A podcast is a series of digital audio episodes that can be downloaded and listened to on a user’s device at a user’s convenience. Like radio shows, podcasts are designed for an audience of active listeners. Like websites, most podcasts are produced in English; therefore, it is a medium that may be used by non-native speakers to develop their English language skills.
Between the wide variety of podcast topics and their convenience, podcasts are continuing to rise in popularity. Plus, they are free! By simply subscribing to a podcast series, the episodes can be downloaded to your device automatically. Then, you can listen to the podcast episode whenever and wherever you want. For instance, you can listen on your commute, and while you cook, clean, or exercise.
How Podcasts Help English Language Learners
Students who plan to study English in Washington DC will find podcasts are a convenient way to supplement what they are learning in the classroom and their textbooks. This is because podcasts are designed to be entertaining, but they are also designed to be conversational and educational. The entire purpose of a podcast is to engage listeners and present them with new information.
Students taking an English class in DC will quickly understand the importance of listening to conversational English. It is critical not only to be able to read English in a textbook but also to be able to listen and understand native English speakers in conversation. Podcasts give English language learners the opportunity to “listen in” to native English speakers’ conversations.
By listening to English podcasts, English language learners will develop their listening skills, as well as strengthen their comprehension skills. They will also hear proper pronunciation and continue to build their English vocabulary. All of these skills are also important for passing the required English language exams students will take at an official English test center. Additionally, many popular podcasts include a printed transcript, so students can listen and read at the same time. This is a great tool for English language learners.
Teachers are also promoting listening to podcasts and reading the transcripts. For example, Michael Godsey of The Atlantic suggests, “Word recognition, or decoding, is the most crucial skill for very young or beginning students of English, but as decoding becomes more automatized and texts become more complex, listening comprehension becomes the primary component for learning language. Podcasts offer an opportunity for students to practice their listening comprehension of complex texts that are both conversational and formal, and the corresponding scripts give the student the chance to confirm their comprehension.”
Now that we’ve established why listening to podcasts is a healthy way to supplement language learning while you take English courses in Washington DC, it’s time to talk about how to do it. First, begin by finding podcasts designed for English language learners. These podcasts are typically lesson-based. As you become comfortable, you should move on to listening to topical podcasts in English. Since podcasts are downloadable, you can pause, rewind, repeat, or even slow down the speed.
The Best Podcasts for Learning English
6-Minute English by BBC – Each 6-minute episode includes a topical discussion and introduces new vocabulary.
6-Minute Grammar by BBC – A new 6-minute episode each week that focuses on teaching an English grammar rule.
All Ears English – Perfect for students studying abroad in the US to learn English at schools like inlingua, the All Ears English podcast focuses on helping English language learners not only learn conversational English, but it also discusses American culture at length.
Better at English – This podcast is designed to teach non-native speakers how to have natural English conversations. Additionally, the website includes pdf transcripts and vocabulary notes.
English Class 101 – These podcasts are fun and relevant to the times, so you will not learn anything out-of-date.
Grammar Girl – One of the most popular educational podcasts in the US is Grammar Girl. It is hosted by the writer of “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.” It should be noted that this podcast is not designed especially for ESL students; however, as your English skills develop, it is a great podcast for strengthening your understanding of English grammar.
Learn English by The British Council – Designed for elementary A2 and intermediate B1 level learners, the British Council produces this outstanding podcast series. The conversations are designed to help language learners develop their English conversation skills and include interactive exercises.
Luke’s English Podcast – Produced by a stand-up comedian from the UK, this English language learning podcast is both educational and funny.
The English We Speak – 3-minute episodes produced by the BBC that introduce new, popular English phrases. They explain what the phrases mean and show how to use them in conversation.
Voice of America Learning English – This is a selection of a variety of Learning English podcasts divided into different categories by level or by topic. For example, the list includes: Let’s Learn English, English Grammar, American Stories, U.S. History, What’s Trending, and more.
Podcasts for Entertainment, News, and American Culture
The following podcasts are not designed to teach English language learners; however, their popularity will help you understand the culture and hear more natural English conversations.
Comedy Bang Bang – A comedic podcast that includes conversations between the host and famous comedians designed to make the listening audience laugh out loud.
Global News by BBC – Learn what is happening around the world from one of the most well-respected media outlets with podcast hosts who have impeccable English.
Local News WAMU 88.5 – Students studying at the outstanding Washington language school, inlingua, should download this local Washington DC news podcast to learn about what is happening around the metro area.
Serial – An episodic podcast that follows an investigative journalist as she reports the details on a crime and the controversy surrounding it. This is one of the most popular podcasts in the US.
This American Life – An award-winning weekly podcast and radio show intended to engage the audience through the host’s exploration of America and the sharing of stories of real Americans.
Think you are ready to start listening to English language podcasts? Test your English today!