Using Online Radio for Foreign Language Immersion
May 29, 2009 7:27 AM   Subscribe

Looking for favorites among the MeFi regulars in the category of: Foreign Language radio streams, suitable for language immersion and/or passive practice.

Yeah, I can use Google with the best of'em. I'm well aware there are dozens of ginormous lists and dedicated websites categorizing an absurdly large number of radio stations from around the globe.

Problem is -- precious few of them seem to be of much value. I log onto some Dutch site advertised as "News" and "Talk" and it is invariably playing 90% American music (usually from the 80's). It's a bit discouraging.

And I'm also aware of mega-sites like BBC, VOA, RFI and Deutsche-Welle. These are wonderful resources for the language learner, but I keep thinking: I can do better. I can find something a bit less polished, more colloquial. Something with a more local flavor.

Thus, I turn to the MeFi hive mind to see if anyone has any specific bookmarks they might wanna share.

The ideal stations would not only have plenty of straight news broadcasts, but also interviews, discussions, maybe some caller interaction. The less music, the better (I can find that easily enough).

My particular interest at the moment are:

STRONG: Mandarin, Japanese, Russian, Spanish
MIDDLING: Italian, French, German

But, if you know of a "Portuguese" or "Cantonese" or "whatever" station, feel free to mention it. I have several friends who are always on the lookout for something and perhaps their particular interest will be addressed.
posted by RavinDave to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Unpolished and colloquial? Try local talk or sports radio. I just recommended two radio stations from Québec in another question (CHRC; CKAC). Both feature lots of different speakers, most speaking in fairly twangy/crunchy local accents.

A great resource for worldwide radio is RadioTime. This search brought up a huge list of Spanish talk radio stations.
posted by maudlin at 7:33 AM on May 29, 2009 [4 favorites]

(I know you didn't ask for an index, but this is a truly awesome search engine that gives you specific shows and their parent stations, plus instant access to streaming broadcasts).
posted by maudlin at 7:36 AM on May 29, 2009

Response by poster: Thanx Maudlin ... I'm busy investigating now. And I don't mind indices, I'm just haven't had much luck with'em. They're rarely tagged well and the entries have a short shelf-live. This looks promising though.
posted by RavinDave at 8:01 AM on May 29, 2009

Best answer: For French, recently I've started listening to France Bleu. It's a network of regional French stations, part of the overall Radio France group. I listen to the "Ile de France" (Paris) station. There are news reports, traffic reports, interviews...from 8:00pm-midnight (Paris time) there's a call-in song request/dedication show, so you hear the host talking with callers casually, and most of the music is actually French. (Unlike the youth-oriented rock station "Le Mouv" where I hear a lot of UK/American stuff like Coldplay.)
posted by dnash at 9:27 AM on May 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Japanese. This very moment I'm listening to a stream here:

These are all talk radio streams, and change frequently (every day, I *think*...). Unfortunately my Japanese is still crap so I can't tell you that much more about it now.

I will also echo RadioTime, but it can be erratic--it's how I found the above link though.

Another great source for Japanese sound that I've yet to fully mine is the AJATT site: he's got a lot of great links of all sorts for learning Japanese (check out the list on the left under 'external sites,' and also check out the main table of contents page for more ideas on Japanese audio sources, free and otherwise).

If I think of anything else I'll post it.
posted by dubitable at 10:13 AM on May 29, 2009

Response by poster: dubitable ... funnily enough, it was an AJATT fan that asked me if I knew of a good Japanese link. That'll come in real handy! You might have made me a hero.

Truth be told, his site has some kick-ass resources, but could really use a bit of major-league tidying up and CSSing-- so I'm not surprised my friend didn't see it (if he even thought to check).
posted by RavinDave at 10:29 AM on May 29, 2009

Yeah, you're right about AJATT; there's a TREMENDOUS amount of great stuff on that site but it can be hard to sift through. I keep finding new stuff. Hmm...maybe that'd be a good project, organize AJATT for Mr. Khatzumoto...

Anyways, glad I could be of some service, and I'll put more up as I find it.
posted by dubitable at 10:34 AM on May 29, 2009

Response by poster: Wow ... I started running keywords: ABC JAPANESE through maudlin's RadioTime link and found most of the programs dubitable linked to directly.

VERY nice. Clear, sharp, animated Japanese conversation.
posted by RavinDave at 10:48 AM on May 29, 2009

Another vote for France Bleu. I started out listening to the Basse Normandie station but recently switched to Touraine and can actually understand it better. Evelyne Adam, who does the evening call-in show dnash mentioned, has one of the greatest, warmest voices.

