“Podcasts are music for the mind”

It’s the end of the month and that means one thing – another guest post. This month, I have the enormous pleasure of introducing you to my fellow teacher, Luciana Fernandes. A non-native speaker of English, she is a shining example of how hard work, dedication and motivation can achieve outstanding results. In her case, a successful career teaching English. I have the utmost respect and admiration for non-native English teachers.

In this post, she shows you how you can fit listening to podcasts into your busy lifestyle and how they can truly transform your Business English. A word of warning from me, though…the transformation does require dedication, hard work and consistency on your part because nothing of value comes without effort.

Listen to this post

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Over to Luciana

Podcasts are my number one favourite tool for learning English (together with audiobooks). That’s why I asked Shanthi if I could talk to you about them. I want to show you how you can transform your English to communicate better at work. I’m going to show you exactly what you can achieve with podcasts, the steps to achieve this and a list of Business English podcasts to put it all into action.

Podcasts allow you to make the most of your time.

You can listen to them on your train, bus or car journey to work and use this “dead time” to do something productive;

You can listen to them while cooking, running, cycling and even preparing to sleep (using the timer feature of your audio player);

You can use any possible spare time to listen to them; you don’t necessarily need a quiet place or a comfortable chair to sit in.

Podcasts have multiple uses. Here is what you can do with them:

Keep up to date with your industry news and trends;

 Train yourself to understand fast, natural spoken English;

Train yourself to speak more clearly;

➤ Grow your active vocabulary (the vocabulary that you not only understand but also use in speaking and writing).

There’s a lot of potential here, isn’t there?

But what I propose to teach you is not only how to achieve all that. What I really want to teach you is the attitude you need to have if you want to transform your English using podcasts.

There are 4 things you have to bear in mind when you’re listening to podcasts to bring about this transformation:


#1: I’m going to learn new language (words, expressions, structures, etc.)!

This isn’t as easy as it seems.

If you only  listen to the podcast  to get the general idea (gist) of the conversation, you won’t learn new active vocabulary.

Right now, you can probably maintain conversations and express your ideas, understand most of what you read, etc. But if you want to sound as intelligent, educated and fun as you are in your native language, you must get out of your comfort zone.

You have to make an active effort to deal with the new language you come across.

How to do this:

You should approach the act of listening to a podcast episode like you approach a jigsaw puzzle.

As you listen to the podcast episode, you start catching the pieces and putting them together. Now let’s say there’s a gap in one part of the picture, and you can’t find the pieces to put there. Each time you listen to the podcast episode you catch more pieces, and the more you do it, the clearer the picture is. So, that’s what you should do:

Listen to the episode (or an extract of the episode, in case it’s a long one) two or three times;

 Read the transcript;

 Listen to the episode again;

Write down interesting chunks of language (expressions, phrases, collocations, phrasal verbs, etc.).


#2: I have to “own” the new language I learn (and the old words and expressions too)

Understanding what you hear is not enough. You need to make an effort to retain the chunks of language you understand but can’t use when you speak or write (chunks of language are expressions, phrasal verbs, collocations, idioms, phrases, etc.).

Turning this passive vocabulary into active vocabulary requires deliberate effort. Otherwise, you’ll keep using the same old intermediate vocabulary, and won’t be able to express yourself as clearly and precisely as you would like to.

How to do this:

Create sentences or short dialogues using the chunks you’ve written down;

Keep a chunk journal. It should contain the chunks and also a bit of the context in which you noticed them. Instead of writing only the chunks down, write down parts of the sentences they’re contained in and then highlight the chunks.

Go through your journal from time to time. Say the chunks aloud; create new sentences, new dialogues.


#3: I need to understand fast, natural English

Have you ever thought, “If only this person spoke a little slower…”?

Well, we can’t change the way other people speak. Plus, most of the time, these people aren’t speaking fast, they’re just speaking naturally.

What should we do then? Train our ears to the natural rhythm of the English language.

