty-pants teen, or you’re a Spanish teacher wondering if you could recommend this podcast to your students, you’re good to go.
But Is it Really for Intermediates?
After listening to 10 minutes of an episode, my husband declared this podcast “too easy” for him. He thought that the Spanish speakers were too slow, and he wasn’t thrilled about the English narrator.
I wasn’t surprised that he thought this. And for a couple of weeks, I thought that I agreed with him. We are already familiar with the verb forms being used. And I know 99% of the vocabulary, too. I didn’t think that I was learning anything new.
But as I listened to a couple more episodes, I found myself liking the Duolingo podcast more and more. Not just because the stories are interesting, but because it was providing me with good old fashioned practice.
The Spanish speakers DO speak sloooowly. And that’s by design. Because Intermediate learners can’t follow the pacing of a native Spanish speaker (which is about ten times faster in real-life!)
Language teachers often advise their students not to watch TV shows or movies that are above their skill level. That’s because it can be intimidating and demoralizing; you think you haven’t made any progress because you can’t keep up with the dialogue.
I CAN keep up with the Duolingo Spanish podcast, and that feels good. I might not be learning a lot of new words or phrases, but I’m practicing ones that I already know, which is important for my 37-year-old brain.
I think that Duolingo got it spot-on when they made the determination that the podcast was for Intermediate learners. I think Beginners need a more solid Spanish foundation to understand each episode, and that Advanced learners would find the show a little too easy.
The Spanish Accents
Because this podcast features stories of people from Latin America, the accents are quite different from the accent of someone from Spain.
In my 3 Best Podcasts for Becoming Fluent In Spanish post, my podcast recommendations are heavy on the Spain accent, because that’s where I spend a lot of time learning and speaking Spanish.
Hubby and I go to Spain at least once per year, so we are used to the sound of the letter “c” being pronounced like “th”, and the letter “v” sounding like “b”.
Natives of Latin America pronounce these letters closer to their sounds in English, which makes it a little easier to understand the Spanish in the podcast.
Although it messes with my head a little (my husband has recently scolded me for pronouncing the word “gracias” as “gra-si-as” as opposed to “gra-thi-as”, how we’ve learned it in Spain), I am able to better distinguish the words being spoken by the Spanish speakers.
I also really like that the English-speaking narrator, Martina Castro, turns on her own Spanish accent when talking about names of people and places. Pronouncing proper nouns with a Spanish flair, even when you’re speaking English, is part of practicing the language!
This Podcast Gets an “A-“
I don’t usually award letter grades in podcast reviews, but since this is about learning a language, why not?
For its first podcast, Duolingo has created an entertaining show with an easy-to-follow format. The episodes average 15 minutes, which I think is just the right length.
The only place where it loses points is where the narrator summarizes a little too much of the plot.
90% of the time, the English portion of the show is well-placed and limited to helping the story progress. But occasionally, Martina repeats (translates?) a few of the sentences that the Spanish speaker just said. I would prefer zero translating, but that’s just me.
I think this podcast is a success, and I hope that Duolingo continues to put out high-quality episodes. Maybe they’ll even start producing versions of the show in other languages (I vote for German!).
A Side Note: Why You Should Use Podcasts to Learn a Language
Here’s a little aside about using podcasts to learn Spanish, or any language:
Podcasts are a key part of my Spanish learning strategy.
Although I can read and understand Spanish quite well, I often struggle to speak it for fear of making a mistake or having to search for words and phrases. According to all of my Spanish teachers, this is 100% common among language learners.
By listening to someone speak Spanish, my brain gets used to verb forms, retains phrases better, and gets comfortable with the pronunciation of words. Then, when I go to speak, I have those words and phrases at the ready.
I’m basically immersing myself in the language without having to go live in a foreign country. That’s the beauty of podcasts.
One word of caution: make sure that you listen to a language learning podcast with native speakers of the language you want to learn. I have come across many podcasts in which the podcaster teaching the language did not grow up speaking the language.
This makes a huge difference! It can have an effect on how you pronounce words, the accent you develop, and the vocabulary you learn (the word for “floor” in Spain is not the same as the word for “floor” in Latin America, ya’ll).
If you’re interested in even more Spanish immersion, check out these audio courses by one of my favorite Spanish podcasters!
Do you listen to podcasts to learn Spanish? Which ones do you think are the best? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts and links to those shows!