Shengliver’s Note: This is an update of an entry published on my MSN space a few years ago. When you go podcasting, you will be travelling the world without stepping out of your home. For learners of the English language, podcasting will render their traditional language course books obsolete, for it provides a reservoir of real English. Try it, buddy!


With new technology come new words and expressions. A case in point is a brand-new word podcasting.


What does it mean? Where does it originate?


As with “jaywalker” discussed in the last entry, podcasting is a compound, comprising pod and casting. Let’s examine casting first.


CAST is a verb commonly used in everyday English, meaning “throw something in a certain way”. Farmers cast seeds over a field while or before they sow them. They scatter the seeds in the field. Fishermen cast a net in the sea, hoping for a big catch later in the day. They throw the net into the sea.

my shortwave radio 

When the radio was invented, people had to come up with an expression to describe the way signals or programmes were sent from the transmitter or the radio station to the listeners. The station was in the centre and the audience were scattered around it. Don’t you think the radio station is very much like the farmer? The farmer casts his seeds over a field and the radio station casts its programmes far and wide to reach its audience. Hence the word BROADCAST. This word, BROADCAST, is today used not only for the radio, but also for TV and the Internet. On the net, it is called WEBCAST. When did the BBC start its first ever webcast? Probably in the 1990s. Today, most big broadcasters go online, operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, actually non-stop.


You might well have seen that the second part of the word “podcasting” means “broadcasting”. What does “pod” mean then?

iPod nano 

If you looked it up in your newest dictionary, you would still be puzzled. As a matter of fact, pod comes from “iPod”, a trademark owned by the American electronics corporation Apple Incorporated. Its series of products with the name “iPod” are a device for storing and playing multimedia digital files, especially audio ones in the beginning. An iPod is little and cute. People can download their favourite music or whatever there may be from the Internet and move it onto their iPod so that they could read, hear or/and watch it whenever and wherever they like. It is a common sight in many parts of the world that people are walking, with their ears plugged with a pair of earphones, which are connected by wire to the gizmo called “iPod”. It is a trend spreading very fast indeed. For in my city and in my community there are guys of this style, intoxicated by music on their digital player and oblivious of what else is going on in the world.


The trademark iPod is a clever name for the digital player resembles a pod, which holds peas.


Do we have such gadgets in China? Yes, we do. We call them MP3 players. MP3 players came first, followed by MP4 and MP5 players. Will we have MP6 or MP7 players some day? No idea but they will be the same thing for the same purpose as an iPod.


We have got a clear idea of “pod” and “casting”. You may have guessed the meaning of “podcasting”. It is a new way of broadcasting, being adopted by more and more media groups. They offer their programmes in the MP3 format (probably in more formats in the years to come) and make them available on their websites. Their listeners download them onto their iPod or MP3 player and access them anytime anywhere. This audience-friendly approach is sweeping across the globe in broadcasting circles. Almost all leading broadcasters are competing to make their offer, for free, to maintain and expand their listenership. The shortwave radio still has a role to play in international broadcasting but I dare say that more and more people are switching to the web and podcasting where access to the Internet is a reality. Whoever is still willing to be tortured by the noises and interference that typify most foreign shortwave services accessible in China?


You might use some podcasting software programme to subscribe to and download your favourite casts automatically as long as your computer is connected. On the application, you would have to paste the podcasting link of your favourite programme (RSS) in the subscription address box before clicking the button for subscription. Whenever there is an update of the show, the podcasting software will download it onto your computer. I used Zencast in the very beginning. Later I switched to Microsoft’s Zune. Both worked very well. Apple Incorporated offers a free podcasting application called iTunes to go with its digital player iPod. I have been running iTunes on my laptop for the past few years. It is awesome. Please refer to the picture below.


If you would not take the trouble to download and set up iTunes, an alternative would be to locate those shows available for podcasting and download them straight from their webpage onto your local disks by means of a downloader like Thunder. Then you could still enjoy them.


Every evening after supper it is time for my share of housework, dishwashing, cleaning and tidying. The work used to be bothersome because I felt it was a waste of time to do the dishes for an hour almost daily. By the time everything was in place in the kitchen and I sat down for my studies, it was around 10. There was no more than an hour before I retired to bed.


In contrast to the past, I enjoy the hour in the kitchen in the evening. Why? The time for household chores has been turned into time for enjoying my favourite English language shows. I have got a special headset. It is special in that it is mobile and multi-functional. It is used both for tape-recorders and computers. A mike is incorporated in it, enabling me to record myself and to chat with my epals. Best of all, it works with a separate transmitter. I connect the transmitter with the laptop and turn it on. Then I put on my headset and turn it on. My headset picks up the signals sent by the transmitter. Whatever is played on the laptop is heard on my headset. Isn’t it marvellous? So it is mobile. Every evening, while drudging in the kitchen, I lose myself in the podcasts on my headset. The scrubbing and washing is no longer a burden. My wife is confused, asking, “Dear, why are you so happy with your share of housework?”


I have no MP3 player but I strongly recommend my learning buddies take full advantage of this new learning resource and this new way of being. It is good. You would probably bin your shortwave radio set.


Here is a link to the BBC podcasting website. Follow the link, and you will know what to do. Just a few clicks and the shows will be yours on your computer and your digital player as well.




Happy podcasting!



Can you get a proper translation of the term “podcasting”, my reader?


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