How to do this:

Listen to a podcast extract a couple of times. Try your best to decipher what you hear;

Read the transcript. Focus on the bits that were not clear;

Read the transcript and listen to the audio at the same time. Notice how they pronounce the bits you didn’t understand;

Studying some features of Connected Speech is really helpful to improve both your pronunciation and your listening.


#4: I can polish my pronunciation

Good pronunciation is one of the elements of good communication. However, the way you acquire good pronunciation is different from the way you acquire vocabulary and grammar, for instance. Pronunciation is not only a cognitive skill, it is also a physical skill.

How to do this:

Use a short extract of the podcast to practise. Listen to it a couple of times and practise reading the transcript aloud. Do it regularly;

Record yourself. Although this step is very important, don’t do it too often. Improving your pronunciation takes time, and if you “test” yourself too often, you’ll get frustrated.

Remember: a watched pot never boils;

Focus on the correct stress of the words and copy the rhythm and intonation.


15 Business Podcasts for you to put these strategies into action.

Podcasts with transcripts for free

Harvard Business Review – http://feeds.harvardbusiness.org/harvardbusiness/ideacast

FullRatchet – a podcast about start-ups – http://fullratchet.net/

Features stories of long-running businesses –  https://thedistance.com/

Podcast about creative business – https://taraswiger.com/

Leadership – https://michaelhyatt.com/thisisyourlife

Travel Tripper’s hotel marketing podcast – http://www.traveltripper.com/blog/?s=podcast

This podcast helps small business owners or marketers find and engage their audience through social, search and mobile marketing – http://www.themarketingagents.com/blog/


Free podcasts with paid transcripts

Podcast about project management. – http://www.project-management-podcast.com/index.php/podcast-episodes

Manager Tools focuses on helping people become more effective managers – https://www.manager-tools.com/manager-tools-basics

Manager Tools “Basics” are the foundational podcasts, the core principles that underlie their philosophy – https://www.manager-tools.com/all-podcasts?field_content_domain_tid=5

Here you can find all podcasts. Select between Manager Tools or Career Tools – https://www.manager-tools.com/map-of-the-universe

They even have a cool index called Map of the Universe which helps you easily browse through their hundreds of podcast episodes according to the category.


Podcasts with notes

Advice on investments – http://www.dhunplugged.com/category/podcasts/

Financial advice. – http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/money-girl
They don’t provide a word-by-word transcription, but they provide notes that cover all the content of the episode. The player is located on the top-right hand corner of each episode’s page.


Podcasts without transcripts

Audit – http://shoutengine.com/TheAuditCast/

NPR (Economy) – http://www.npr.org/sections/money/

Economist – http://www.economist.com/multimedia

BBC Business – www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p059pfmv


About Luciana

Luciana Fernandes is an English teacher who delights in helping people learn to communicate in English and express themselves as clearly and precisely as they do in their own native language. On her website https://soundslikeenglish.com/ , she helps people who are stuck in the intermediate level plateau achieve high fluency using podcasts and audiobooks. You can also download her free guide there.


A huge thank you to Luciana for these excellent tips and the diverse selection of podcasts that I am sure my fellow EWATers will explore with interest and curiosity.

I was especially pleased to read about your advice of keeping a chunk journal. This discipline of writing to aid fluency is a recurring theme and one in which I passionately believe and promote to all my fellow EWATers.

In fact, I am launching a brand new group online writing to fluency program (BWTF Lab) in November. The programme will be open to EWAT subscribers ONLY.

 If you’d like to know more about this program, make sure you join the EWAT community today (see below).

If you’re already a member of the EWAT community, details of this programme will be with the email that accompanies this week’s post inviting you to join the Early Bird Club.

Before I go, don’t forget…sharing is caring

If you think your friends and colleagues would love this post, do share it with them either via email or social media. 
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Thank you for reading and listening
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Take care and ciao for now
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