Are you sick of learning English with boring textbooks?
Do you spend a lot of time at or near a computer?
If so, you can really maximize your time by listening to online radio stations in English. This is one of the best and most effective ways to improve your English listening skills, while also getting accustomed to the speed and tone of native English speakers.
Not only will careful listening improve your listening skills, but you’ll also gain speaking fluency and better pronunciation.
Follow this simple guide and learn some great tips to improve your English with the radio.
10 Great Tips to Learn English Listening Skills with the Radio
1. Find a radio station in English that interests you
Streaming radio stations online works better than the traditional radio because you can listen to any station worldwide.
Everyone loves music, which many stations will play, but if you really want to fine-tune (perfect) your English listening skills you should listen to a talk radio station. You can still enjoy your music, but you will learn English intonation and listening much better with native speech.
Talk radio shows span many different topics, from sports to science, so choose something that interests you.
The next step is searching for the kind of station that you want. Use Google and type: radio + (the region (place) you want) + (the type of show you’re looking for). For example, if I want an entertainment radio show from California, type “radio California entertainment” into your Google search bar.
This way you’ll narrow down your search (make the list smaller) and find a great station faster.
2. Don’t limit yourself to just one station
Try out a few different online English-speaking radio stations until you find the ones that you like best.
Avoid any radio stations with DJs who are really loud and try to make jokes all of the time. More often than not, these DJs don’t make much sense to native English speakers, so you could become confused and frustrated.
If you’re really intent on learning English with radio, you should find a radio station that has the news, the weather or that gives advice (e.g. advice on relationships or health problems).
It’s also important to note that you shouldn’t listen to a radio station just because it has a lot of speaking. You need to find the perfect program that really keeps your attention. If you’re into the Hollywood scene and love entertainment and gossip, check out Entertainment Radio or look for another entertainment talk show that has the latest celebrity news.
3. Make time every day to listen to the radio
It doesn’t matter how long you listen for, whether it’s just five minutes or one hour, but consistency is key. Regular exposure (contact) with English is important, which is why you should listen to the radio every day.
To build this habit, start with the goal of listening for just 1-5 minutes every day. If the program is interesting, you might listen 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.
4. Listen to simplified English news stations online
If you don’t feel ready to listen to a full radio program for native English speakers, you can check out some big news stations that have easier versions for non-native English speakers. Two such stations are the BBC and VOA (Voice of America). VOA is particularly good for learning English, as it allows you to choose the level you want and therefore you can gradually increase the difficulty as you become more confident.
Depending on your level, a Google search for “radio news for kids” might also give you some new stations to explore.
5. Listen to interviews
Listening to interviews will increase your understanding because they generally follow an easy question and answer pattern. Listening to interviews on the radio will help you to learn and practice intonation when asking questions, and also how people respond naturally to questions in English.
Interviews will also introduce you to “fillers” (words that fill space to give you more thinking time). Some examples of fillers are, “Let me see,” “Give me a second,” and “Hmmm good question.” These fillers are useful to recognize and understand, and using them will make you sound more like a native English speaker.
6. 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.
7. 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 the same weather vocabulary and phrases most days, so use this to your advantage.
When you listen to specific programs there will 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 (listen) at this time every day.
8. Check out the radio station’s website for extra help
All online radio stations have their own website, and you should use it. Quite often they will record popular shows or parts and list them as podcasts so you can go back and listen to a segment that you found interesting. Definitely go back and listen to a favorite show or segment again, as listening repetition is very important when learning English.
Also some radio stations will post transcripts (the written text of the show) for fans to go back and read and this will be very beneficial to you too. All popular shows have little written explanations that inform you of what the show is going to be about therefore you’ll be able to build your background knowledge first and get an idea of what you’re going to listen to.
9. 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 is not 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 is 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.
10. Listen to podcasts
If you’re afraid of not understanding everything on regular radio stations, you can start slowly by listening to news podcasts first.
Podcasts are fantastic because you can listen to them any time you want: while going for a run, driving to work or walking to class. Listening to podcasts is convenient, there are endless topics to listen to, and most are free!
One of the best and easier to understand news podcast stations is BBC Podcasts. BBC Podcasts is easy to use, and includes the world service, children’s shows, learning, drama, entertainment and much more.
If you want specific information, motivational speeches or talks on special topics, try listening to TED talks. All TED talks come in the form of MP3 and are easy to download. These talks include famous people such as Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, and also everyday people like you and me. These talks are inspiring and often you’ll forget that you’re even listening to English because they’re so interesting.
Learning anything can be a bore, which is why it’s so important to listen to topics that interest you. You don’t have to remain glued in front of the computer screen while listening, either. You could certainly have the radio playing in the background while you cook dinner, drive or wash dishes.
Keeping it enjoyable is really important if you want to really maximize your online listening experience. After some time you’ll find yourself understanding the whole show, which is one of the greatest rewards!
Oh, and One More Thing…
If you liked these tips, you should check out the FluentU app. Like the website, the FluentU app lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:
The FluentU app makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word “brought,” you see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. You have a truly 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.