Learning a language is a sensory (sight, sound, smell, taste and touch) experience!
You learn not only by looking at the language, but also by hearing it—and one day, smelling, tasting and touching it too.
If you want to improve your English language skills, but don’t want to look at any more textbooks, I’ve got the answer you’ve been searching for: English podcasts.
Why You Should Learn with English Podcasts
English language podcasts are an excellent way to learn English quickly.
You can listen to them anytime and anywhere—at your desk or while you’re on the move. And, what better way to pass the time during a long commute than by immersing yourself in an entertaining podcast?
With a little dedication (commitment), English language podcasts can help you quickly improve your listening skills and level. 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 out the podcasts we recommend below, check out the videos in FluentU’s vast library.
When you’re ready to start listening to podcasts, you’ll find some of the best ones right in this post!
How to Use English Podcasts to Improve Your Listening Skills
You already know that using podcasts is a great way to improve your listening skills, but do you know how to make the most (use in a way that’ll give the best result) out of them?
There are a lot of techniques you can use while listening to English podcasts that’ll help you to become a master of English listening.
Listen as white noise first
White noise is basically sound that’s going on in the background while you’re doing something else. When you listen to music while you clean the bathroom, that music is your white noise. Or, when someone who lives alone switches on the television at night while they make supper, that’s their white noise.
It may seem counterintuitive (unreasonable or the opposite of what you’d expect), but listening to English podcasts as white noise while you do other tasks actually helps your brain to get used to the language.
Listen a second time, but now pay close attention
Now listen to the podcast a second (and even third) time and pay attention to all the words and expressions you recognize. If you feel the speaker is talking too fast, try reducing the speed of the audio to 75% (when available).
Read the transcript, if it’s available
Reading the transcript while you listen to a podcast is amazingly beneficial because you’re getting the same information through two different channels (your eyes and your ears), which helps your brain to remember and comprehend more.
Repeat words and sentences out loud
Speak like nobody is watching! Pause the podcast whenever you want to and go back to words and expressions that are new to you or you think are difficult to pronounce. Repeat them over and over until you get them just right.
Pick up new vocabulary and grammar from the podcast
If you look up new words and learn and review grammar bits you hear in each podcast you listen to, you’ll likely remember them a lot easier in the future. Plus, as you already know, learning new vocabulary and grammar is essential to growing as an English language learner.
17 English Podcasts Every English Learner Should Listen To
The English We Speak
Put down your textbook for a moment and learn from some 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’ll hear is the kind of English that’s spoken by native speakers.
These podcasts are published weekly, and each one has a bite-sized duration of three to four minutes. Examples of common English expressions explored in the series include “use your loaf,” “skeletons in the closet” and “take the mickey.”
English is spoken at a slightly slower speed in these podcasts to make following along easier. Every syllable is enunciated (pronounced) clearly. And, the typical format involves two presenters having a conversation with each other. Sound effects are also frequently (often) used to give the impression that the teachers/speakers are in different locations.
Podcasts in English
Variety is the “spice of life” (what makes life interesting) and that’s exactly what these terrific podcasts give you—spoken English in an assortment (variety) of settings. Who said language learning can’t be fun and exciting?
Podcasts in English is a comprehensive (complete) English language learning podcast series with programs for beginners, intermediates and upper intermediates. There are also podcasts for those who need to learn business English.
The short lessons are conducted (led) entirely in English and feature conversations between two English language speakers.
They cover a broad range of topics. Some of the subjects you may hear being discussed are the Winter Olympics, horseback riding experiences and Facebook. The podcasts are short, challenging and supported by transcripts, worksheets and vocabulary tasks.
There’s something for everyone here! This podcast series by Innovative Language is 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’s repeated at a much slower speed.
The next section of each podcast provides some culturally relevant (related) information. This is followed by a focus on vocabulary and phrases, and definitions of some of the words you’ve just heard. The concluding section of each podcast covers important grammar points.
You can sign up for free to see if it’s right for you!
Three cheers for the UK’s British Council who’ve come up with a very helpful series of English language podcasts for the beginner and intermediate learner! Each podcast is about 25 minutes long.
You can, of course, listen in one sitting; but one of the joys of downloading podcasts is you can pause when you want and pick up where you left off when you’re ready again.
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 dialogues are spoken at near normal speed. There’s a lot of good accompanying material, some of which can be read beforehand to help you make the most of each lesson.
Fine-tune your language skills to perfection by taking time out to listen to Splendid Speaking’s intriguing (interesting) podcasts. They’re designed for advanced language learners 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 effective way to learn, but it’s also fun to hear how other learners are coping with the language. You may even be able to spot some of their mistakes!
Better @ English
Better @ English is an eclectic (diverse) mix of English language podcasts featuring real conversations with native speakers. The topics range from the serious to the silly and are conducted at normal speed.
Listening to real, natural-sounding conversations is a great 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 things up. There’s so much variety here that you’ll be really spoiled for choice (have a lot of choices).
Voice of America is an English language news and information service that provides a series of multi-genre (different themes or topics) programs in English. In the audio section, there’s a weekly global news program, a science documentary section, programs about the history of America and American life and a series on American English idioms.
All the programs are narrated in English and spoken at a reduced speed.
Voice of America is a great addition to your collection of learning tools as it adds variety to structured lessons and conversation exposure. As with conventional (standard) radio programs, each podcast is divided into segments and uses music and sound effects to provide a rich audio experience.
Business English Pod
If you’re going to be doing business in English-speaking countries then this podcast series is your brilliant boardroom primer (introduction).
Business English Pod offers an audio immersion into the language of the business world. The series covers the essential (important) language required for every 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 listen already has a reasonable working knowledge of English, but it doesn’t assume too much. The English is spoken a little slower than normal native speed and is therefore quite easy to follow. As you might expect, the diction (way of speaking) 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!
