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5 podcasts to help you learn English

Podcasts are a great way to practice your English skills. You can listen to them while studying from your desk at home. Or you can listen to them on the go – like while you’re driving, cooking, cleaning, or working out.  

We especially love podcasts because, since many are conversational, they give you the chance to hear how English speakers interact in real life and expose you to lots of interesting new languages.  

If you’re planning to take the PTE Academic this year, podcasts are great practice for the listening section of the exam – for which you’ll have to answer questions based on audio or video clips.   

So, are you ready to immerse yourself in the world of English language podcasts? In this blog, we’ll explore some of the best podcasts to learn English: 

1. 6 Minute English 

6 Minute English is a podcast by BBC Learning English. Each week, the BBC hosts chat about everyday situations – and it makes for a really interesting listen. Ever wonder if trees are intelligent? Or if humans could live in cities underwater? Well, this could be the podcast for you. 

Overall, 6 Minute English is great for people with an intermediate level of English. It’s short (you guessed it, just 6 minutes) and each episode includes a vocabulary list and transcript. 

2. But Why

But Why is another fun podcast for intermediate-level English learners. Kids record questions for the show, and host Jane Lindholm brings in an expert to answer them on air.  

But Why is produced by Vermont Public Radio in the U.S. And while the podcast is made for kids – it answers questions like ‘why do dogs have tails’ or ‘why are whales so big’ – Lindholm speaks slowly and charismatically, making it easy to understand. Of course, if you have kids, But Why is also a good show to listen to as a family.   

Each episode is about 30 minutes long and includes a transcript. Even more, the episodes come with free learning worksheets (like this one), which you can use to practice your English writing and listening comprehension skills.  

3. Luke’s English Podcast 

Luke’s English Podcast is hosted by Luke Thompson, an English teacher, and comedian from the U.K. The podcast covers a big range of topics; one episode may cover pronunciation tips, and the next may simply feature a conversation between Thompson and his wife. 

The show is often touted as one of the best podcasts to learn English (it’s been downloaded more than 60 million times) and overall, is a good way to practice your British English skills. The episodes are on the longer side, and some are up to two hours long. 

While the podcasts are free, Thompson also produces paid content for listeners to subscribe to – giving them access to things like extra podcast episodes, worksheets, tests, and pronunciation drills.  

4. Criminal

Many podcast consumers enjoy listening to true crime stories. And, Criminal is one of the most popular crime podcasts out there.  

Criminal releases two new episodes every month, and each episode explores the story of a different crime. The host, Phoebe Judge, tells how the crime occurred and interviews the people involved – usually a witness, victim, police officer, historian, or the person charged.  

Since Criminal brings on lots of interview subjects – with different accents and ways of speaking – the podcast is not only thought-provoking. It’s also great for practicing your listening skills, particularly if you’re an upper-intermediate or advanced English learner.  

 5. This American Life

This American Life is one of the most popular English speaking radio programs and podcasts today. In fact, 3.1 million people download each podcast episode! The 1-hour show is hosted by Ira Glass. Each episode delves into a different theme and includes different stories about the theme.  

Sometimes the show features long-form pieces about U.S. politics or tells about how one family has been impacted by American immigration policies. Other episodes talk about break-ups or peculiar family traditions.  

Overall, it’s an excellent show to improve your English comprehension – and learn about American culture, politics, and stories while you’re at it. So if you plan to move to the U.S., listening to This American Life is a must.  


How to learn English with podcasts  

We know podcasts help to improve your listening skills. But you can use them to improve your speaking, reading and writing skills, too. Here are a few tips:  

Listen with the transcript 

As we mentioned above, many podcasts publish transcripts of their episodes. If you’re studying English at home, it’s a great idea to listen to your favorite podcast with the transcript in front of you. This will help to improve your reading, as well as understand everything the host is saying.  

You might even want to pause the podcast every few seconds and repeat after the host to practice speaking and pronunciation.  

Take note of interesting vocab 

To expand your vocabulary, write down 15 new words from each podcast episode. Take a few minutes at the end of each show to look up the words and define them. If you listen to two podcast episodes each week, you’ll learn 120 new words a month.  

Write a summary of each episode  

It’s also a great idea to write a few words about each podcast episode. You might want to challenge and write a 200-word podcast summary. Or, you could simply write a sentence about something new you learned from the show.  

These writing exercises are great practice for PTE Academic because writing a one-sentence summary of a text or audio file is something you’ll be tested on.  

Join a listening club 

A podcast listening club is just like a book club – you get together with a group of friends to discuss and reflect on what you’ve learned.  

So, if you’re a fan of a particular podcast, why not ask a few friends to meet to chat about some recent episodes? It’s a great way to practice your speaking skills, and it will also help you gain more confidence in expressing opinions in English.  

Are you an English teacher? Check out this article by Pearson English: 7 podcasts English teachers should listen to.