The best English students are always looking for new ways to develop their skills, and increasingly, podcasts have become an unparalleled source of ‘real English’. There are lots of podcasts out there that focus on teaching grammar, vocabulary and other skills, but they tend to be a little too much like being in English class and don’t expose learners to how real English speakers converse with each other.
Podcasts offer you an insight into what you can expect if you actually lived in an English speaking country. There are also so many of them, that you can pick the ones that suit your interests. How many times have you sat in an English class listening to a topic that puts you to sleep? With podcasts you can choose whatever you’re in to, improve your English and learn about your passion, all at the same time.
I’ll be honest and confess that I’m a bit of a podcast addict, but it’s mostly because I’ve learned more from them about a whole range of topics, including web design, social media, entrepreneurship, teaching, astrophysics, philosophy and the list goes on and on, than I ever did at school.
If you’re passionate about something, you’ll learn more effectively. So instead of listening to boring grammar tapes or learning lists of academic vocabulary, why not find a podcast you love and learn your grammar and vocabulary from them?
I’ve sampled a bunch of podcasts and also had some recommendations from students, and below are some the best and most educational out there.
Where can I listen to podcasts?
Most people listen to them on their phone. If you have an Apple device, podcasts will already be a pre-installed app.
You can download an app called Stitcher on any device. It’s free and you can also listen to it on your computer at home.
How can they improve my English?
You can simply just relax and listen to them if you want, but this is what I call ‘passive’ listening. A much more effective way is something called ‘active’ listening. This is when you listen and actively think about the vocabulary, grammar, sentence structures or pronunciation.
If you hear a word you don’t know, listen to the section again and try to guess the meaning. You can then note down the word on your phone or in a notebook and check to see if you were correct. Soon you will really expand your vocabulary.
If you listen to a sentence and you didn’t understand a phrase, it is probably because of connected speech. Rewind and listen to it a few times and the words will become clearer each time. Soon you will get used to how native speakers naturally join words together. This is essential if you want to get one of the higher scores in the Listening test.
You can also imitate stress patterns, intonation and individual sounds that you find difficult. Make sure you’re alone when you do this and not on the bus on the way to work. 🙂
These are just a few ways you can ‘actively’ listen. The great thing about podcasts is you can listen and learn anywhere.
Below are a list of the podcasts I love and I’ve recommended to friends and students. You might not be in to the same things I am, but simply have a search for podcasts and you are sure to find one that interests you.
This is my personal favourite. Hardcore History by Dan Carlin is simply brilliant.
Was Alexander the Great as bad a person as Hitler? How did World War I shape our lives today? How did Genghis Khan rise from humble beginnings to master a huge empire? Dan answers these questions and more.
This podcast is likely to appeal to people who are interested in sociology, social issues, current events, science, and the human condition. The delivery is lively and fascinating, and the hosts have fun personalities. This is not a dry or boring economics lecture by any means.
Joe is the man. I’ve collectively lost weeks of my life listening to this podcast. Joe is never short of an interesting guest from comics, professors, celebrities, MMA fighters, authors etc. His shows are long, always interesting and often hilarious. Hours will disappear fast.
Out of all the podcasts on this list, I’ve recommended this one the most to my friends. Tim interviews world class performers from many different fields and tries to isolate their common traits. You always end the podcast feeling like you have learned something that will make you a better performer in whatever you do.
Not about celebrities, but about the real stars above us. Dr. Tyson breaks everything down into terms that the common dummy (like me!) can understand. Startalk is an inspiring podcast that I follow each week, and come out feeling more intelligent and more informed.
Find out what’s happening in the world of technology in 30 minutes or less. Always interesting and informative, and just the right length.
If politics and current affairs are your thing, then check out this one. He has an integrity and sense of purpose that you don’t often find with the voices involved in current issues.
My favourite football podcast, brought to you by the Guardian. News and analysis, and the best blow-by-blow coverage of the Premier League and beyond.
Pat Flynn gives you honest advice about how to start a profitable online business. I’ve learned so much from him. You’ll learn everything from how to start a blog, use social media and he’s even helping me create an online course. A wealth of information.
Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant get to the bottom of odd questions, like how the Pyramids were built and if zombies exist.It’s a fascinating biweekly podcast. A unique dose of education and comedy.
Fascinating stories about people who’ve broken the law, been the victims of crime, or somewhere in between.
There are so many more I could tell you about, but I’ll leave it up to you to discover some for yourself. It is so important to listen and practice to English as much as you can if you want to progress and podcasts are, in my opinion, one of the best ways to do so.
If you find any others, I would love to hear from you in the comments below or join the conversation on our Facebook page.