How To Use Podcasts To Learn English Anywhere You Are

It is possible to improve your English quickly and easily by listening to podcasts through your phone, tablet, or computer. Since podcasts are available on-demand, you can learn English anytime, and anywhere, may you want to listen to an episode while you’re on the beach, train ride to work, stuck in traffic, waiting in line at the market, at your desk, or doing boring activities. It just depends on your preference, schedule, and how you want to learn. Aside from flexibility, a lot of podcasts are free. Read on this guide to find out how to use podcasts to learn English.


1. Choose the right podcast according to your interest

Don’t be overwhelmed when choosing a podcast to listen to. Start by asking yourself what subjects are you interested in, then start searching for a podcast channel that fits it. It’s also good to consider your purpose for listening such as picking out specific vocabulary for a particular subject. Podcasts have a large variety of topics that you can choose from, may it be about travel, food, culture, self-development, or hobbies, hence you can find one that can keep you entertained, and interested while learning. The more you are engrossed in a podcast, the more you’ll keep listening. If you chose a podcast that you don’t find interesting or too difficult for you to understand, you can always pick another one.


2. Choose the right length

Podcasts can be of different lengths, some are ten minutes, while some even last up to two hours. If you are just starting, you can try to find a shorter podcast about a topic that you are interested in. This way you won’t get bored and be able to rewind easily if you don’t understand it. Listening to a long and complicated podcast will get you annoyed and frustrated if there are lots of things that you don’t comprehend.


3. Choose a podcast that is aimed at your level of English

Whatever is your level of English there is an available podcast that is fit for you. There are a lot of podcasts aimed at English non-native speakers which are designed for different levels from elementary to advanced. The kind of podcast that you listen to should be above your English level to be exposed to new words and phrases. However, make sure that it is not too difficult nor too easy for you. Podcasts aimed at native speakers can be challenging for non-speakers as they may find the vocabularies and expressions used intimidating. Also, they don’t come with transcripts or key vocabulary making it more difficult for other non-speakers to follow. If you find a podcast that is hard to understand, choose a different one. You should be able to understand most of the speech to enjoy it. As your English level improves, you can eventually expose yourself to different accents, subjects, and types of speech.


4. Change the speed of the podcast

The advantage of listening to podcasts made by native speakers for native speakers is that you will hear the host speak at a similar speed to that of what you will hear in a normal English speaking situation. Comprehending what is being said may be difficult for some, hence, podcast allows you to adjust the playback speed. You can slow it down if it’s too fast or rewind the recording to listen to any bits you didn’t understand. You can also replay the entire podcast to deepen your understanding. However, making the podcast too slow will make the sound less natural as to how native speakers sound in real life.  Meanwhile, you can speed up the podcast, if what you are listening to is too easy for you. 


5. Immerse yourself in the sounds of English and pay attention to accent and pronunciation

If you want to be more fluent, immerse yourself in the sounds of English. This will allow you to be more familiar with how English speakers use the language, how different tones express different meanings of words, and how it should flow. It’s alright if you can’t understand everything that is being said. Just soak up the sounds to better understand intonation, stress, and different accents. 


6. Listen to pick useful expressions

By listening to podcasts, you will hear practical English and naturally pick up phrases, greetings, slangs, and idioms. You will also get used to the commonly used expressions and manner of speaking them as influenced by their culture. More likely, you will also be able to identify their underlying meaning and the exact context in which to use it. Throughout your repeated exposure, you’ll also improve your grammar, hence, it is important to choose a podcast that gives you a natural, authentic conversation.


7. Use the transcript to annotate new words and phrases you want to reuse

Try to choose a podcast that comes with a transcript as it will serve as a support. If there’s a word that you can’t understand, you can refer to the transcript to be able to follow the speech. If you download and print it, you will easily find new words and phrases and annotate them. You can also underline those phrases that you don’t understand, never felt comfortable using, or want to reuse, then figure out what they mean. In addition, it will help you understand the structures of different types of sentences.


