Spanish Learning Podcasts

Spanish Learning Podcasts
Photo by Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash

Cops and reckless drivers wouldn't be pleased with how I learn Spanish—at least when it comes to podcasts.

If you see a gilipollas shredding down the bike paths, ignoring cross lights, and hopping onto sidewalks, it might be me. The way I bike is the way people in South East Asia drive. I'd like to say my reflexes and spatial awareness are better than most people's, but since I bike with headphones on, that's probably not true. Dangerous and irresponsible as it may be, I've reached an advanced level of listening on my commutes to work. And at least I'm not one of the bikers in a group of spandex-wearing cabrones taking up the entire highway. I just don't like to waste time.

You shouldn't bike like me, but I do suggest you check out these podcasts (whether or not you risk your life while doing so). The following podcasts are listed in the order I started to use them. I started at a lower intermediate level, and now I'm between an upper intermediate and an advanced level. I wouldn't say one is better than the other. They are all beneficial for different reasons.  

Notes in Spanish

When I first moved to Spain three years ago, I knew how to be polite, ask for directions, and order food—that's it. Since I'd travelled to Chile, Nicaragua, Panama, and Mexico, I understood South Americans better than Spanish people. I didn't even know Castellano was a word. Since I first heard it used in the province Castellon, I thought it was their dialect (Si hablas español, tal vez estas pensando ‘qué tonto eres, Guiri’). It turns out Castellano is the Spanish they speak in Spain. There are many different dialects of Castellano in Spain, just like there are many different dialects of Spanish spoken in South America. I wanted to improve my Castellano listening skills, so I started with Notes in Spanish.

Notes in Spanish is all about teaching you real, colloquial Spanish. Their Inspired Beginners Spanish Podcast helped me with some basic grammar, but unlike a beginner's course at school, I also learned some street slang that made the learning process much more enjoyable. They also give you little tricks—For instance: You can use 'Voy a + infinitive' before learning all the future tense conjugations (the irregular verbs are a bit overwhelming at first). In this podcast, they also speak some English, which is helpful for a beginner—if you speak English.

They also have an Intermediate Podcast. Ben (originally from England) and Marina (una Madrileño) always speak together, which is helpful because Ben makes the occasional mistake, and Marina corrects him. The learning process feels very natural this way. Their Advanced Podcast works in much the same way. They both cover a broad range of interesting topics and focus on 'real' Spanish. From my experience, some of the expressions and idioms (modismos) they teach are somewhat dated. Once I had them all memorized and started using them, millennials thought I spoke like their grandma, and the even younger generation had no clue what I was saying. "Pero qué coño dices, tio" was the reply I sometimes received. Either way, I highly suggest listening to them because they will not only teach you Castellano but about Spanish culture.

Coffee Break Spanish

It doesn't matter which Spanish-speaking country you're planning to visit or move to; Coffee Break Spanish has you covered. The podcast structure is perfect for people serious about their learning because they talk about something naturally and then explain the phrases and grammar. This might be a bit boring for some, but when it comes to grammar, this is the best podcast on the list.

Their absolute beginner Spanish has many English explanations, so if you don't speak English well, this might not be the best option. The same goes for their intermediate podcast. Once you've got the grammar and a solid amount of vocabulary down, the upper intermediate and advanced podcasts are excellent. You'll hear people from around the world, so you get used to the various dialects. I also like that Mark repeats the grammar rules he taught in earlier seasons because if you're anything like me, you're likely to forget these rules.

The podcast grows into more than just language learning. You'll learn about various cities, recipes, and history—it's like travelling through listening. Even though the podcast teaches you real Spanish as well, it's clean as fuck. You'll have to supplement this podcast with real Spanish speakers to know just how many swear words are used in everyday Spanish. That being said, this is a podcast you can easily show your kids or puritan amigo.

