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Top 5 podcasts for English learners

Updated: Apr 16

Listening to podcasts is a great way of learning a language and in this post I’m going to tell you about some of my favourite ones. BBC 6 Minute English is made specifically for English learners and is great for beginners and intermediate students. The others are more suitable for advanced learners. Having said that, even proficient students might struggle to catch everything. Luckily modern technology means that you can play them back at a reduced speed.


1. En Clair

Dr Claire Hardaker is the presenter of a series of fascinating episodes about real life crimes and mysteries solved with the help of some expert linguistic analysis. Not only will you get an insight into crime and the British legal system, but you’ll also deepen your knowledge of the English language and how it is used in real life. The presenter has a lovely northern accent and talks relatively slowly but the topics are tricky so you might want to read the transcript at the same time.


2. BBC 6 Minute English

This is popular with beginners and intermediate students. Lots of podcasts about a huge range of topics, only 6 minutes long so perfect to listen to regularly. Each episode comes with a transcript and language tips. Highly recommended!


3. Desert Island Discs

Another one of my favourites, Desert Island Discs is a popular radio programme first broadcast in 1942. In each episode a guest chooses the music they would take if they were cast away on a desert island, at the same time revealing their life stories in answer to gentle yet probing questions. The interview format means that this is a great programme for those who want to increase their exposure to authentic spoken language. Favourite episodes I’ve listened to include those featuring Judith Kerr, Richard Osman and Bob Mortimer. The presenters and guests often speak quickly so this can be daunting at first. Stick with it though as after a while, you'll get used to the voices. Otherwise, just slow down the playback speed to something more manageable.


4. Word of Mouth

This is another BBC production, this time presented by children's author and language lover, Michael Rosen. Again, there is focus on the English language and it's impact on a huge range of issues. One of my favourite episodes concerns the language used on the National Health Service (NHS) website in England. The website provides information about illnesses, symptoms and treatments. Written by medically-trained staff who understand the science, the language on the website has to be accessible to the lay person. Awareness of the reader is an essential feature of successful communication.


5. The Guardian weekend podcast

Three of the week's best articles are chosen, read aloud by talented narrators and released in podcast form. I'm a big fan of The Guardian and use lots of the articles as inspiration for my conversation classes. We recently listened to one of the podcasts (just 10 minutes rather than the full version) featuring an article about fashion for the over fifties. Each student was able to choose whether to listen to the podcast alone, just read the article or do both. Taking learning into your own hands can be really effective!

You’ll find the Weekend podcast on The Guardian website and hopefully you’ll find the time to start listening to it on a regular basis.


Other recommendations

Here are some more podcasts to try:


  • Diary of a CEO podcast

  • The Louis Theroux podcast

  • The Guardian's Today in Focus - daily update on the latest news

  • The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry from the BBC - a science podcast

  • The Conversation with Amanda de Cadenet

  • The daily from The New York Times - there is a transcript to go with the podcast

  • Creative Elements from Jay Clouse - check out the podcast if you want to find out how creators make a living (think podcasts, Instagram, newsletters, building a business and more).

  • Bandsplain - this podcast features experts talking about a specific band or solo artist, who they worked with, when the music was made, what was happening in their lives at the time and more. All of this interspersed with full-length tracks from various times in their careers. The good thing about listening to interviews on the radio is that you get to hear authentic spoken English.

  • Fan podcasts for TV shows such as Game of Thrones

  • Comedy and music reviews in Ivo Graham and Alex Kealy's Gig Pigs podcast

  • True crime podcasts

  • Guardian Football Weekly podcast

You'll also be able to discover your own favourites. Think about the topics you are interested in and search for content on Spotify and other streaming platforms. And if you find a podcast that you love that helps you to learn English, do let me know!










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