“I feel like learning a new language” is something we tend to hear and even think. The problem lies less in being motivated than it does in finding the motivation. Once you’ve managed to do that you’re faced with an even tougher task: finding the time to do it. If there’s scarce time to be dedicated to the job, perhaps a person will start to learn a language straight from a book like “French for Dummies,” which is not very effective. Sometimes we rely on the CDs in these books to transform the downtime in our lives into something useful (say, the time between riding a bus and sitting in the waiting area at the dentist’s office). But these fail as well due to the lack of enthusiasm in the unappealing, run-of-the-mill dialogues which become monotonous and allow us to be easily distracted.
Luckily we live in an era of digital and wireless communication and we can resort to methods that previously were neither accessible nor possible. Podcast channels are multiplying week by week and their listeners are growing even faster in number. There are of all kinds: they may be novels, small chapters, variety programs, journalistic (whether political or sensationalist), but there are also those for learning languages. The good thing is that despite being verbal, many also offer written or visual assistance (limited solely to accompanying the audio, not complementing it).
For example, to learn Japanese you can resort to Learn Japanese with YesJapan!, where the charismatic George Trombley mixes learning with rather peculiar themes, e.g. learning Japanese grammar via the Power Rangers.
To learn Portuguese there is a great variety of podcasts, but BrazilianPodClass, despite being one of the few requiring payment, also offers transcripts of the podcasts, which may be useful in more than one situation.
Turning to China as a world power, learning a little Mandarin is not a bad idea. In that case Melynks Chinese is one of the most popular options with some of the best reviews. It’s also got a rather easy-to-browse interface.
There are also options specializing in various languages, such as LanguagePod101, which is among the most highly recommended for people starting from scratch and which offers podcasts in over 30 languages.
Travelers may choose Survival Phrases, where they can choose from between 27 languages to learn the most appropriate phrases and thus avoid the problem of the language barrier, while at the same time learning cultural oddities and tips that don’t tend to appear in traditional guides of basic phrases.
The vast majority of the podcasts can be downloaded, which is why, whether online or offline, they can always be on hand through your phone. And since we’ve always got our phones at the ready, it’s entirely possible to turn that downtime into productive time.