8. Take notes and make your own vocabulary list

While listening to a podcast have a notebook with you. Even if you’re listening on the bus or at your desk, note down the words that aren’t familiar with you. Sometimes writing them down will enable you to realize what they mean there and then. Also, you might figure out the meaning of a certain word by observing how it was consistently used, or how it was used again in a different context. By actively discovering the definition of a word, you are more likely to remember it. Review the content of the notebook on a weekly basis, and practice using the listed words in your speech.


9. Write a summary of the podcast

Write down a summary of what the podcast was about or scribble your thoughts about the subject matter. You can talk about the key arguments, the new things that you learn, or whether you agree with everything that was said and why. If you were able to accurately summarize what the podcast was about, it means that you understood it. Don’t worry if you did not to pick up every word, what matters is you have comprehended the main points. By writing a summary, you will be able to use any new vocabulary, sentence structures, or expressions that you heard in the podcast. By using and contextualizing them, you will commit them to memory and soon reuse them. If you want to challenge yourself further, you can also think of different ways to convey the same idea that the speaker has mentioned. 


10. Transcribe the podcast

Before you look at the available transcript, try to write your own version of it as you are listening. This may take time and would require you to pause and rewind as you go along, but this will enable you to practice both your listening and writing skills. After transcribing the podcast compare it to the transcription provided. Assess and identify how your transcription differs from the real one. If you got a word wrong or didn’t catch a certain word, evaluate why. Listen to the missed word or unfamiliar word again and practice saying it yourself to remember it. 


11. Read the transcript aloud

Reading the transcript as you listen along the podcast will make it easier for you to understand how to pronounce words correctly. You can record yourself while reading the transcript, to compare how different you pronounce the words and expressions from how it was spoken by the podcast host. Record yourself saying that word again until you get it. 


12. Mimic or shadowing

A good way to use podcast to improve speaking is by shadowing or mimicking. You can do this by listening to the text once or a few more times until you are able to read or speak it confidently. Then, play the recording again, and as you listen, repeat the words accurately, with a minimum delay or as soon as you hear them. You can also speak out loud at the same time as the podcast host. If you found difficult words to pronounce or not confident about, go through the podcast transcript and highlight it, then do the same steps until you get.


13. Use the phrases that you hear from the podcast in conversation

Native English speakers use a few phrases all of the time. By listening to a podcast, you will notice the phrases they typically use in specific situations and be able to pick them out. Using them will make you sound more like a native speaker. Practice using the same phrases when conversing with others. The more you use them, the more you will be comfortable hearing and uttering them. If still uncertain, record yourself while talking, to know the words that you got correct and the areas that need to improve.


14. Make podcast listening a part of your daily routine

Just like any skill, improving your English requires regular daily practice and exposure to the language. A podcast is an easy way to help you get into this habit every single day. Listen attentively to a podcast even if it’s just ten minutes a day. It only takes a few weeks to establish this new habit, you just need to find the time and stick to the routine.


15. Interact online and join an English podcasts community

Get involved in friendly conversations with the community of people from around the world who are learning English with podcasts.  Meet like-minded people and make new friends, by sharing experiences and study tricks with them. You can also share your opinion or ask questions about the podcast, or about learning English. Learning and sharing in the community will help you progress in learning.


16. Pick podcast topics you can share with a friend

Podcast is a good source of intriguing facts and stories that are great topics for discussion with native English speakers or your friends. You can discuss the podcast with them by asking their thoughts about the topic or the content. Prior to starting the conversation, think about the questions you could ask about the topic. Expect that during the conversation, you will ask questions, and share your opinion.


While listening to a podcast, make sure that you also enjoy the content that you’re hearing. You’ll eventually notice that while having fun your language learning also takes place.  


Do you have questions about improving your own English skills? Get connected with us to know how we can help you.


Related Articles:

Kaycie Gayle is a freelance content writer and a digital publisher. Her writings are mostly about, travel, culture, people, food, and communication.