8 Podcasts in Multiple Languages
English is currently the most widely used language for podcasts, but this doesn’t reflect the global listenership. Francesca Turauskis introduces you to eight shows that are reaching a wider audience with multiple languages…
One of my hopes for 2024 is that we start seeing more podcasts in multiple languages. We know that multilingual podcasts have so much value, something that was explored in the ‘Beyond Anglophone Podcasts’ at the 2022 International Women’s Podcast Festival. However UK podcasting as a whole is yet to adopt the idea of dual language production. The Anglo-centric view assumes there is not enough audience for multi-language shows, but I think it widens the audience for a project.
For English speakers like me who don’t have a second language, projects created in multiple languages can be a great way of learning a new language and, more importantly, it can help us engage in other countries and cultures. We get to access incredible stories through interpreters and journalists on the ground in locations around the world.
On the flipside, for people who speak another language, it can be a powerful way to connect to stories on a different level. In some cases, it can even be a way to revive a language that was lost, or protest against the historic dominance of English. (For more on this check out the Bello Collective article, ‘Anything for La Brega’, which talks about “The Bilingual Whisper” and the nuances of dual language productions).
If you’re after some great productions that are already showcasing the power of translations, check out these eight podcasts in multiple languages.
Ochenta Studios has been creating award-winning multilingual shows for nearly a decade and it’s made audio content in over twenty languages now. For people new to multi-lingual podcasts, Ochenta Stories is the perfect introduction: created in the Corona-virus lockdowns, we hear short stories from around the world based around the question “What do you want to hear when this pandemic is over?”. Some of the stories are real, some fiction, and some fall in between, but all are reflecting on place and culture, and are voiced in two languages. For my own episode ‘Pierogi’, I got to connect to my Polish roots by working with an actress friend who created that version for me. Listen here.
Forgotten: Women of Juárez
Originally created in English by investigative journalists Mónica Ortiz Uribe and Oz Woloshyn, Forgotten: Women of Juárez sensitively approaches the story of hundreds of women going missing in the Mexican border town of Juarez during the 1990s. The Spanish version is voiced by a different pair of investigative journalists (Sandra Romandía for Mónica and Rossana Fuentes Berain for Oz) and translated by Podimo, another company known for its multi-lingual podcasts (the Danish true-crime series Murder In The North is a good example of expanding intellectual property (IP) into different markets). Women of Juárez is a better example of how feet-on-the-ground reporting can be enhanced with a dual-language approach. In the first episode, we hear the hosts talk about Monica’s reservations for Oz as an outside journalist – “I thought you were a gringo” she says, honestly using the derogatory word for ‘foreigner’. It’s a moment of journalist transparency and a reminder of how important cross-culture collaboration is when telling sensitive stories. Listen here.
Another show translated from Spanish, the English version of Blum was released last year by Mags Creative after the original rocketed up the charts and won multiple awards in the Spanish language world. The show is something of a mockumentary thriller that starts with the disappearance of Clara Torres. Clara was an Art History student obsessed with Ursula Blum, a mysterious (and real) painter from the 20th century. We’re following journalist Emma Clark’s investigations as she travels to Switzerland, creating a podcast supposedly in real time as she uncovers the mystery of both Clara and Ursula. We haven’t seen many mockumentary style shows in the UK, so this is a great example of how translation can bring creative projects to listeners. Listen here in English and here in Spanish.
A short series from (of all places) telephone company Spark NZ, 0800 MATARIKI is a great show for anyone who loves folktales or astrology. When the Matariki or Pleiades star cluster rises in the skies of New Zealand (Aotearoa) each summer, it marks the beginning of the new year in the Māori lunar calendar. This podcast depicts the significance of each star in the cluster, with a short story in both Te Reo Māori and English. The stories are soundscaped with Māori instruments and sounds from Aotearoa’s natural world, and are short enough that all listeners can enjoy both versions for the audio art. Listen here.
The Last Days of Maradona/Les Derniers Jours de Maradona
When footballer Diego Maradona died suddenly in 2020, it shocked fans around the world. Spotify’s series investigated what happened during the last days of his life, with a six-episode series containing archive audio and interviews with those who were closest to him. The show was ground-breaking as the first production to be released in six languages simultaneously, including two Spanish versions specific to the Americas and mainland Spain. I’m recommending the French version purely because the footballer Thierry Henry is the host in both this and the English. It’s worth a little listen even if you don’t speak French, just to compare the different archive audio used. Listen in French here and in English here.
Anything For Selena
Another Spanish language podcast, Anything for Selena was Apple Podcasts’ Show of the Year of 2021. It explores the life of Mexican-American pop icon Selena Quintanilla, and her murder in 1995 – a story that is very personal to the host, Maria García. This is a great example of the insight to another culture we can get from dual-language productions, because whilst this was a completely new subject to me as a white, British woman who was a child when Selena was a star, I learnt how she was a mononymous cultural icon who left a mark on Latino identity as a whole. Listen here.
And a couple without English translations (yet):
The International Women’s Podcast Awards, which are based in the UK, introduced a new category in 2023 to celebrate podcasts in languages other than English. Podcasts entering the category were asked to submit transcripts in English so that people didn’t have to speak the language to judge the category, and it was Spanish-language podcast Costa Nostra (Our Coast) that scooped the prize. Created by La Maldita, a company based in Madrid and Buenos Aires, it explores the side of the Costa Del Sol that is kept hidden from tourists. Behind one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world is one of the ‘most violent areas in Europe’. Listen here.
Whilst we don’t hear dual language shows as much in the UK, we do get some offerings from the BBC through local stations like BBC Radio nan Gàidheal in Scotland and BBC Radio Cymru in Wales. I wanted to hightlight Esgusodwch fi? (Excuse me?) hosted by Wyn and Meilir Rhys Williams, because it celebrates the LGBTQ+ community in Wales. The show’s been running since 2021, and despite a short hiatus in 2022 it is good to see a platform on the BBC for marginalised voices to have conversations in their own language. Listen here.