News & Events
The best podcasts to try for practicing your English listening.
- 29 August, 2019
- Posted by: Uptown English
- Category: english
Students often say that listening and understanding spoken English is the most difficult skill to improve. For students who live in non-English speaking countries, it might be difficult for them to practice their speaking and listening with native English speakers. Through podcasts however, students have access to vast amounts of listening material, on every topic imaginable. Below, we outline some of our favourite English language podcasts to get you started.
Serial is the undisputed king of true crime podcasts. Its first series, telling the tale a teenager convicted for murdering his exgirlfriend, is an engrossing story filled with intrigue, doubt and suspense. For English learners, I would only recommend listening to this podcast if your level is B2 and above. There are lots of details to follow. Narrator Sarah Koenig has an easy to understand American accent, and speaks at a steady pace. Following the story through 12 episodes without missing important details might be challenging for lower level students however.
If crime podcasts sound good, but you think Serial isn’t for you, never fear. There are a number of smaller, easier to listen to podcasts available. The Truth offers different stories every episode, and each episode is normally around 30 minutes. The stories are not all crime related, they range from crime to a number of other intriguing types of story. What they all have in common though, is great story telling and production quality.
Another favourite of ours is My Favourite Murder. The episodes are longer than The Truth at around 90 minutes an episode. But each deals with one case, meaning each story is still significantly shorter than Serial. The unique selling point of this podcast is its humour. Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark are hilarious even as they discuss gruesome, unpleasant real life murder cases. This seems paradoxical, but give this podcast a listen and thank us later.
No Such Thing as a Fish is a podcast by the makers of TV quiz show QI. Question one, what does “QI” stand for? Answer – “Quite Interesting” – which would be describing this podcast very conservatively. This podcast is four very witty presenters, discussing a series of interesting and unusual facts they have unearthed during the week. Did you know that, in Britain, in the 1940s TV channels played children’s programs between 5pm and 6pm, then stopped for an hour to encourage the children to go to bed? Or that ice cream is technically solid, liquid and gas all at the same time? For facts like these and millions more presented in humorous way, give this podcast a try. Some of the language used is Advanced, and some of the humour may require a high level of English to understand.
This is often the case with comedy unfortunately, but we do have some alternative options. My Dad Wrote a Porno is a hilarious podcast, but with explicit content definitely not suitable for Young students.
The BBC has a number of good podcasts. When looking for comedy however The BBC radio 4 Friday Night Comedy is an excellent, funny podcast.
Today in Focus is a daily new podcast from The Guardian. It focuses on one main news story, and one supplementary story on each 30 minute episode. The stories vary from big daily stories to more investigative pieces on a number of subjects. The narration by Anushka Asthana would suit listeners from B1 upwards. There will be vocabulary that lower level students might not understand, but the meaning of the story and the information offered will be apparent in context.
Other news podcasts which listeners might find interesting are The Daily by the New York Times. This is similar to Today in Focus, but will focus on different stories each day and focuses more on American news stories in general, although both podcasts do highlight global news stories throughout as well.
The popularity of The Daily podcast has led to a spin off series The Caliphate. This podcast focuses on the Islamic State. If you enjoy The Daily podcast and want to listen to more of the New York Times journalism, we highly recommend The Caliphate as well.
Keep it podcast is another which focuses on the world we live in. Rather than serious journalism and current events however, expect more pop culture discussion. From new Netflix shows to the latest celebrity racist tweet, this funny, light hearted podcast has you covered.
If, like me, you’re a big football fan, the Guardian Football Weekly is widely considered to be one of the best football podcasts around. Host Max Rushden, Guardian journalist Barry Glendenning and a host of other guests from the world of football and football journalism take an in depth look at the biggest stories in world football. The podcast should be understandable to listeners with a B1 level of English. Especially if they already have a knowledge of football to help them. A number of the regular guests come from the continent and offer reporting on the French, Spanish, Italian and German leagues. The main focus of the podcast is the English Premier League. The podcast is twice weekly, with new episodes on Monday and Thursday evenings.
If you’re looking for a more rounded football podcast, The Totally Football Show from Muddy Knees Media have started a European football podcast released every Tuesday. This podcast focuses on France, Germany, Italy and Spain. It also touches upon the Dutch and Portuguese leagues.
If your main interest is Spanish football, but you want to practice your English listening skills, then check out The Spanish Football Podcast. Hosted by Sid Lowe and Phil Kitromilides, both of whom are based in Spain, this podcast has all the in depth knowledge of la liga, but told in English by native speakers.
So there we have it! A huge number and variety of English language podcasts to try. If you find it difficult, or tiring to follow these podcasts, don’t worry. None of these podcasts are intended for students. They are natural English language podcasts. This means there is no intention by the speaker to use easier language, or speak more slowly. This is why, for students who already have a solid level of English, these podcasts will help take their listening and understanding skills to the next level. Why not try listening to one or two podcasts a week? I guarantee that within a month or two, you’ll be understanding more than when you started!