There are tons of great podcasts out there discussing business, trade, economy, technology and innovation.
All of these topics are extremely valuable to learn about if you’re working on building a career in business.
That being said, listening to a native English podcast can be challenging as an English student.
Have you ever listened to a business English podcast and felt exasperated?
Did you feel like you didn’t understand enough of what people were saying?
Don’t despair! What you need is a learning approach that will help you gain the most from listening activities and get you on your way to improving your business English.
There are some really useful audio resources out there, whether you’re looking to hone your listening skills, pick up some new vocabulary or learn new ways of expressing your ideas in business situations. But in addition to these audio resources, you need a clear learning plan and a set of strategies that will ensure that you gain new knowledge and elevate your listening skills each and every time.
We’re going to start by looking at some listening sources, followed by handy tips and learning methods that can help you get the most out of every business English audio resource.
Elite Resources for Business English Audio That’s Relevant to Your Career
There are tons of audio options that are available online. Most of them are pretty good, but there are some that aren’t particularly suitable for language learning. They’re either too long or the speakers talk too quickly—which is why I’ve trawled (searched) the internet for you and have come up with six awesome English audio sources for you to check out.
Although this series is no longer updated, it’s still very good, especially for beginners and pre-intermediate learners. It’s organized into four modules which cover the foundations of business interactions, such as “Telephoning” and “Negotiations.”
Each short conversation contains language that’s easy to understand and is accompanied by practice vocabulary activities. The audio clips and worksheets are all downloadable so you can do them online and offline.
Designed for learners like you, each one of these highly-structured podcasts focuses on one business scenario, followed by a fluent and natural conversation that relates to this scenario.
Each conversation introduces useful expressions and vocabulary which are explained clearly and supported by several examples. The same site also features a special series called “Skills 360” which talks about business skills in English, and the information is always delivered at a slower, easy-to-follow pace.
These extracts of interviews, talks and conversations are related to day-to-day work and business situations. They all come with free activities that can be done online on the British Council LearnEnglish website or printed for later practice.
This weekly podcast is great for learners who not only want to pick up on business and economics vocabulary but learn natural, everyday expressions used in English-speaking offices. The hosts and guests speak in an informal and conversational way which is very helpful when you’re still getting a hang of (familiar with) American speech, rhythm and tone.
We live in a globalized world, so it’s not surprising that you’ll be doing business and working with people from all over the world. This BBC World Service podcast is the listening tool you need to enable you to talk about the biggest business topics while learning to understand English speakers from different parts of the globe.
Be in the know with this concise podcast that features critical news, interesting interviews and discussions with executives and experts. Each episode is between 8 to 10 minutes, which is short enough to allow you multiple listening sessions for improved understanding. On your lunch break, you could easily repeat one great podcast three times and ensure that you’ve understood everything.
8 Techniques for Learning English from Business Audio
1. On-the-go Listening
On-the-go listening is good for when you’re really busy but you still want to get some learning done. Download podcasts and put them on your smartphone, laptop, music player or USB. Play the podcasts when you’re in the car, on the train or while you’re making dinner. It’s that simple!
The key to this technique is frequency and consistency.
Consistent listening trains your ear to English sounds and intonation, and is great for subconsciously building new vocabulary. With this method, your goal is to achieve more general understanding and familiarity with English rather than learning lots of new, specific language lessons. You should aim to get more comfortable with English this way.
Try doing this every day if you can. Make it a routine and in time, you’ll find it getting easier and you will have remembered some new vocabulary without realizing it! A longer audio clip like Bloomberg Benchmark, for example, is suitable for this method.
2. Intensive Listening
Intensive listening is when you really sit down and focus hard on understanding everything in a podcast. You’ll need to pay close attention to all the vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. If you don’t understand something, rewind the audio and try again. If you still don’t understand, write down the words, phrases or sentences you missed and work on translating them properly. Look up any unknown words and grammar patterns along the way.
This technique requires a bit more work and focus but the good news is that you don’t need to do this every day. You can also make things easier by using structured podcasts that come with worksheets and practice activities, like Business English Pod or British Council Professionals. This will ensure that you understand everything in the audio.
Before listening, choose a brief audio and set yourself an objective of what you want to learn. Take the time to process any new language you discover, take notes and follow the prescribed activities. Compare what you’ve heard to what’s in the transcript if it’s available.
Don’t stress yourself out by listening to too many episodes. Start slow. For example, try one episode a week but really pay attention to the content. Listen to it multiple times over that week, and try to commit what you’ve learned to memory before moving on to a new clip.
