Podcasts: The newcomer’s guide to Canada

Asheesh Moosapeta
Published: October 5, 2023

Since their widespread adoption (roughly dating back to 2010), podcasts have exploded onto the worldwide media scene. Today, these audio conversations occupy a central part of most people’s content consumption—with close to a third of Canadians devoting roughly an hour a day to listen to their favourite podcast.

Newcomers to Canada are part of this new media adoption as well, with commercial reports suggesting permanent residents, international students, and workers are more likely to listen to podcasts than their Canadian-born peers.

In light of this, CIC News has prepared the following guide for newcomers who want to learn more about Canada through podcast media. Read on to see how you can learn more about Canadian life and culture, while adding a great new show to your rotation.

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Learn about Canada

Why not start at the beginning? The following podcasts revolve around learning more about Canada—the country’s culture, politics, and people. Newcomers both in and outside of Canada can benefit from these shows, and their mix of personal profiles, entertaining stories, travel-show commentary, and more.

The New to Canada podcast

Featuring a different guest every week, the New to Canada podcast is for newcomers, by newcomers. Host Kate dives into the ins-and-outs of newcomer life in Canada, covering everything from moving and workplace culture, sports, mental wellness and much more. The podcast also has lots of additional materials, including a newcomer journal, community meetups and more. At the time of writing, the New to Canada podcast already has 50 episodes, with new episodes releasing roughly once a month.

The Secret Life of Canada podcast

Featuring lesser-known tales from all over Canada, The Secret Life of Canada promises to bring the weird and underground stories from this country to the fore. Hosted by Leah-Simone Bowen and Falen Johnson, this podcast covers topics ranging from profiles on local communities and important, lesser-known figures in Canadian history, to historical overviews of cities and cultures. To date, The Secret Life of Canada podcast has close to 60 episodes , with new episodes released roughly twice a month.

Learning English and French

Official language (French and English) ability is not just a key aspect of immigration eligibility, it was also a key predictor of immigrant success in the short and medium-term. The following podcasts are designed to help people become more proficient in English and French.

Learn English with Bob the Canadian

Originally a YouTube channel with more than 1.5 million subscribers, “Learn English with Bob the Canadian” has moved into the podcast space. Covering all aspects of English learning, including vocabulary, sentence construction, common phrases, tenses and more—this podcast aims to teach English to an audience from other cultures. Roughly six to nine episodes are uploaded every month, with episodes dating back to 2020. Listeners looking for more resources can also visit Bob’s YouTube channel as well; with further supplementary materials available on his official website.

Coffee Break French podcast

The Coffee Break French podcast is a great choice for newcomers looking to learn and gain proficiency in French. The show is hosted by Mark and French-learner Anna and is part of the wider Coffee Break series—covering multiple languages including Spanish, English, German, Italian, Chinese and more. The basic premise behind the series is that listeners spend the amount of time listening to each episode/lesson as they would on their coffee break (roughly 30 minutes). The podcast is free, but also features a paid companion course where listeners can enroll. As of the time of writing, there are over five seasons worth of episodes, covering everything from vocabulary to sentence construction and verb conjugations.

Mauril

Though not a podcast itself, Mauril is an application that offers an interesting service that may be of use to newcomers looking to improve their English and French. Using audio and video content from CBC and Radio-Canada, Mauril helps users improve their listening and comprehension skills through delivering content appropriate to their comprehension levels (configured with the use of an initial placement test). From here, users are asked follow-up questions to further their comprehension and writing skills. With a huge selection of training content (including kids shows, news and current events broadcasts, archived content and more), the application has a wide variety of materials newcomers can use to better their language skills in a uniquely Canadian context.

Canadian news

The following podcasts cover Canadian news and current events, ranging from politics to sports and international affairs.

The Big Story

Canada’s first daily news podcast, The Big Story aims to cover “events, topics, and moments that matter to Canadians from coast to coast.” Hosted by Johnathan Heath-Rawlings—a reporter with multiple accolades as an editor, and project director in the media space—the podcast aims to breakdown the biggest daily news in Canada in 30 minutes or less. With over 16 million downloads and several awards, the podcast is one of Canada’s biggest and can help newcomers get up to speed with the daily news in the country.

The Agenda with Steve Paikin

One of the longest running shows on Television Ontario (TVO), The Agenda with Steve Paikin is now available in podcast form. Instead of a daily current event show, The Agenda looks to offer audiences deeper explorations of relevant topics in Canadian culture. Covering everything from the nature of money to why we love movies, the state of Canadian farming, and much more—listeners are invited to an objective exploration of topics in a manner that aims to give them a deeper perspective on the news of the day, and life in Canada more generally. Hosted by Steve Paikin and Nam Kiwanuka, the show has 30 episodes at the time of writing, each roughly 30 minutes in length.

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