Want to improve your English, but don’t want to look at any more textbooks?
If so, I’ve got the answer you’ve been searching for – English podcasts.
Why Learn with English Podcasts?
English language podcasts are an excellent way to learn English quickly.
You can listen to them anytime anywhere – at your desk or while you’re on the move. What better way to pass the time during a long commute than by immersing yourself in an entertaining podcast?
With a little dedication, English language podcasts will help you quickly improve your listening skills and proficiency. One perk (benefit) is that podcasts often have transcripts (a written version of the audio). This means that you can listen and read at the same time, or look at a transcript if one part of a podcast confuses you.
At FluentU, we love this combination of reading, watching and listening. If you want more English listening practice before you try podcasts, check out the videos in FluentU’s library. We have hundreds of English language videos available right now, and every one has great subtitles to make learning easier.
When you’re ready to start listening to podcasts, I’ve selected some of the best podcasts on the net. Their styles and approaches are different, but all offer expert tuition and guidance:
11 English Podcasts for English Learners and ESL Students
The English We Speak
Put down your textbook for a moment and learn from some of the most knowledgeable experts of the English language, the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). This English language learning podcast series focuses on everyday phrases and slang. What you will hear is the kind of English spoken by real people all the time and will help you to speak more like a native speaker.
The podcasts are published weekly, and each one has a bite-sized duration of 3-4 minutes. Examples of common English expressions explored in the series are: “use your loaf”, “skeletons in the closet” and “take the mickey”.
The English is spoken at a slightly slower speed than normal. Every syllable is enunciated clearly. The typical format involves two presenters having a conversation with each other. Sound effects are frequently used to give the impression that the teachers are in different locations.
Podcasts in English
Variety is the spice of life and that’s exactly what these terrific podcasts give you – spoken English in an assortment of settings. Who said language learning can’t be fun and exciting?
Podcasts in English.com is a comprehensive English language learning podcast series with programs for beginners, intermediates and upper intermediates. There are also podcasts for those who need to use business English. The short lessons are conducted entirely in English and feature conversations between two English language speakers.
They cover a broad range of topics encompassing nearly every facet of life. Some of the subjects you may hear being discussed are the Winter Olympics, horse riding experiences and Facebook. The podcasts are short, challenging and supported by transcripts, worksheets and vocabulary tasks.
There’s something for everyone here, in a podcast series for all experience levels. You can choose from four levels of learning to match your needs – absolute beginner, beginner, intermediate and advanced. The podcasts are presented by hosts who also act out different scenes. Once a scene has been performed it is repeated at a much slower speed.
The next section of each podcast provides some culturally relevant information. This is followed by a focus on vocabulary and phrases, and definitions of some of the words the listener has just heard. The concluding section of each podcast covers grammar. These English language podcasts are conducted at a moderate pace.
You can sign up for free to see if it’s right for you!
Elementary Podcasts by the British Council
Three cheers for the UK’s British Council who have come up with a very helpful series of English language podcasts for the beginner and intermediate learner. Unusually for language learning podcasts these lessons are quite long, at about 25 minutes. You can, of course, listen in one sitting. But one of the joys of podcasts is you can pause when you want and pick up where you left off when there’s more time.
The hosts of each edition take the listener through a number of different scenarios. These are acted out in dialogue and are the kind of situations people experience every day. The podcasts also include broader discussions of some of the topics. The presentation is lively, upbeat and engaging, and the English is spoken at near normal speed. There is a lot of good accompanying material, some of which can be read beforehand to help the listener make the most of each lesson.
Hone your fine language skills to perfection by taking time out to listen to Splendid Speaking’s intriguing podcasts. They are designed for the advanced language learner who can speak reasonably good English. The podcasts offer a fascinating approach to learning the language. Each lesson features interviews and discussions with non-native English language speakers. The recordings also include expert feedback about their performances. Not only is this a very instructive way to learn, but it’s also fun to hear how other learners are coping with the language. You may be able to spot some of their mistakes!
Better at English
Better at English is an eclectic mix of English language podcasts featuring real conversations with native speakers. The topics range from the serious to the silly and light-hearted and are conducted at normal speed. Listening to real, natural-sounding conversations is a superlative supplement to classroom and textbook learning. Unlike anything else, this familiarizes the student with the pace of the language and some of its idioms and common expressions. Better English is suitable for the intermediate student and above, or for the beginner who really wants to challenge themselves. These English language podcasts are accompanied by transcripts and vocabulary notes.
