The idea of starting to listen to foreign radio dawned on me a few years ago after discovering that I can live-stream pretty much any radio station online. After streaming Jazz radio and BBC World Business Report podcasts for several years, I decided to challenge my listening brain further, so I simply googled “Spanish radio” and the RTVE (national Spanish radio station) came up. As soon as I started listening to it, it made me so happy to realise that I was able to understand most of the conversations.
In a similar fashion, I looked for French radio and so I discovered Radio France, the national French channel. Doubting that I would be able to understand much French because of my lack of practice since school, I started listening to it, treating it as white noise (noise that you hear in the background but don’t pay much attention to). However, I was surprised to realise that I was able to understand most of the conversations from the very beginning, signalling to me that even though my speaking skills were dormant, my French listening skills were wide awake. When my mind intercepted vaguely familiar words and became able to decipher their meaning from the context, I felt so accomplished.
So, after a few years of listening to RTVE and Radio France, I am proud to say that I have formed the good habit of listening to either of them most of my waking hours. Initially, I was not able to do mental work whilst listening to them, but as I’ve grown used to them, I can proudly say that now I listen to French or Spanish radio even at work. This makes me a happy worker and here is why:
1. Learning a new language (effortlessly)
The most important benefit of listening to foreign radio is the ability to brush up on your knowledge of the language in which you are listening the radio. And the beauty of this is tactic is that this is one of the most effortless ways to learn a new language. No need to invest time and effort into travelling to the country whose language you are looking to learn, no need to buy dictionaries, textbooks, films etc. Of course, all of these help to improve your knowledge, but they require sole concentration and you may find that the learning can be quite slow, much slower than when listening to people talking in your chosen language all the time, using colloquial language. Everyday words and phrases will stick to your mind, without you even being aware of it. Effortless learning, spoonfed to the subconscious. And what’s more, it’s all free, as long as you have internet connection.
2. Keeping up-to-date with the news
I don’t normally have the time to read the news, so I found that listening to them on the radio is the best way to remember them and keep myself up-to-date with what’s going on in the world. After all, important news travel across borders. I might not understand the entire news piece but simply hearing familiar names, countries and cities, helps me to contextualise the news to the point where I get an idea of what it’s about.
3. Gaining focus
Listening to foreign radio enables me to enter a zen-like state in which I get absorbed into my work whilst my mind passively captures the conversations on the radio.
4. Diminishing snacking
Over my working years, I have formed an unhealthy habit of snacking while working. Nonetheless, I have noticed that as soon as I put my headphones on to listen to French or Spanish radio, the need to snack instantly vanishes. It might be due to the fact that managing 3 things at once (working, listening to the radio and snacking) is too much for my mind. Either way, I am really enjoying this effect.
5. Glorifying household chores
My most productive listening time is when I do household chores. I just love how listening to foreign radio has the transformative power of converting menial tasks into profound acts of learning and self improvement. As soon as I start listening to the radio, no chore seems boring or tedious anymore. If there is an interesting programme on and I understand most of what it’s communicating, all of a sudden, I want to wash more dishes or have more things to put away, so I can continue listening.
Overall, I find listening to the radio as the best way to make any dull, tedious activity to become engaging and stimulating. I encourage you to give any foreign radio a listen. I'd love to hear which radio station you fall for, as am always on the look out for new and interesting listening sources.