Man listening to a radio

How to Use Radio to Learn English Online

Even though YouTube, Netflix and podcasts are more popular than radio these days, that doesn’t mean radio is dead.

In fact, the radio offers tons of brilliant opportunities for English learners to practice and grow.

And you don’t even need a physical radio to access it—all you need is an internet connection.

In this post, I’ll show you 13 of the best English programs for all levels of learners, and explain which learners and topics they are best suited for!


1. Best for Beginners: “Learning English Broadcast” (Voice of America)

VOA Learning English

Voice of America is one of the most well-known online resources for learning American English. Their “Learning English Broadcast” is a radio program especially designed for beginner and intermediate learners.

In this radio program, the presenters always speak in a much slower and more clear voice than radio shows meant for native speakers. The vocabulary is also specially selected so that the learners can easily understand and pick up the meaning of the words used in the show.

The content of each episode is usually related to current events in the world. Topics include entertainment, politics, war, science, culture and the internet. For instance in this episode, they talk about the Academy Awards (also called the “Oscars”). This show also features interviews and in-depth descriptions of events.

Every episode is about 30 minutes long and is perfect for comprehensive, daily English listening practice.

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2. Best for Language and Culture: “Adept English”

Adept English

“Adept English” aims to make English speaking as natural for learners as their own native language. Each episode of this radio show is about nine to 15 minutes long, which makes it great for beginner practice.

The show touches on both technical language topics and general facts, cultural events and news. The technical topics include idioms, grammar, learning tips, acronyms and so on. Some more general topics covered in the show include Christmas trees, fitness and health, pollution and other things generally related to English speaking countries.

The show pays special attention to the cultural aspects of English conversation and what’s acceptable under different circumstances.

The host of the “Adept English” show has a British accent so speakers can learn the U.K. version of English through this show.

3. Best for Short Episodes: “6 Minute English” (BBC Learning English)

BBC Learning English

As the name suggests, this show provides short episodes for quick English listening activities. These episodes are ideal for intermediate learners.

The audio itself seems like any other radio show with simpler English. But under each episode there are activities, practice questions and a list of words with their meanings, which can be used to improve your vocabulary.

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The radio show’s pages also provide the conversation in text form, which means that you can also practice your reading comprehension with this show. But since the transcript (the written text of a speech or a verbal conversation) doesn’t match the content of the audio completely, it’s best if learners first listen to the episode and then read the transcript.

4. Best for Sports “ESPN Radio”

ESPN Radio

ESPN is one of the world’s most established sports news stations. This station exclusively covers sports and features live commentary, talk shows, discussions and interviews with various sports stars. It uses American English as it’s located in the U.S.

The content often goes deep into the technical aspects of one sport. This is why learners should listen to shows that talk about the games they already know about. Or you can learn the basic vocabulary used in a particular sport before listening. It might be a good idea to start by watching a game and then listening to the commentary of that same game to get more cues.

This is recommended for intermediate learners as most beginners will find it very difficult to understand the conversations in this station.

5. Best for British English: “BBC Sportsworld”

BBC Sportsworld

“BBC Sportsworld” caters to people from all over the world. It uses British English for all its content.

It covers almost all sports, from soccer to basketball to cricket. The station always has reporters in major games. The station has live commentary mixed with discussion, analysis, interviews and talk shows. The radio station covers all the major world sporting events like the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games, the World Cup and so on.

You have the choice of listening to the station live or you can use its website to listen to pre-recorded episodes. The station also likes to interact with its audience through social media and phone calls.

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6. Best for Policy and Society: WNYC


WNYC is a famous public radio station located in New York, in the U.S. It features general interest radio shows for the American audience.

The shows on this radio station usually focus on policies that affect the everyday life of the public and social problems that need to be solved. It invites experts and interviews policy makers to get a sense of the cultural problems that are prevalent in American society.

Popular WNYC shows that cover these subjects include “1A” and “The Brian Lehrer Show,” both of which are discussion-style shows that are best for upper-intermediate to advanced learners.

WNYC radio also hosts programs about music, books and other cultural events. It also partners with the BBC World Service to deliver international news to their American listeners.

You can listen to WNYC live from their website or check out the full list of WNYC shows here.

7. Best for Humor: “The Debaters” (CBC)

The Debaters

“The Debaters” is a famous Canadian show hosted by the comedian Steve Patterson. Although people in this show debate various topics, it’s meant to be funny. The topics themselves seem to be about silly things, which obviously won’t be featured in serious debates.

Some examples include debating whether people should take their dogs everywhere, whether cows are superior to chickens or whether New Year’s Eve is the worst night ever.

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The show helps learners explore everyday aspects of life. It’s a light and non-serious take on issues that every native English speaker has to deal with in their country. Each episode typically runs for 15 minutes and is good for intermediate to advanced learners.

It’s also great for people who want to learn Canadian English and know more about Canadian culture.

8. Best for Pop Culture: “Pop Culture Happy Hour” (NPR)

Pop Culture Happy Hour

As the name suggests, this show focuses on anything that’s popular in the fields of movies, music, books or culture in general. Usually the show hosts chat among themselves about a show, an event or a trend they’ve observed recently. They also interview authors, film makers, musicians and other famous personalities.

Although it’s a part of NPR, an American radio station, the content of the show appeals to the general English-speaking world. They select works from all over the world that might help learners connect to this show more. Generally the speakers use American English, but that can change depending on the guest who’s invited to speak.