Voice of America Learning English
This is a wonderful podcast series that really mixes it up. There’s so much variety hear that the listener is really spoilt for choice.
Voice of America is an English language news and information service that provides a series of multi-genre programmes in English. In the audio section there is 1) a weekly global news programme 2) a science documentary strand 3) programmes about the history of America and American cultural life and 4) a series on American English idioms. All the programmes are narrated in English spoken at a slower speed than normal.
Voice of America is a great addition to the language student’s arsenal of learning tools as it adds variety to structured lessons and conversation-based tuition. As with conventional radio programmes, each podcast is divided into segments and uses music and sound effects to provide a rich audio experience.
Business English Pod
If you are going to be doing business in English speaking countries then this podcast series is your brilliant boardroom primer.
Business English Pod is an immersion into the language and conventions of the business world. The series covers the integral language required for every conceivable business situation. The episodes follow a simple structure with the host speaking for a few minutes on a set topic. There are transcripts, quizzes and vocabulary guidance accompanying each podcast.
The series assumes the student already has a reasonable working knowledge of English, but it doesn’t assume too much. The English is spoken at about three quarters of normal speed and is therefore quite easy to follow. As you might expect, the diction is perfect. Business English Pod provides a good insight into how business is conducted in English-speaking companies. In addition, the lessons offer valuable listening and comprehension practice.
Culips ESL Podcast
Whether you can barely say “hello” in English or can talk fluently in the language for several minutes, there are some real gems for you here – a podcast series for all levels of English language learner. What’s really great about the Culips site is that there are four different podcast styles. The Close Up podcasts feature recurring characters in a variety of situations. During each episode the host focuses on vocabulary, expressions, idioms and slang. There is also a small amount of grammar. Chatterbox podcasts feature real conversations between people, while Catch Word podcasts are centred on one word only and its meanings and uses. Curious Questions is a podcast devoted to answering listeners’ questions.
These are intelligent, practical and well put together podcasts. They are all conducted in English and most of time this is spoken at slightly less than normal speed.
The English as a Second Language Podcast has a vast library of episodes (more than 900 and still going strong). The host for the ESL podcast is Dr. Jeff McQuillan and the other voice you will often hear belongs to Dr. Lucy Tse. Both have PhDs in applied linguistics. The core of each podcast is an acted out dialogue between two characters. The rest of the episode then concentrates on key words and their uses and meanings. The English is spoken at about half normal speed and is therefore, quite easy to follow. Each podcast is accompanied by a learning guide.
Luke’s English Podcast
Luke is a qualified English language teacher and stand-up comedian who provides an engaging and entertaining podcast series. His intention is to “make you laugh while you learn” and he provides a rich mix of subject material. A quick look at the titles of some of the podcasts reveals such instalments as “Doctor Who Episode – Language Analysis”, “The Prawn Story” and “English Premier League Football”.
For many of the podcasts Luke is the sole narrator, although real-life conversations also feature. He has a warm, engaging voice that draws in the listener. What’s more his stories are so well structured that you are eager to hear the next sentence. The English is spoken at normal speed and transcripts are available.
Other Resources for Learning with English Podcasts
Need more information on English podcasts? Just follow the links and you’ll find more great resources for improving your English.
Great Teachers: List of some nice English podcasts which haven’t been mentioned here. Their focus is on podcasts that feature one teacher, who directly talks to the listener.
Smart Learning: Top 10 Free Business English Podcasts and Audio Resources: If you want to improve your business English, make sure you check out this list. Note that they’re mainly authentic content for native speakers, rather than for ESL learners.
And One More Thing…
If you like learning English through podcasts, then I’ve got to tell you about FluentU. FluentU lets you learn real English. It teaches you with popular talk shows, catchy music videos, and funny commercials:
FluentU makes it simple to watch native English videos. It has interactive captions. Tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.
Tap on the word “brought”, and you would this:
Videos become English lessons. With FluentU’s questions, you can always see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The most interesting part? FluentU knows the vocabulary that you’re learning. It recommends you examples and videos based on those words. You have a 100% personalized experience.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.