Podcasting refers to a form of audio (or video) broadcasting on the internet for playback on mobile devices (MP3 players, mobile phones, PDAs) or on PCs. Although the basic technologies have been available for many years, Campbell (2005) succinctly points out the three characteristics which differentiate podcasting from older audio technology:

  • ease of publication (created using readily-available software, such as Audacity), and published via iTunes, a blog or an aggregator, such as Odeo);
  • ease of subscription (using RSS, Really Simple Syndication), which means any updates are automatically downloaded to the subscriber's device;
  • ease of use across multiple environments (MP3 player, mobile phone, PC, etc).

In addition, the ubiquity of the MP3 player, particularly among students, means that podcasting is an effective way of reaching a wide audience, and this has led to a proliferation of language-learning material. A view of the Education/Language Learning category within iTunes gives a quick snapshot of the variety of products available:


Podcasting can be used in the following ways by the language learner and/or teacher:

  1. to listen to varied sources of authentic input — for instance, news feeds, such as the El País podcast for Spanish, or radio broadcasts (eg BBC radio podcasts). These are generally created with native speakers in mind, and are therefore more suited to upper intermediate or advanced learners. As well as providing access to authentic materials, users can gain knowledge about culture, history and politics of the countries in which the target language is spoken (Rosell-Aguilar 2007).
  2. to engage students in creating their own podcasts in the foreign language, either individually or as a collaboration between two or more students. This can be further enhanced by using applications such as Voicethread, which enable users to attach audio to images or videos. See, for instance, this voicethread created by a group students in a Spanish language class. In addition to stretching users in their use of the target language, podcasting can be very motivating, especially if the students are aware of an audience, and the attention to detail is much greater when the audience is greater than just the teacher (Stanley 2006).
  3. to listen to 'semi-authentic' language (Robin 2007) created specifically for language learners, who would find authentic texts too stretching (eg BBC World English 'Real English' podcast).
  4. to subscribe to language courses (eg Chinese Pod, Spanish Pod), which can conveniently be listened to at any point in the day (eg in the car, on the train).
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