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How to improve your English by listening to podcasts

By Dr Norman

With these five useful tips, you can improve your English by listening to podcasts. There are so many different podcasts that you can choose from such as interesting interviews, stories from the past, talks on science, comedic sketches, and observations on life. With a little look around, you are bound to find something of interest.

Finding something of interest, however, is only the start. Let’s look at the best ways for you to use your interest to improve your English by listening.

1.      Choose the right podcast to improve your English

Start by choosing the right podcast at the right level for learning. If your vocabulary is strong in the topic area, then simply choose the podcast you want to listen to. Aim for podcasts spoken by native speakers of English.  If, however, you think you may need some additional help or support, then here are some things to look for. See if the podcast has a written version or transcript of what is being said. That way you can try listening on your own and reading along when you are having difficulties. Some podcasts provide associated video material. This can also help you by providing additional visual clues.

2.      Listen to understand

Once you have selected the right podcast at the right level for learning, focus on your understanding. Read the summary or synopsis of the podcast first. This will give you an overview of what the podcast is about and will help your understanding.

Then, listen carefully to the podcast. As you listen, strive for understanding. You may need to listen several times. You will find that each time you listen you will hear and understand more of the words and more of the details. For more on this, see my blog article on how to improve your listening. Once you have achieved understanding, you can then use the podcast to improve your English in other ways.  

3.      Listen to the pronunciation

One way you can improve your English by listening is to concentrate on the speaker’s pronunciation. Focus on how the speaker says words and phrases. Of course, getting your pronunciation right is much more than just hearing the sounds. Listen to how long the speaker holds each sound and syllable. Also listen to where the emphasis is placed in each word. See if you can hear the lilt in each sentence: how it goes up and down from beginning to end. Try pronouncing any new words or phrases just like the speaker does. For more on this, see my blog article on how to improve your pronunciation and my article on how to reduce your foreign accent.

4.      Improve your English by listening for structure

Another way to improve your English is by listening to and analysing the structure of the podcast. What did the podcaster do to grab your interest from the start? How did the podcaster keep you engaged or interested. How did he or she lead you through the story. Analysing what the podcaster did will allow you to see how good speakers put together a long piece or monologue that engages you and makes you want to keep on listening. Understanding the way in which the piece is structured will help you whenever you make a speech, tell a story or even decide to start a podcast of your own!

5.      Tell someone about what you heard

Finally, use English to tell someone about what you have heard. Also tell them what you thought of the podcast. This is a great way to put what you have learnt into practice. It is also a terrific opportunity to answer questions, to try out some of the pronunciations you have heard and to share the enjoyment of the podcast with others.

With these five tips, you will be able to use all sorts of podcasts to improve your English by listening. See our Useful Info page to find some good podcasts that will help take your English to an advanced level!

1st May 2017

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Advanced English Learning 2017
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