A woman listening to a podcast. Text: How to use a podcast to learn English by English with Stephen

Learning Strategies: How to use a podcast to learn English

This is the transcript for the English with Stephen podcast episode all about how to learn English as quickly as possible by listening to podcasts.

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Welcome to the English with Stephen podcast. My name’s Stephen Greene and today I have a learning strategy for you. A learning strategy is what good learners do to learn a language as quickly and effectively as possible.

And today’s learning strategy is how to use podcasts to learn English. Now, I know that I am probably speaking to the wrong people. You are, after all, listening to this podcast right now, so I assume you know how useful podcasts are for language learning. However, there are some people out there who have not discovered the delight of podcasts and so maybe they will come across this one and try to find out more.

Also, I have some students who just love using podcasts to learn English. But it was only in a recent conversation that we discovered there are perhaps more possibilities than we were aware of.

So, after this short musical interlude, 10 tips for how to use podcasts to learn English.

Today, I would like to recommend a podcast for you called I Will Teach You A Language. The host of this podcast is a polyglot who can speak at least 8 languages. The podcast is full of stories to help you learn any language, as well as conversations with other people who have learned multiple languages. It is a seriously good podcast with hundreds of great ideas for any language learner. You can find I Will Teach You a Language on your favourite podcast app or go to Iwillteachyoualanguage.com

  1. The advantages of a podcast

And now for the tips for learning with podcasts. Let’s start by looking at some of the advantages of podcasts. I am talking here about podcasts in general, no matter what language you are listening in.

The first advantage is that they are free. Ok, so not all of them are free, but 99% are. And to be honest, you really don’t need to pay for a podcast because the ones that are free are brilliant.

A second advantage is that you can listen to them anywhere. You can listen in your car, at the gym, while cooking your dinner or taking the dog for a walk. Just download the podcast to your phone (more on that later), plug your headphones in, and off you go.

Thirdly, they don’t take up much space. If you want to download videos from youtube, they will quickly use up your memory. Also, unless you are downloading over wifi, it can get expensive to watch videos on a data plan. You won’t have either of these problems with a podcast.

My final advantage is the sheer variety of podcasts that are available. There are podcasts on practically every subject you can think of, so you are sure to find something that interests you. And if there isn’t something that interests you? Well, more on that later as well.

  1. Get a podcast app on your phone

Hopefully, I have now sold you on the idea that podcasts are good. So, how do you listen to a podcast?

Well, you can usually go to the site of the podcast that you are interested in and listen to their episodes directly from their page. For example, on my site, each episode has its own page and there is a way of listening to the episode on that page.

While this is good, you are missing out. You have to constantly go to each site that you like and see if they have a new episode.

A much better strategy is to get a podcast app on your phone. A podcast app will automatically download a new episode of a series you like and let you know that one is waiting for you.

And the good news is that podcasts apps are also free. There are lots of good ones out there. Until recently, Apple Podcasts was the market leader, but they have made some changes now that people are all complaining about. Instead, people are using Spotify a lot or Google podcasts. The most popular app for my podcast is one called Stitcher, but the one I use is called Podcast Addict. I will put links to all of these apps on my site.

  1. Two types of podcast

Ok, so what should you be listening to? Well, it kind of depends on your level. We can say there are two types of podcast you might be interested in. The first type is made of podcasts that are created specifically for language learners. My podcast is an example of this. As you will have noticed, my podcast is just in English, however, there are podcasts that are bilingual. These podcasts talk about English in a different language.

Then there are some that have just one person talking, or some with a dialogue. If there is just one person it can usually be easier to follow, but dialogues are often more natural. There are some podcasts that focus on business English or academic English. If you google ‘English learning podcasts’ you should find a long list of examples.

The other type of podcasts are not designed for English learners, but you might be interested in them depending on your own background and if you have a good enough level. Remember, some people speak more clearly than other people, so try out a few different ones even if the first one you try is not appropriate.

  1. Look for a transcript

Many podcasts now come with a transcript, which can be super helpful when using podcasts to learn a language. Most podcasts that are designed for educational purposes will have a transcript, but more and more normal podcasts also come with a transcript. If you want some ideas for how you can use transcripts, I did a whole episode on just that subject. It is episode 17 and it is called Using Transcripts to Learn English and I’ll put a link to it on my site.

  1. Time

One of the most important things to consider when choosing a podcast to listen to is the amount of time it takes. Depending on how good you are at listening in English, it can be tiring trying to concentrate for an hour or more in a different language. This is the main reason why I try to keep all my episodes under 10 minutes. If the podcast you are listening to is long, then consider pausing when you feel tired or if you miss some information.

There is also the temptation to listen and do something else. This is fine if you are listening for pure entertainment. However, if you are listening to learn, then ideally you will be focussed 100% on what you are listening to.

  1. Speed

If you are listening to a podcast that is not designed for students, or if the person you are listening to is speaking too slowly, then most podcast apps allow you to change the speed. You can usually increase or decrease the speed by 1.5 and 2 times. Youtube has a similar facility. This can be especially useful if there is one specific part that you are really interested in but just cannot understand.

  1. Listen again

Don’t be afraid to listen to a podcast more than once. Maybe the first time you will understand about 60%, but if you listen again a few days later that will improve to 80%. Also, when you are listening for a second time, you have the chance to pay attention to the vocabulary and the grammar more because you are not so worried about understanding. Lots of people like to listen a second time and read the transcript to make sure they have understood and learnt as much as possible.

  1. React

There is nothing I like more than getting a review on a podcast app or reading a comment on my site. And, unless the podcaster is a big star, most podcasters will take the time to reply to you. This can be an excellent way of improving your English in general, and not just your listening skills.

  1. Join in

Most podcasts will have a Twitter, Facebook or Instagram page to support them and help get the word out. These pages can be a great way of interacting not only with the podcast host but also with other learners from around the world. For example, on my Facebook page, I post something at least once a day and invite my followers to tell me what they think. You can find my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages by looking for English with Stephen, or I will put a link on my site, EnglishwithStephen.com.

  1. Make your own

Finally, if there isn’t a podcast out there that you really want to listen to, then create your own. It really isn’t that difficult and does not cost a lot, either. You could start a podcast in English, or use your own language to talk about your English learning journey. I am sure there will be other people out there who would like to hear your story, whatever it may be.

That’s about all from me. I honestly hope you have picked up some new ideas for learning English through podcasts. Most of my students listen to at least one podcast a week, and the results are amazing. And don’t forget to check out the podcast called I Will Teach You a Language for even more wonderful ideas for language learning.

All the best and see you next week!

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