I love BBC Xtra. It provides me with a daily dose of listening (and reading–I’ll get to that later) practice. I often listen to it at the gym or during my daily commute.
What is it?
BBC Xtra is a daily two-hour live magazine program on BBC Arabic radio. A portion of the program is made available as a podcast and is usually around 30 minutes in length. The podcast features a discussion of an interesting social issue and includes listeners who call in to give their views. The callers provide an especially challenging and interesting bit of listening, as they often speak in colloquial Arabic–or mix in their local dialect with MSA.
How can I get it?
The BBC Xtra podcast is available from several sources. You can download it from BBC directly. Or you can subscribe to it on iTunes. The name of each episode is the day’s topic and is usually in English. This is nice, as it allows you to quickly skim over the names to find an interesting topic. Unfortunately, the podcasts are only archived for less than a month. I recommend subscribing on iTunes so that you have a copy of each episode on your computer. This way you can access older episodes you may not have gotten a chance to listen to when they first came out. Each episode has a short description which contains essential keywords you are likely to hear in the podcast.
Beyond the PodcastBBC Xtra has an excellent Facebook page, where they post questions, often as videos. Their Facebook followers, native speakers of Arabic, answer these questions and voice their opinions on the topic in the comments. These short videos along with the comments become useful pre-listening “exercises”, as having context and background information, as well as key vocabulary related to the topic, can aid in listening in a foreign language. Even if you don’t have time to listen to the podcast, BBC Xtra’s posts on Facebook provide nice (and short) daily reading practice that will appear in your Facebook feed.
“Extra English” for Intermediate Arabic Learners
The podcast also regularly includes a mini-English lesson, called Xtra English. Although the aim is to introduce an idiom and other English vocabulary to native speakers of Arabic, the learning can be reversed. The English words and sentences are explained in Arabic, often with translations. Because they’re going back and forth between English and Arabic, it’s easier to catch what they’re saying in Arabic. This segment can be useful and interesting to learners who aren’t quite at the level to be able to make use of listening to the full podcast.
What do you think?
What do you think of using BBC Xtra as a tool for learning Arabic? Let us know in a comment below.