The 11 Best Podcasts to Improve Your Listening Skills Anytime, Anywhere

How To Develop Skills | 11 comments

Do you feel that it’s impossible to understand native speakers?

Think native speakers talk too fast, break too many grammar rules, use slang and difficult vocabulary that you never learned in class?

Feel lost when you watch TV, listen to the radio, or watch a movie in English?

If you said yes, then I have good news for you!

Podcasts!! If you have never heard of a podcast, it is an audio file that you can listen to or download from the Internet. But, more importantly, listening to podcasts is an effective, convenient way to improve your English listening skills!

Podcasts can help you:

  • improve your listening skills
  • become familiar with different accents and styles of speech
  • build your vocabulary with the real, modern English we use today
  • understand native speakers, even when they speak quickly

With today’s lesson, you’re going to learn how to use podcasts to improve your listening, to understand native speakers more easily, and to communicate in English more naturally.

And you’ll also get my recommended list of the 11 best podcasts you should be listening to in English.

Before we get started, here are just a few reasons podcasts are such a great way for you to boost your English skills: Podcasts are:

  • Available on your smart phone, computer, or laptop
  • Easy to listen to anytime, anywhere (at home, on the bus, in your car, at your desk)
  • Usually available with a transcript so you can read while you listen (pssst… did you know Speak Confident English’s Wednesday Lessons are available on podcast with transcripts? They are!)
  • Focused on every possible topic, which means you can always find something interesting (Common podcast topics include comedy, music, history, science, technology, culture, stories, life advice, how to information, current events, and interviews.)

So let’s dive in to find out how YOU can use podcasts to improve your listening.

How You Can Use Podcasts to Improve Your English Listening Skills

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to Download 3 Self-Study Activities

Step-by-Step: Using Podcasts to Improve Your English Skills

The most important step in using podcasts to improve your listening is to start listening daily.

Follow this step-by-step process to help you create a routine in listening to podcasts:

  1. Identify 5-10 minutes in your day when you can listen with focus. This can be on your way to work, while you’re cooking dinner, jogging for fitness, taking a break at work, or enjoying your morning coffee.
  2. Choose a podcast topic that is interesting to you. This is important. If you’re not interested in the topic, you won’t listen.
  3. Listen to the podcast without the transcript. Check your understanding. Can you summarize the topic? Can you identify the key points?
  4. Read the transcript while you listen. This will help you identify new vocabulary, grammar patterns, and natural pronunciation.
  5. Use context to help you! Using the context – the surrounding words and sentences – to help you with meaning is a useful skill that you can develop. (If you’re not sure how to use context to help you, practice with this lesson on using context with phrasal verbs.)
  6. Don’t give up! If you listen to a native English podcast and it is challenging, if you feel lost, it’s okay. Don’t give up. Listen to the same 5-10 minutes the next day. Check your understanding. Your brain will adapt. It will begin to recognize the language and pronunciation used.

Two Types of Podcasts for Improving English Listening

Podcasts for English Language Learners

Podcasts for English Language Learners are created specifically for non-native English speakers and are often similar to English lessons with a focus on vocabulary, grammar tips, phrasal verbs, idioms, etc.

These podcasts are usually easier to understand because of:

  • Slower speaking speed
  • Clearer pronunciation
  • Explanations of idioms, phrasal verbs, or key expressions
  • Highlighted grammar rules

There can be a great variety in podcasts for English Language Learners. Some are designed for beginners, and others for more advanced learners.

Podcasts in this category may be similar to attending an English language class. The goal is often for you to LEARN something about the English language from the podcast, for example, new phrasal verbs, how to use a grammar rule, key steps for improving reading skills, and much more.

And you can do ALL of this while walking your dog, cooking dinner, rocking your child to sleep, commuting to work, and so much more.

Benefits of podcasts specifically designed for non-native English speakers include:

  • Easier to understand vocabulary
  • Clear pronunciation and even speaking speed
  • Increased feeling of success and accomplishment with understanding

Here are 5 podcasts specifically created for English Language Learners that you can start with:

  1. 6-Minute English from the BBC. A podcast series on a variety of topics and vocabulary for intermediate level English speakers. Perfect if you’re short on time and only have 6 minutes!
  2. Word of the Day from Merriam-Webster Dictionary. In just 2 minutes and 40 seconds, learn a new word every day.
  3. The English We Speak. Short, 3-minute podcasts that focus on a specific phrase or useful expression in English.
  4. English Across the Pond. A new podcast that provides a British and American perspective on English.
  5. Voice of America. Choose from a variety of program topics including news, science, stories about life in America, and vocabulary.

