English is arguably the most useful language one can learn. It’s become a lingua franca in many international fields and is extremely useful for tourism just about everywhere. English proficiency is a skill that opens doors, whether it’s access to a study abroad opportunity, better business prospects, or simply the ability to connect with more people around the world.
The popularity of English means that there are plenty of options for students of the language. There are also a lot of different methods for learning the language, and one of the most accessible methods is podcasts.
Podcasts are frequently free or inexpensive and available at a range of levels covering almost any topic you can imagine. In this post, we’ll look at some of the best options for English learners looking to add a podcast to their study routine.
EnglishClass101 is brought to you by Innovative Languages, a language instruction company with courses in a range of different languages. Their courses are known for being full of useful material and for the energetic native-speaking hosts, and the English lessons are no different.
There are podcasts available for all levels, starting with some solid beginner lessons. In addition to teaching the language, these podcasts offer valuable cultural insights and some extra features like quizzes and vocabulary practice. You’ll also get exposure to both American and British English.
Quite a few of the lessons also have corresponding videos, which adds a level of engagement to the resource. There is a range of subscription options available.
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Learning English (VOA)
There is a lot of learning material produced by Voice of America (VOA). There’s material at all levels, including a Level 1 course designed for beginners. These lessons come with audio, transcripts, pronunciation practice and interactive quizzes all on the website.
There’s also a daily 30-minute news program that covers news stories with limited vocabulary and shorter sentences read at a slower pace. The pace of these episodes will be too slow for upper-intermediate and advanced learners, but it’s good for those at a lower level.
Breaking News English
Like many English language podcasts, this one uses news stories to expose listeners to English in a meaningful context. What’s especially cool about this one is that most of the episodes are available at a variety of different levels, meaning the same news stories can be read by learners at different skill levels. Stories at lower levels are shorter, use less complicated vocabulary, and have shorter sentences.
All of the episodes are fairly short and can be played at five different speeds, depending on the listener’s abilities. The website includes some free practice activities and quizzes that complement the episodes.
This resource has one of the nicer websites on this list, and there are over 200 episodes available on mobile podcast apps. There are over 600 episodes on the website that make up seven different series, all with a different theme or focus.
Learn things like idioms, slang, pronunciation tips, practical English, or just listen to interesting stories told by native speakers. The hosts of the show are Canadian and speak with a clear, neutral accent.
The episodes are all available to listen to for free, but paying for a membership gives users bonuses like access to study guides and ad-free listening.
Learning English News with The BBC
For learners interested in British English, The BBC is an authoritative source. This resource is exciting because of the different English podcast series they have. They’re all free, accessible, and have a clear focus.
The website has a lot of resources you can use to bulk out your study time, but also podcast episodes. The Learning English News podcasts use real news stories to teach the words used in them. This is a good resource for learners with an interest in current events and improving their ability to understand the news.
The podcast hosts talk at near-native speed in clear British English.
The English We Speak
This is another podcast series put on by the BBC. It’s an especially appealing option for learners that are looking for quick and easy podcast episodes. Each episode is only two to three minutes long and focuses on a particular word or phrase. The focus is often on a piece of English slang, which is the type of education you won’t often get in a textbook.
These lessons are useful for speakers at an intermediate level or higher. Learning how to use slang correctly is a great way to improve fluency and sound more natural with your speech. It also has the potential to help dramatically with listening comprehension. It’s important to note that these lessons are in British English.
This podcast is part of the BBC Learning English program, and it’s an easy way to get grammar instruction in short audio lessons. New episodes are released weekly and remain available for 30 days.
Lessons are delivered in clearly-spoken British English and use example sentences to demonstrate how different grammar is used. The fact that the focus of each episode is a different grammar point means that it isn’t the most entertaining podcast out there, but the lessons are short! A good option for learners looking for quick and efficient grammar practice.
A “listen-and-learn” podcast designed to help English learners improve fluency through listening. The episodes are narrated in clearly spoken English and cover a range of topics, from current events to specific language points. The narrator frequently defines specialized or advanced words throughout the episodes.
Lessons also come with transcripts and plenty of language notes, making this resource more comprehensive than one with only audio recordings.
LearnEnglish Podcasts (British Council)
These free podcast episodes are brought to you by the British Council and are designed for intermediate and pre-intermediate learners at the A2-B1 CEFR levels. You can take this placement test on their website to find your appropriate level.
The lessons come with a lot of educational material, including advice on how to prepare for the lesson, exercises to complete while you listen, and follow-up exercises. There are also discussion questions and transcripts available for download.
It’s pretty great that all of this is free, but there are only 40 episodes, so you’ll run out of material eventually. All episodes are narrated in British English.
This one is different from the other podcasts on this list because it features non-native English speakers — with a purpose! Splendid Speaking is made for advanced learners, especially exam candidates.
The lesson format features recordings of non-native speakers giving presentations or partaking in discussions. An “expert” gives feedback on the performance. This is a particularly helpful study method for those preparing to take the IELTS exam or any other oral exam. A lot of the lessons focus on IELTS English specifically. There are also some additional study materials such as quizzes on the website.
Business English Pod
Lots of English podcasts have a certain focus, and, you guessed it, this one mostly teaches business English. There are lessons on more general English topics as well, but there’s a heavy slant toward business-related language.
In addition to lessons on specific language points such as expressing opinions or English used for discussing a problem, there are business skill lessons that teach things like how to prepare for an interview or how to get a year-end bonus.
Each lesson comes with a summary and some questions to answer while you listen. Extra features such as quizzes and transcripts are available for paying premium members.
This podcast series is probably the most comprehensive on this list, but you’ll have to pay for access. For a monthly subscription, you’ll be able to listen to over 1800 audio lessons on iOS, Android, or the web.
The lessons teach American cultural information in addition to presenting language instruction via selected dialogues and stories. You’ll get thorough explanations of idioms and expressions and study guides that are 8-10 pages long.
There are a lot of podcasts that aim to teach the English language through the use of stories and dialogues. The Espresso English podcast isn’t one of them. Instead, the lessons are clearly focused on specific language concepts and are talked about explicitly.
The lessons are all very short — ideal for learners looking for quick, easy, and efficient audio language practice. The audio material also comes with some free quizzes.
New lessons are uploaded weekly, and it’s free to access the hundreds of episodes available in the archives.
Luke’s English Podcast
In this podcast, qualified teacher and stand-up comedian Luke delivers practical lessons that are also funny. The episodes strike a balance between entertaining and informational — they have an informal conversation feel to them.
Episodes come with little extras like tips for how to use the episode efficiently. There’s also a special phrasal verbs series.
A unique feature of this podcast series is that listeners can help transcribe the episodes. To get extra English practice, listeners can sign up to be part of the transcribing team and transcribe a three-minute section of the episode that will later become published and available to the public.
If you’ve decided to embark on an English-learning journey or to take steps to improve your proficiency in the language, there are tons of options out there for you. While they aren’t usually comprehensive enough to be an all-inclusive study resource, podcasts make excellent supplements to other study methods. They’re a great way to get listening practice in topics you’re interested in and to get authentic exposure to the language.
This list has a lot of great podcasts, but it’s far from exhaustive. Do you have a favorite that didn’t make the list? Let us know what it is in the comments below!
Learning English? Also take a look at our article on the best apps for learning English or our article on the best online English courses.