Podcasts are an excellent way to practise listening skills. There are podcasts out there for every level and interest, and often they are short, so you can listen more than once to understand as much as possible. Many podcasts also come with an audio script or even interactive activities, so you can read along as you listen or test your understanding. Another great thing about podcasts is that you can listen to them while you’re doing something else, like travelling to work or cooking dinner. This means you can practise English without finding extra time in your day.
My top tip for working with podcasts would be not to worry about understanding every word. Even when we listen in our native language, we miss words or we don’t understand a phrase. It doesn’t matter because we understand enough information to know what the presenter is talking about. This is the same when we’re learning a new language: we don’t need to know every word. Instead, it’s better to try and understand the main ideas. If we listen again a second or third time, we can pick up more details.
There are plenty of podcasts specifically for learners on particular topics or grammar structures, but we can also use more general interest podcasts in English to help improve our skills. I have collected some of my favourite podcasts for English learners below.
- Aimed at pre-intermediate +
- These podcasts are like radio shows.
- The LearnEnglish podcasts discuss different topics from every life and also follow the story of a student moving to the UK.
- There are also podcasts aimed at professionals, as well as ones focusing on writing skills and British culture.
- On the website there are online activities and transcripts (can also be downloaded as a PDF).
- The LearnEnglish Podcasts app shows the script of the podcast and highlights the sentence so you can read along. It’s possible to make the audio slower. There are also interactive activities for each episode.
- Average length: 5-30 minutes
BBC 6 Minute English
- Aimed at pre-intermediate + (depending on grammar topic)
- 6 Minute Grammar podcasts are short, understandable podcasts from the BBC are a great way to help you understand tricky grammar topics. Each episode includes a short, clear description, lots of examples and a short quiz at the end.
- 6 Minute English is like a short radio show on general interest topics, such as politics, the economy and psychology. There are also notes on key vocabulary and a question to answer when listening.
- 6 Minute Vocabulary focuses on different vocabulary topics, such as words for particular situations or words easily confused. It also gives tips on how to use the new words.
- All the podcasts and transcripts are also available in the BBC Learning English app.
- Average length: 6 minutes
BBC The English We Speak
- Aimed at upper intermediate +
- These are short podcasts on special expressions or idioms to help you sound more natural when speaking English.
- The transcripts are available in the BBC Learning English app.
- Average length: 2-3 minutes
- Aimed at native speakers, for upper intermediate and advanced students.
- These talks are on a range of topics, including science, technology, the economy, society, the environment and personal development.
- The talks are usually clearly spoken and well structured, making them easier to follow. They are also a good way to get used to different accents.
- In the app, it’s possible to shows subtitles in a language of your choice (I recommend English) and to reduce the speed.
- Average length: 15-20 mins (Radio hour 60 mins)
Luke’s English Podcast
- Aimed at intermediate +
- Relaxed talk shows on a variety of topics, including British culture,general interest and the presenter Luke’s life.
- All the podcasts and transcripts are available in the app.
- Most of the podcasts are free, but there is some premium content.
- Average length: 1 hour
Which podcasts do you listen to? Share your favourites in the comments below.