And don’t forget!

You can also listen to these weekly Confident English lessons via podcast as well!! You can listen to the Speak Confident English podcast with the transcripts on the website. Or if you have a podcast app on your smart phone, you can listen at PlayerFM and Stitcher.

Native English Podcasts

Native-speaker podcasts are created for an English-speaking audience and use authentic (real) native English speech. Podcasts are not focused on English language learning but rather on a variety of topics including stories, history, science, comedy, cooking, life advice, gaming, music, and so much more.

Native English podcasts may be challenging but are great for your English listening skills because of:

  • Authentic language and speech patterns
  • Natural intonation, stress, and pronunciation  
  • Real-life expressions and grammatical use in sentences

The goals of native English podcasts are INFORM and ENTERTAIN its audience. And this is why podcasts are not only useful but fun! You can learn, laugh, cry, hope, reflect, and be entertained while listening.

I’ll say it again: the best thing about podcasts is you can listen anytime, anywhere! Remember, you can listen while driving to work, washing the dishes after dinner, jogging on the weekends, or working out in the gym!

Now, the first time you listen to a native English podcast, it may be challenging. It may be challenging the second time and the third time. But with every opportunity, you will improve your listening comprehension.

PLUS, there are significant benefits to listening to these podcasts. The benefits of listening to native English podcasts include:

  • Exposure to real English in grammar use, vocabulary, slang, collocations, and pronunciation
  • Ability to increase understanding of native speaker English
  • Improved pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary through mimicking real-life intonation, stress, and pronunciation patterns (i.e., connected speech, elision, assimilation)

Overall, listening to native English podcasts will help you develop your comprehension and improve your ability to communicate naturally in English.

Here are 6 native English podcasts I highly recommend:

  1. This American Life. Get ready to laugh, cry, be surprised, and learn something new. Every week focuses on a new topic and includes stories from real American’s.
  2. Science Friday. If you love science and technology, then this is the podcast for you.
  3. RadioLab. Perfect for you if you’re curious about philosophy, science, and human nature.
  4. Stuff You Missed in History Class. Do you love history? If yes, then don’t miss this podcast.
  5. StoryCorps. Every Friday, this radio program makes me cry. Beautiful, real-life stories from everyday people. On this podcast, you will definitely hear a variety of regional accents from the United States and various pronunciation styles. It is best suited for advanced learners.
  6. Serial. This is the MOST POPULAR podcast of all time. Just listen to the first episode of Season 1 and you’ll see why. This show is full of intrigue and mystery. And it’s a true story.

Why you should listen to both native and non-native English podcasts

With Speak Confident English, the weekly lessons and courses available are specifically designed for non-native English speakers with an intermediate level or higher.

At your level, it’s important to continue learning, building your knowledge of English grammar and vocabulary, and developing confidence. And non-native English podcasts are useful for this.

But if you listen to the English Language Learner podcasts listed in this lesson and you can understand them easily then it’s time. It’s time for a challenge. It’s time for you to go to the next level!

You want to advance. You want to understand native speakers. You want movies and TV shows to be easy to watch in English. You want to become more fluent. You want to speak more naturally and communicate more easily. To do that, you must begin to challenge yourself with the REAL English spoken today. And that is what native English podcasts will help you do.

It’s Your Turn: Let’s Talk About Your Listening Skills

Share your experience and your story! You might have the perfect solution for someone else in the Confident English community!

In the comments section below, please share:

  • Your greatest success with listening in English.
  • What your favorite listening activity is in English (do you have a favorite podcast or TV show?)
  • What continues to be a challenge for you with listening?

And if you loved this lesson, be sure to share with your friends and colleagues. Just click those purple buttons to share on Facebook or Pinterest!

Have a fantastic week and enjoy listening to a new podcast in English!

~ Annemarie

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