Since there are several speakers who sometimes talk over one another (talk simultaneously), only intermediate to advanced learners should use it for listening practice.

9. Best for American English: “Anderson Cooper 360” (CNN)

Anderson Cooper 360

Anderson Cooper is one of the most famous journalists in America. His show “Anderson Cooper 360” has been running since 2003 and is a source of all the latest news that matters.

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He speaks in the “General American” accent and he’s known for his formal and neutral tone. He generally gives a brief context and background to his listeners while he reports the latest events. In his show, his major focus is on American politics and the policies of the U.S. government. Learners who are interested in this aspect of America or plan to study and make a career in this field will find his show interesting.

Since Cooper has been a reporter since the 1990s and has hosted respectable shows like “60 Minutes,” any English learner who wants to go into journalism will obviously gain valuable knowledge from this show.

The pace of this show is extremely fast and it’s recommended only for advanced listeners.

10. Best for Intermediate Learners: “MSNBC News”


MSNBC is another American news station, but its news program is closer to a conventional news show than “Anderson Cooper 360.”

It’s better for intermediate learners as the speed of speech is considerably slower in this station and it’s easier to follow what the hosts are saying.

The range of this news channel is wider than the previous one and they talk about general events like accidents, trends, new technologies and celebrities along with politics and the government.

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The channel also uses simpler words while reporting and their audience base is larger and more diverse.

11. Best for Advanced Learners: “The Documentary” (BBC)

BBC The Documentary

If you want to learn a more formal and serious kind of English, then this show is perfect for you. It features stories from around the world about history, current events and special people.

Although the show is produced by the BBC and the host uses British English, its focus is on the world. With its broad range of topics, any learner is bound to find something about their country or culture.

The format of the show is also ideal for listening practice as usually only one person narrates the story in a clear way. That person can either be the host of the series or an expert who’s researched or witnessed a particular topic.

The show will also be helpful for people who are learning English for a career in international bodies like the United Nations or want to study history or international relations. “The Documentary” uses complex language and is only useful for advanced learners.

12. Best for Finance and Business: “Bloomberg Radio”

Bloomberg Radio

Bloomberg is an international news channel focused on finance, business, markets and everything related to them. They often cover legal cases, American politics and policy changes that influence markets.

This radio show prefers to use simple language and a steady tone, although you’ll also hear a lot of technical financial terms.

If you’re trying to learn English for business, it’s preferable that you listen to this station for about 10 minutes, note down the headlines and any technical words, then go to their main website to read an article about the news story.

This station is useful for intermediate learners, as beginners might find it hard to follow.

13. Best for Economy: “Your Money Briefing” (Wall Street Journal)

Your Money Briefing

This station is part of the famous finance newspaper The Wall Street Journal. Unlike the previous station, each episode of “Your Money Briefing” focuses on a particular topic and analyzes it. Instead of reporting on news stories, it chooses to trace the effects of government policies, talk about the market and give advice to its listeners.

It focuses on the larger economy as well as personal finance. It also has episodes where it explains in simple terms how certain things like the housing shortage affect the overall economy. Their focus is on the U.S. economy and they use American English.

The show has various elements like narrations, snippets of audio and interviews that make it interesting. This doesn’t make it harder to follow and the language used is as simple as possible. For listening practice, this is good for intermediate as well as advanced learners.

Tips for Studying English with the Radio

1. Make Time Every Day to Listen to the Radio in English

It doesn’t matter how long you listen for, whether it’s just five minutes or one hour, but consistency is key.

Regular exposure to English is important, which is why you should listen to the radio in English every day.

To build this habit, start with the goal of listening for just one to five minutes every day. If the program is interesting, you might listen for longer, but the short time commitment will make it an easy task to complete.

Over time as the habit develops, you can slowly increase your daily listening time.

2. Write Down Interesting Phrases or Words

Do you keep hearing the same words over and over again while listening to the radio?

If yes, it means that these are high frequency words that relate to the topic, so they’re probably worth writing down. Write the words or phrases you hear, and also an example of the context so you can understand how to use them properly.

After you’ve made a list of interesting words and phrases, the next step is to actually learn them. Creating flashcards with these words can help you get started. A language learning website like FluentU, for example, lets you see words in context with authentic English videos.

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3. Listen for Patterns to Help You Understand

When you listen to weather reports, for example, different reports can sound similar or repetitive. Weather reports will use the same weather vocabulary and phrases most days, so use this to your advantage.

When you listen to specific programs there’ll be less repetition, but there are still patterns with timing. Perhaps a radio program has an astrologer on air (speaking live) talking about the horoscopes of the day at 8:00 every morning. If you enjoy astrology and horoscopes, tune in at this time every day.

4. Don’t Use the Dictionary at First

When you’re learning a language, you might want to use a dictionary to look up all the words you don’t understand. But this isn’t necessary—especially in the beginning. It’s much more important to understand the main point than to understand every single word. If you generally know what the radio show is talking about—great!

If not, focus on understanding the topic of conversation, not every word that’s spoken. Over time your listening will improve and you’ll find yourself understanding more without having to even open your dictionary.

However, if you find that you hear a word many times that you don’t know, then it’s probably a good idea to look it up in the dictionary. If a word is repeated so much, it’s probably important to the topic.


Although I’ve recommended these 13 English radio stations, your own learning level, needs and individual progress will ultimately decide how you use them in your practice sessions.

Happy listening!

And One More Thing...

If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:


If you want to watch it, the FluentU app has probably got it.

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