3. Focus On What’s Relevant to You
Longer podcasts usually feature several stories, so be sure to choose a topic that’s especially interesting to you. Focus on information that’s very relevant to your personal interests and professional growth. If you work with technology, choose topics that focus on new technological innovations.
Listen to the podcast a few times. You’re naturally more inclined to remember things you find interesting. Focusing makes you pay more attention and understand the content better with less time spent.
For structured audio like the Business English Pod, don’t get caught up with every new idiom or expression you hear. Focus on the language that you think will actually be useful in your own professional environment. And leave the rest for another day.
Spend a few minutes after you listen just thinking about the content and asking yourself what you understood (and what you didn’t understand). Write down 4-5 questions you have about the topic that’s discussed in the podcast, and see if you can answer them based on what you heard. If not, listen again or do extra research online in news articles and on company websites.
4. Language Matching
When you learn a new language, it’s common to want to translate things directly to your native language in your mind. Sometimes it’s useful and other times it can hinder your learning process. This is because not every word or phrase can translate directly. Different languages express ideas differently.
When you’re learning bigger chunks of language, like idiomatic expressions or phrases, it will negatively affect your learning if you try to translate every word to your native language in your mind.
So, try language matching instead. Language matching is finding the equivalent expression in your native language that best expresses the phrase you’re learning in a new language, in this case, English.
Say you learned a new phrase, “I’ll keep you posted.” Instead of translating each one of the words, accept it as one unit and match it to how you express the same message in your native language. Think of the similarities or differences in the structure or vocabulary. This helps you to remember the entire phrase instead of trying to reconstruct it grammatically. And it builds some context around an expression that otherwise wouldn’t make any sense.
5. Get Some Company
Grab some friends and do a business English listening activity together! Spend a lunch break or a coffee break with your English learning coworkers, and listen to a great, relevant podcast together.
After listening, sit down and discuss what you’ve heard and how much you’ve understood. Debate the topic with one another. You can do role-playing activities like simulating the business meeting scenario you just listened to using the new expressions you’ve just learned.
6. Make It Fun!
Who says business or English has to be boring? Here are some ways to make listening fun and funny.
Do imitations! As you’re listening, try imitating the speaker. First, try to talk exactly like they do. Then, make it silly, exaggerate it—you’ll be cracking up with laughter and learning intonation and pronunciation at the same time! This is a really fun way of improving fluency and understanding.
Dub! For short audio clips that come with transcripts like British Council Professionals, after you’ve listened to it a few times, reply to it and insert your own response into the conversation. Pause the audio and talk back to the hosts and guests. Make jokes and propose ridiculous ideas if you feel so inclined.
7. Share It
Teaching someone is proven to reinforce new knowledge, so take the English lessons you learned to work and teach someone else. Teaching a coworker something really interesting or useful you learned. Visit their desk and say “Hey, did you know… ?” They’ll probably be happy you’re giving them a nice break from work, and you might give them valuable information.
This will help you remember your new English lessons better and best of all, now your friends at work can use them too!
8. Put It into Practice
Alright, you’ve armed yourself with a set of great business English podcasts, you have a learning plan and you’re testing different learning methods. The next thing to do is to practice! Use what you’ve been learning in the real world, at meetings, conferences and negotiations.
Here’s a tip. Whenever the opportunity arises, do some preparation. Try connecting what you’re listening to to an actual situation. For example, you’re attending a conference next month and you want to be able to discuss current affairs with people you meet. Think about this when you’re listening to an episode of WSJ’s What’s News. Take notes on all the useful ideas and language you can use at that conference.
Or if you have a meeting coming up with international business partners, imagine the conversations you’ll have on the day. Pick a podcast episode that gives you good examples of how to express your ideas in appropriate, professional English.
Apply it and follow this simple routine each time you do:
- Put it to the test every day. Use your English! You’ve done a lot of hard work working on your listening, expanding your vocab and improving your fluency, so don’t keep it all hidden. Don’t worry that you’re not “good enough” at English yet. New language needs to be used, and just like a new car, you need to take it for a spin and see how it goes!
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. It’s okay to feel nervous, but don’t hold back. If you think you made a mistake, move on and think about it later. You won’t know if you’ve learned something correctly until you actually use it.
- Reflect and review your experience. So, how was it? Did it feel fantastic? Did you think of something else you wanted to say at the time but only remembered it later? Were there some doubts about the structure of a phrase, or the pronunciation of a particular word? Take notes on this and remember your thoughts and feelings for later.
Remember, you just effectively used English in business, so give yourself a high five!
And use the experience to learn more and always keep improving.
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