How to learn English with podcasts

Jak na angličtinu s podcasty

This article was written by Yveta Londa (the lady in black), my student of advanced courses. I think she did a great job!

Why podcasts?

A podcast is basically a radio show. A programme that you can find on the internet and listen to anytime you want. So one of the joys of podcasts is that you can pause whenever you want and pick up where you left off once you have more time again. Podcasts usually offer great content that you can consume comfortably even if you have limited time. 

Listening to different people speaking in English can help you improve listening, as well as vocabulary, enriched with natural expressions. This is one of the biggest advantages of listening to podcasts –  English spoken by real people, sometimes at a slightly slower speed than usual.

How to choose what to listen to?

You can find many sources for podcasts, a lot of articles or recommendations. The truth is, there are tons of the channels, uncharted categories or topics, but most of them will bore you or they will not suit you because of content or form. When I heard about podcasts as a way to improve my English, I was excited. I found some channels with a topic I was interested in, but I was disappointed. I tried to use podcasts often, but there was no joy in it, and finally, I gave up. 

A couple of weeks later, I needed some tips about negotiation. As usual, I found more sources in English than in my native language. One of the sources was a podcast channel with ten episodes, called Slate’s Negotiation. I liked the topics and appreciated the form of information because I was under time pressure and I had no time for reading. And tada! My needs were perfectly met.

So my advice for you is: If you are not interested in what you are listening to, don’t feel guilty and skip it!

When to listen?

Everybody is busy. We all have many things to do, and it is not easy to find some time for English. This is why podcasts are perfect. You only need one sense to listen to podcastsThere are many podcasts with short or long duration. From six minutes to an hour and a half. You can listen to one episode or make a list of many and let them play as you like. If you need to stop listening, the episode will wait for your return. It is entirely up to you how often or how long you will listen.

The best opportunity is during your way to work or school. This regular activity does not require attention because you know your way by heart. You can use this time to focus on listeningOr maybe you can listen while shopping, cleaning, or my favorite – cooking. If I need to prepare dinner, I usually know how much time it will take. I prepare several episodes and listen to them while making the food. I love this because I don’t feel I am wasting time by cooking. Listening to interesting sources also helps me not to rush and not to be stressed by time (my problem with housework).

I found another fun way to use podcasts while spending my time more efficiently. I connected it to my regular workout routine. There are channels with 6 minutes duration (like 6 Minutes English, 6 Minute Grammar, 6 Minute Vocabulary – see below). So this precise time duration motivates me to endure my workout routine. You would be surprised how focused on a podcast I am waiting for the workout to end!

Well, you are hopefully convinced too and want to listen to podcasts. So let’s start with some how to’s, tools, resources and best practices.

How to start with podcasts?

If you have a smartphone, it will be effortless. If you have an iPhone, you will find the application right in your mobile. You can browse channels, pick some episodes and start to explore podcasts right now. If you have an Android, you should download some application from Google Play. Those with good reviews are: Podcast Addict, CastBox, Podcast Go, Stitcher Radio for Podcasts or Podcast PlayerApplications usually offer a library full of channels, divided into categories. You can browse them, search by keywords or by recommendations.

You can listen to episodes if you are online, or you can download the episodes on a wifi and listen to them offline. A great feature is the auto-remove of finished episodes. It means you do not have to worry about space in your mobile.

If you don’t have a smartphone, or you aren’t used to listening to something on your phone, you still have options how to listen to podcasts. Because it is a piece of a broadcasted programme, you can listen to it on your pc when online. You can also download podcasts and save them to your phone, tablet, computer or USB disc. Then you can listen to them offline anywhere. In this case, you should explore the internet and find websites with podcasts. This list of podcasting companies can help you start.

English is not the goal

If you want to improve your English, podcasts can definitely help you. The only thing you need to do is to find some channels interesting for YOU. Because after all, it is not about English, it is about listening to fun or interesting information. Language is the benefit. It works if English is not the goal, but the content is. So, what would you want to follow even in your own language? Go to find it in the English podcasts!

What to listen to?

Here are a couple of recommended channels you can try. Don’t hesitate to add your experience or tips for your favorite podcasts in the comments below! There are many podcasts oriented to the English language. If you want to listen to vocabulary, grammar, conversation in English or topics related to the language, you have plenty of options:

British Council (10-40 minutes) – many channels, for listeners at various levels

6 Minutes English, 6 Minute Grammar, 6 Minute Vocabulary – short podcasts (6 mins)

The English We Speak (2-3 minutes, 150+ episodes) – English phrases or slang words

Creative Language Learning Podcast with Kerstin Hammes (20-100 minutes)

Business English Pod(6-20 minutes, 400 episodes) –  Meetings, Telephoning, Presentations, Job interviews, Negotiations, Socializing, Vocabulary. Episodes describe the topic, play the scenes, highlight phrases, explain them and offer vocabulary, collocations, and alternatives.

Luke’s English Podcast (usually 1,5h, but sometimes less) – Luke is an English teacher, but his podcasts are not typical lessons. I can recommend this channel higly because his episodes have very natural language and at the same time he works with the fact that his followers are learners of English. You may also want to try to participate in his project Transcript Collaboration: each episode is split into small pieces and fans cooperate on transcription. One piece has 3 minutes. No registration or regular participation is necessary.

But I strongly recommend to listen to other podcasts as well. Interviews or documentaries are fresh and full of natural language. The key is to find a channel with an interesting topic. The following podcasts are only tips. I am sure you will find our own favorite channels.

This is your life with Michael Hyatt (25-40 minutes) – each episode is an interview about a topic such as: focus, effectivity, work-life balance, accountability, leadership, passion and other life experience discussed between two smart and kind people. This is my favorite channel. Michele Cushatt speaks with a bit of a lisp, but you get used to it, I promise!

BBC documentary (usually 20 or 50 minutes) – investigating global developments, issues and affairs. Interesting topics, high quality of the content and language as well, English speaking people around the world with different accents.

Slate’s Negotiation (10-15 minutes) – I needed some tips about negotiation and I explored some sources. When I found this podcast, I took a second chance with podcasts and I will never regret it. Very helpful lessons!

Playback with Kristopher Tapley (30 minutes) – conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films. If you are interested in movies (who isn’t?), this channel is great for you.

Happy listening, guys!

Yveta (Nina’s student)    

2 KOMENTÁŘE K “How to learn English with podcasts”

  1. I LOVE podcasts! I listen mainly when I’m travelling home by bus, time then flies by. (I use Podcast Addict in my phone).

    Some of my faves are (mostly for advanced students):

    *The English We Speak – BBC radio – very short phrases explained (the last ones were: “wing it”; “pot luck”; “jiggery-pokery”)
    *50 things that made the modern economy – BBC World service – self-explanatory
    *Hidden Brain – interesting facts and stories about how our brain works
    *Freakonomics Radio – connections between economy, psychology and everyday stuff
    *The Sheroic podcast – I used to work out with fitness trainer Cassey Ho on YouTube and now she has a podcast about topics like how to deal with stress, how to be a female boss etc.
    *Discovery – BBC World Service – scientific topics
    *99% Invisible – about design and architecture of not so noticeable things

    /*for German: DW – Learn German; Coffee break German; Wieso nicht?; Radio D Series/

    tl;dr: I listen to podcasts a lot! 🙂

  2. Greetings from Germany and thanks ever so much for this very helpful posting.
    I am really looking forward to testing some of the links you have provided over the weekend.



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