Right now there's a football/soccer game on, so I could be learning the vocabulary were I paying attention. Past football broadcasts have taught me that "Oh la la la la la la la la la!" is still alive, at least in the French sports world.
posted by sevenstars at 11:19 AM on May 29, 2009

Response by poster: I ran the same search at RadioTime looking for French Bleu stream. I've only had time to go through a few, and (so far) I've found more music than I'm looking for. I did score a nice hit or two, though. I'll keep plugging away at it (unless someone can suggest a specific channel?).
posted by RavinDave at 11:33 AM on May 29, 2009

You have a typo: try france bleu talk.
posted by maudlin at 11:36 AM on May 29, 2009

RavinDave: with the France Bleu stations I think it depends on time of day, sometimes there's more talk than others. While there is music, the talk in between songs sounds to me just what you're looking for in terms of "less polished, more colloquial. Something with a more local flavor." My French isn't good enough to catch 90% of what's going on, but during the "La Compil'" evening call in program (which is mid afternoon my time in Chicago) I know enough to understand some of the "Bon soir, comment allez vous ce soir?" "Ca va bien, merci.." which lead into longer chats. The host often talks to callers for a full couple of minutes between songs, so you hear a whole little conversation happen. (And personally I like some of the music - Benabar has become one of my favorite singers, in any language.)

Radio France has other stations that are all talk - like France Info and France Inter. I haven't listened to those much myself. But it's really with France Bleu that I feel like I'm listening to "local radio." It amuses me to sit at work in Chicago hearing about traffic jams in Paris, or that the #12 Metro line is down.
posted by dnash at 12:18 PM on May 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: NEWS IN SLOW SPANISH is amazing.
posted by mdonley at 1:18 PM on May 29, 2009 [8 favorites]

mdonley, that's brilliant! How did you find that? I couldn't find the equivalent in French, but there is Le journal en français facile at RFI, which should be 10 minutes of streaming or downloaded news, plus an associated script you can read along with as necessary. However, both the stream and the download on that page are just music right now, no news. Weird.

But that RFI teaching site has a lot of other resources that are useful if you want to learn to speak French with a funny accent. This bilingual police procedural seems like a useful starting point for total beginners. (I know, topic drift. Sorry, RavinDave.)
posted by maudlin at 1:51 PM on May 29, 2009

Response by poster: Oh, not at all. We're falling off the page shortly anyway.

Though if you're going to plug RFI and "News in Slow Spanish" (a great find, btw) gets a nod, I'm compelled to mention: "Langsam Gesprochene Nachrichten" via Deutsche Welle.
posted by RavinDave at 2:19 PM on May 29, 2009

The radiotime website (and it's associated iPhone app Wunderradio) are amazing. You can listen to thousands of actual FM radio stations, from almost anywhere in the world.

I've spent countless hours listening to radio in languages I don't understand from places I've never been. I also use it extensively in learning French, and love listening to and discerning the different accents (in Switzerland, Québec, Belgium, Réunion, Tunisia, etc).
posted by helios at 3:47 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: A friend of mine living in Shanghai gave me a GREAT tip for finding more conversational fare in China. Instead of the mainstream stations, he suggested locating one of the "traffic bands" (popular with taxi drivers, truckers, etc.).

Go to Baidu radio (I use this portal).
Run a search on: 交通广播

It may take you to another page where you'll need to run the search again. Just keep searchin' and clickin' -- you'll find one soon enough.

I'm currently listening to mms:// a traffic band out of Harbin, in Heilongjiang (NE China).
posted by RavinDave at 8:52 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I was going to suggest the traffic stations for Chinese too - about all I ever listen to - but the webcast for Beijing's wasn't working for me. As well as phone-ins about car maintenance and repair and the traffic news, you get serialized readings of classic novels like the Three Kingdoms in a pingshu style with the kind fo accents you could only dream about reproducing.
posted by Abiezer at 10:26 PM on May 30, 2009

Coming back to this after a while, I've discovered a few new resources since then that I use regularly.

-Because I've set my preferences in iTunes to be completely Japanese, I get Japanese podcasts. There is a huge selection of free Japanese language podcasts available through the iTunes interface.

-This isn't exactly radio, but: Veoh is great for Japanese language materials. If you set your preferences to search for only Japanese language materials, you'll get a ton of stuff. Takes a bit of sifting through, but...not that much. I've watched a good number of entire seasons of various テレビドラマ that I've found on Veoh...
posted by dubitable at 12:10 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

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