My clients often ask me how they can improve their listening skills. The first thing I ask them is what they enjoy doing. Do they like watching films, watching TV Series, listening to music, listening to the radio and so on? All those activities will give them the practice they need to improve their listening skills.
The challenge, however, with most of my clients and most of us truth be told, is that time is short and there are only so many hours in a day that we can accomplish everything we set out to do. Whilst it would be great to watch a film everyday or catch up with the latest episode on your favourite TV series, the reality is that this precious time is often unavailable to us as work and family take over.
That’s why podcasts are such an ingenious way of giving time-poor learners the opportunity to practise their English “on the go”.
What is a podcast?
The word derives from the words “iPod” and “broadcast”. Podcasts are basically radio programmes that can be downloaded onto an MP3 player or listened to directly from your computer at any time.
They are a great way of catching up on radio programmes and practising your listening skills. I often listen to podcasts whilst cooking, ironing, gardening or doing my nails! A lot of people listen to podcasts on their way to and back from work, at the gym, running, jogging, gardening and so on. The beauty of podcasts is that you can multi-task while improving your listening skills.
Why should I listen to podcasts?
This is what my fellow trainer, Sandy Millin said about this in her article: “As you listen to more and more English, you will understand more. Podcasts give you the chance to listen to English from around the world, including both native and non-native speakers. Even if you are not concentrating 100% on what is being said, your brain is becoming familiar with the rhythms of English and you are learning without noticing. You will improve your language ‘instinct’ and get a better feeling about what sounds right.”
I wholeheartedly agree with her. It does not matter if you don’t understand everything. The important thing is to provide your brain with as much exposure to English as you can.
The next question my clients ask is which podcasts would you recommend and this where it can get tricky. There are thousands of podcasts out there and they keep increasing in number every day.
I have a few favourites which I listen to and would not hesitate in recommending to learners. I have divided my list into podcasts designed for English language learners and those that are designed for a general audience.
FOR ENGLISH LEARNERS
Under the listening section you have a choice of four apps, two of which are highlighted below:
- Learn English Audio and Video – this is a selection of the most popular podcasts and videos.
- Learn English Elementary Podcasts – This is aimed at Elementary learners. Each show lasts 20 minutes and is accompanied by questions that you can answer while listening.
The BBC Learning English site offers a wealth of resources for learners to practise their English. In terms of podcasts that can be downloaded, there are two in particular that are available around the world.
- The English We Speak – This is a 3-minute programme that introduces learners to everyday English phrases or slang.
- 6 Minute English – This six-minute programme gives you the opportunity to learn and practise everyday English on a wide range of topics.
For those of you who need English for work and want to listen to useful English phrases and situations, the two podcasts could be useful:
- BBC English at Work This is an office- based drama that is a fun way of learning and practising phrases typically used in the working environment.
- Business English Pod – This is an excellent podcast series for those of you who are involved in the world of business and boardrooms. The series covers the necessary language required in every conceivable business situation, for example, handling a crisis in a meeting, bringing visuals to life in a presentation.
For those of you who want to learn American English, these podcasts are great.
- Voice of America Learning English– Voice of America is an English language news and information service that provides a series of multi-genre programmes in English. 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.(Taken from FluentU’s article)
- AllEarsEnglish – This podcast is run by Gabby Wallace and Lindsay McMahon, two English Language Teachers. Each episode lasts between 5 – 10 minutes and is filled with great tips on how to work/study with Americans and be part of American society. They are full of energy and fun.
- Real Life English – the guys at Real Life English are wonderful. They are all English Language Teachers based in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. They talk about all sorts of things like romance, embarrassing moments, and introduce some useful English expressions. The English you will hear is a mixture of Australian English, British English and American English. In their words, the podcasts are “dedicated to helping your listening skills and teaching you new and cool expressions that will guide you to English fluency and immerse you with native conversation.”
Luke’s English Podcast – Luke is a qualified English language teacher and stand-up comedian who provides an award-winning, engaging and entertaining podcast series. His intention is to “make you laugh while you learn” and he provides a rich mix of subject material.
For many of the podcasts Luke is the sole narrator, although real-life conversations sometimes occur. He has a warm, engaging voice that draws in the listener. His stories are fun and interesting. The English is spoken at normal speed and transcripts are available.
FOR GENERAL LISTENING
For those of you who simply enjoy listening to spoken English and want to keep up with your English, I would recommend these following podcasts:
BBC Radio 4
I love Radio 4, especially their comedies and dramas. There are 150 podcasts that are easily available. Here are some of my favourites:
- The Archers Omnibus – The Archers is the world’s longest running soap opera, offering essential drama from the heart of the country. The full week’s events are available every Sunday.
- Drama of the Week – Every Friday you can enjoy an hour of the best storytelling.
- Comedy of the Week – On Mondays you can catch up with a variety of comedians that will brighten your week.
“Ideas worth spreading”. This is TED’s motto and they have been sharing inspiring talks about a variety of topics since 1984. The length of the talks vary from 3 minutes to 18 minutes and transcripts are available.
The talks are available through a number of ways. To find out how to access them, take a look here.
And there you have it. Do you listen to podcasts? Are there any you would recommend that are not listed here? Please share them here.
I hope you found this post helpful. If you did, please share it. And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog is you don’t want to miss out on my posts.
Ciao for now
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