Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Improving (my) foreign language skills through science podcasts - suggestions needed

I stole the content of this blog post from myself. This was originally published (16 November 2011) on one of my Posterous blogs and it occurred to me that it might get more of an audience here! Here goes :)

The last time I spoke French with any competence I could say "J'ai seize ans" and mean it. Not that much competence mind but I could get by if the topics of conversation were restricted to the purchasing of meat, pastries and tobacco and the whereabouts of cathedrals and other landmarks.

So my French is a bit ossified, and rather junior.

I don't know if it's possible to estimate my reading or comprehension age for written French - probably a lot lower than 16 years old - but this made me think about communications that are created for non-experts... and the role of science communication.

There are many science blogs and science podcasts that don't require a big vocabulary (or the terms are properly introduced) and it seems reasonable to suppose that a popular-science blogpost or podcast in French or Spanish might be pitched at a level that I could follow and learn from.

Last night I found some French podcasts (will put link in later, am on train & composing on phone's notepad) which have the huge bonus of being mostly accompanied by a transcript. The speed of spoken French is a pleasant blur but it's easier to tune up your ears with visual cues from text.

In passing, Kat Arney - who knows a thing or two about science podcasts - told me that transcripts are useful anyway for people who want to know how to spell certain scientific terms and they also add searchable content to your website (which might also increase the number of people finding your podcast.)

I have visited this topic before but didn't get very far... is anyone trying to combine science and language learning in this type of format?

For example, I've not heard of school lessons where two separate classes (French and Chemistry, say) are taught simultaneously to English-speaking pupils but it sounds intriguing in a "killing two birds with one stone" sort of way. There's every chance that it would be a chaotic mess though.

I'd quite like to combine language learning with science information acquisition. If you know of science podcasts or blogs in French, Spanish or Italian - that are pitched to a fairly "young" audience (either children who speak that language or adults who have a basic grasp) then I am toutes oreilles.

I have another flight of fancy if you will indulge me: maybe there could be an annual "translate your blog post into another language" type of thing. Even if it was only run through Google Translate... :)


  1. My immediate reaction would be to ask the people at Knowtex, a network for French science communicators:

    A quick search for "podcast" on that site doesn't give much, but a lot of the community members are on Twitter etc and may know of something suitable (and a decent number of them speak English well enough that you should be able to communicate).

    I will also come up with a few recommendations and thoughts on this question generally, and stick them on my own blog.

    1. Here's the start of my list of French resources for you:

    2. And here's the French version of the call for suggestions:

  2. I tried to ecoute to one of the podcasts,, but unfortunately I couldn't really tell where one word began and another ended. I think I need something more akin to Sesame Street, mais Rue du Sesame avec science.

    1. As it happens, I've been toying with the idea of getting into podcasting myself, so this could be something worth trying.


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