What’s really great about the Culips site is that there are several different podcast styles. The Catch Word podcasts focus on casual expressions, idioms and slang to make you sound more like a native speaker.
The Chatterbox podcasts feature real conversations between people.
Simplified Speech is a podcast devoted to natural English conversations at a slow, easy-to-follow pace.
These are intelligent, practical and well put together podcasts!
ESL Podcast has a vast library of episodes (more than 900 and still growing). The host for the ESL podcast is Dr. Jeff McQuillan and the other voice you’ll 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 keywords and their uses and meanings. The English audio is spoken at about half of normal speed and is therefore easy to follow as a learner.
Each podcast is also 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 installments as “Doctor Who Episode—Language Analysis,” “The Prawn Story” and “English Premier League Football.”
For many of the podcasts, Luke is the sole (only) narrator, although two-person or more conversations also occur. He has a warm, engaging voice that draws in the listener. The English is spoken at normal speed and transcripts are also available.
The Past & The Curious
A nod (reference) to the film series “The Fast & The Furious,” this English podcast focuses on teaching history to kids, but don’t think this is another boring history podcast. The Past & The Curious is made especially for children and families, so it’s both entertaining (it includes songs) and educational.
Presented by Mick Sullivan, this podcast is perfect for intermediate learners of English who want to improve their listening skills and break the intermediate plateau.
Sullivan has a very clear diction, so it’s not difficult to follow what he says. Besides, he teaches you funny and interesting historical facts, and he does it in such a fascinating (very interesting) way that you’ll feel you’re inside the story with its main characters.
The podcast News in Slow English is an amazing option to help you to improve your listening skills.
Thanks to this podcast, you’ll learn about the world and the events that are happening around us in English.
The speakers read the news slower than usual, so it’s very easy to follow the audio. Besides, you’ll have a script for every piece of news presented in the podcast, which is perfect if you want to put into practice the tips we gave you before.
News in Slow English includes different sections that’ll help you to understand the podcasts better and practice their content.
You have the Grammar tab, which takes a specific grammar topic from the podcast and explains it to you in a very clear way and with a lot of examples. Then you have the Expressions tab, which analyzes some of the expressions of the news and explains how and where you can use them.
There is also the Pronunciation and Quiz tabs, where you can practice your speaking and listening comprehension, and finally, you have the Audio Only tab, where you only have the audio and the option to download the episode.
I recommend you follow the steps as they are—first listen to the news while you read the transcript, then study the grammar and expressions, and later on test your knowledge with the exercises. When you’ve finished all of this, listen to the episode again on the Audio Only tab. You”ll be surprised at how much more you can understand now!
From the creators of Radiolab, Pickle is a podcast where adults answer easy and not-so-easy questions for children.
The podcast has been created specifically for children, so the language is simple and the speakers talk slowly and clearly.
Pickle covers a topic in each episode and tries to answer different questions related to it.
With this podcast, intermediate learners of English will be able to learn about things such as friendship, the Romans and even moral dilemmas!
Even though there are not a lot of episodes yet, this is the perfect podcast if your level of English is pre-intermediate or higher and you want to improve your listening skills while learning interesting stuff.
What If World
Even though the What If World podcast was created for kids, I must confess I started listening to it when I was doing research for this post, and now I can’t stop!
If you’re curious about the world and you’d like to have answers to crazy questions, such as what would happen if clouds were made of cotton candy, this podcast is perfect for you.
Each episode lasts around 20 minutes and revolves around a crazy question that’s used in order to teach concepts and lessons to children. I highly recommend you give this one a try!
Tumble is another podcast created for kids. You must be thinking I’m giving you a lot of listening for kids, but there’s a reason for this. Learning a language is a process we’ve all gone through in our lives. Babies are the fastest learners in the world, and they can learn any language they’re surrounded by (sometimes two or three different languages at once).
Choosing podcasts for kids means you’re listening to easy English that even a child can understand. It also means the podcast has been created to teach and entertain the child, and even if you’re 50, you’ll learn a lot of interesting things. We’re all like little children when we start learning a new language!
Tumble is perfect for learners of English who are interested in science. Each episode is only about 15 minutes long, and it normally covers one topic related to science and its recent discoveries.
If you want to learn about smells, viruses, human DNA, the moon and even dinosaurs, you’re going to love Tumble.
Get ready to (re)discover some of the greatest English dramas of all time narrated in a very engaging way and in short five to 10-minute-long episodes!
The BBC Learning English podcast is aimed at intermediate and advanced learners of English, but I think anyone can give it a try because the episodes are really short and easy to understand with a transcript.
The scripts are available under the text, so you can read and listen to the story at the same time. If you prefer to print the text, you can also download it in PDF format, which can be found in the upper, right corner of each episode titled Takeaways.
Additionally, after the script, you can find a list of challenging (difficult) words with their definitions or explanations in simple English. It’s never been so easy to learn about English dramas and improve your listening skills at the same time!
Other Resources for Learning with English Podcasts
Need more information on English podcasts? Just click on the links below and you’ll find more great resources for improving your English.
This site lists some nice English podcasts, which haven’t been mentioned above. Their focus is on educational podcasts that are created for native English speakers, so you’ll get great listening practice with casual, naturally spoken English.
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.
Using podcasts to improve your English listening skills is one of the best ways to do it if you know how.
In order to use podcasts to your advantage, make sure you choose the ones that cover topics you’re interested in and try to pick podcasts that are appropriate for your level of English.
If you follow the tips we gave you at the beginning of this post and listen to some of the options we’ve given you here, your English listening skills will skyrocket (get a lot better), and you’ll be able to go on to do other stuff you like (like watching series in English) that require better listening abilities.
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 see 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.