Duolingo Spanish Podcast

As much as I'd rather support the underdogs, this podcast had to make it onto my list. The host, Martina Castro, is as professional as they come. Like Coffee Break Spanish, this podcast works for Spanish speakers worldwide. Martina doesn't explain grammar rules, but she does provide the context in English. Her guests share their stories at an intermediate Spanish-speaking level and Martina chimes in to help the listener follow along.

This podcast does more than teach you Spanish; it gives you hope for the world. I've spent a decent amount of time listening to Joe Rogan, and even though I find his guests fascinating and enjoy his open mind, I'm sometimes left with this nauseating feeling that comes with listening to famous Americans talk to other famous Americans about American things that every so often get broken up with non-Americans talking about world issues within an American context. Duolingo doesn't do that.

The Duolingo podcast helped me to stop comparing myself to the rich and famous, who often have more luck than talent. Instead, I started comparing myself to the people making a difference in the world. I can't seem to sell anything I create, so when I hear about the amount of absolute garbage that becomes successful, it makes me feel like less than garbage. When I hear about innovative projects that defy all odds created by altruistic people the majority don't know about, it makes me want to be a better person. That's what the Duolingo podcast does for me—it makes me want to be and do better.

Spanish Language Coach

The intermediate Spanish podcast was my most listened-to podcast of 2022—A mí me encanta. When you spend so much time listening to someone, and they don't know who the hell you are, they feel like a celebrity. So, when I asked César if he'd invite me on for an episode, and he said "yes," I was over the fucking moon. We talk about acculturating to Spain and my Errores de un Guiri account. Unfortunately, my mic wasn't working, and we had to rely on my computer mic. On the other hand, his mic showed off his voice as usual.

His voice is downright sultry and meant for podcasting. Even though he's Spanish, he doesn't speak a mile a minute and sibilate like a snake. Instead, his cadence comes across as natural throughout his monologues. Most of the episodes in his intermediate podcast are monologues about relevant themes. Cesar explores subjects related to economy, psychology, identity, language learning, culture, and much more. And even though he uses fewer idioms than in Notes in Spanish, I found his more valuable and relevant. After listening to his podcast, people no longer said, "Pero qué coño dices, tio."

I haven't spent much time listening to his False Beginners podcast because by the time I found his podcast, I was already yapping away with people at the bar—okay, fine, I did that from day one, but I do it much better now. However, I have started his new Advanced Spanish Podcast, which I love because he invites guests with various dialects who speak as they would normally—fast. Even if you're advanced already, I suggest going through the intermediate podcast first because you'll learn much about Cesar. He has over 100 episodes, and even though he's not a dirty devil's advocate like me, he's not afraid to speak his mind. He has a way of making you feel connected to him, which is why we learn languages in the first place—to connect with people.

Dale a la Lengua

Dale a la Lengua is a new podcast. It only has twenty episodes, but I've included it on the list because there's much growth potential. Sara lives in Asturias, and many of her guests are from Spain, so it's most suited for those interested in Castellano; however, she talks about subjects that affect the entire world, and I don't doubt that she will have more guests from around the Spanish speaking world.

One of the aspects that I enjoy most about Dale a la Lengua is how relative the talking points are to my life. Work culture, NFTs, backpacking, conspiracies and accessing correct information—everything feels current. Maybe that's because I'm a millennial like her, but if you don't fit in that generation, I'm sure there's still a lot for you to enjoy.

I also added this podcast to the list because Without Borders is about starting a borderless writing community, hence the slogan, 'Stories from the inescapably foreign.' Some of the podcasts have corporate affiliations making it difficult for some of us to work with them. Sara seems like a great person to reach out to if you have projects or ideas or want to improve your speaking and listening skills simultaneously with her classes.

Alright, that's the end of my list. I've listened to dozens of Spanish learning podcasts and picked my top five. So why didn't I title it "Top 5 Spanish Learning Podcasts?" Because I want this site to stay as far away as possible from "Top____" anything. As you can tell, I'm not marketing or clickbait inclined, so if you liked this article, please share it.

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