You have probably heard that one of the best ways to learn English is by watching movies and TV shows. There’s no doubt that it is very effective, but you should also look into another way that combines culture and entertainment with learning English: listening to podcasts in English. Maybe you already love them and listen to them on a daily basis, and maybe you have heard people talking about them but don’t really know how it works. Well, in today’s post we will talk a little bit more about why they are so popular nowadays, besides giving you some ideas of podcasts to learn English. Keep reading for some good tips! 

What is a podcast, anyway?

One could define a podcast as audio blogging — in fact, that’s how it was called when they started, back in the 1980s. A podcast is usually made by journalists or content creators, and the genres range from regular news to true crime and self-help. Actually, you can listen to podcasts about basically everything.  

podcasts to learn English, podcasts in English, best podcasts to learn english

Now, considering the fact that in today’s world we are always looking at screens and consuming an insane amount of videos and images, it is surprising that an audio-based industry has become so popular in the last few years. The thing is: podcasts have some characteristics to them that made them popular even though they are simple in terms of the technology they use.  

One of the main reasons why podcasts are so popular is that you can multitask while listening to them — and you can’t do that while watching a show, right? Since you are only listening to the content, you can drive, do the dishes, clean your house, take a walk, or work out while listening to your favorite podcast. In a world where people are always doing a million things at once that’s definitely an advantage to podcasts. 

podcasts to learn English, podcasts in English, best podcasts to learn english

Another thing that can explain the popularity of podcasts is that they can be very entertaining. A lot of people listen to podcasts to catch up on the latest news, but you can also find many podcasts that use interviews, music, and other great resources to tell stories. My favorite podcast from last year (it is in Portuguese, but if you know the language the name is Praia dos Ossos, streaming on Spotify) is a true crime story and I can’t see how they could have told that story if it wasn’t through a podcast, since there isn’t enough footage to produce a documentary, for instance.  

Why podcasts are great for language learning

Ok, so maybe I have convinced you that podcasts are a great way to get information and entertain yourself. But do you know how they can help you learn English?  

Well, we always tell you to immerse yourself in the language. Movies are a great way to do it. Podcasts in English can even be better than movies, though. Since you don’t have images to help you out with understanding what they are saying, your listening skills will improve quite fast by listening to podcasts. There are also some podcasts that publish full transcripts, which can be very helpful if you find yourself lost at some point. 

You can also choose your podcast based on the accent you want to learn. Some people like the British accent, so they can choose a podcast that is hosted by a British-speaking person in order to get better at it.  

Also, since podcasts are a passive way to consume information, people who don’t really have time to sit down and study English everyday can fit an episode or two when commuting or working out, for instance.  

podcasts to learn English, podcasts in English, best podcasts to learn english

When listening to podcasts, remember that you also speed up or slow down the audio. Since you will be listening to native speakers, it is natural that you won’t pick up everything they say. By using this helpful tool, you can understand it better. You can also keep a notebook by your side and write down new words, idioms, or grammar topics you think you should study a little more.  

Oh, and there is also another important aspect that makes podcasts so important for language-learning: they are widely available online and they are usually free! You can listen to podcasts on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts and other apps.  

8 podcasts to learn English

I hope you are now excited to add some English podcasts to your Spotify playlist. Here are 8 great ones that you should definitely listen to. Please feel free to share your favorites in the comment section down below, ok? 

1. The American English Podcast 

  • Genre: American culture and history 
  • Listen to it here
  • Transcript available? Yes, for $39. 
  • Recommended level of English: Intermediate 

This podcast is focused on American English and American culture and history. It’s great as an English as a second language podcast. The episodes are around 12 to 25 minutes long and you can learn expressions, facts about the news (there was an episode about elections and voting in November, for instance) and some short stories. 

2. 6 Minute English 

  • Genre: English vocabulary for everyday situations 
  • Listen to it here 
  • Transcript available? Yes, for free 
  • Recommended level of English: Intermediate 

If you’re looking for podcasts to improve vocabulary, this may be your best bet! This podcast, by the BBC Radio, focuses on vocabulary for specific situations. As the name suggests, each episode takes 6 minutes, so that’s something you can definitely fit into your busy day.

3. The British English Podcast 

  • Genre: British culture, history, and news 
  • Listen to it here
  • Transcript available? No
  • Recommended level of English: Beginner, Intermediate

I love the British accent! From the very first second of this podcast you can see that the host is British, since he usually says “Hello! Fancy seeing you here!” –– does it get more British than that? You can learn about cricket, pub culture, and university life, for instance. 

podcasts to learn English, podcasts in English, best podcasts to learn english

4. Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories 

  • Genre: True crime 
  • Listen to it here
  • Transcript available? No 
  • Recommended level of English: Intermediate, Advanced 

This Spotify original podcast takes you on a journey through the crime scene and the investigation of true cold cases and unsolved murders. I personally love this kind of show, and besides being entertaining, you will definitely learn some new words to talk about the police, the law, and crimes in general. 

5. Unlocking Us with Brené Brown 

  • Genre: Self-development 
  • Listen to it here 
  • Transcript available? Yes 
  • Recommended level of English: Intermediate, Advanced 

Maybe you have already heard about Brené Brown. If you haven’t, go check her out. Brené is a best-selling author and her TED talk on vulnerability has over 40 million views. In this podcast, she dives into some of the most complex topics, such as shame, vulnerability, and the permission to feel.  

6. CNN Political Briefing 

  • Genre: Political news 
  • Listen to it here 
  • Transcript available? No 
  • Recommended level of English: Intermediate, Advanced 

There’s a lot happening in the world everyday. This podcast will help you keep up with the political news in 10 minutes or less. You can learn a lot of new vocabulary and expressions about politics with this one.  

podcasts to learn English, podcasts in English, best podcasts to learn english

7. Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend 

  • Genre: Comedy, interview 
  • Listen to it here
  • Transcript available? No 
  • Recommended level of English: Intermediate, Advanced 

This podcast is hosted by Conan O’Brien, a comedian most known for his talk show Late Night with Conan O’Brien. On this podcast, Conan hangs out with a different celebrity evey week with the hope of finding some real friendship along the way. 

8. Office Ladies 

  • Genre: Comedy 
  • Listen to it here
  • Transcript available? Yes, for free under the episode details
  • Recommended level of English: Intermediate, Advanced 

Did you love watching The Office? It’s likely, considering it was the most-streamed show in 2020. If so, this may be the podcast for you. Two actors from the show, who also happen to be best friends IRL are rewatching each episode and giving behind-the-scenes details. It’s fun and great for anyone who is interested in making-of details for a television series.

Podcasts for native speakers of Portuguese  

If you are beginning to learn English and you are a Portuguese native speaker, a good podcast about English that you can listen to is O podcast para aprender inglês. Some episodes are 100 percent in English, but most of them are in Portuguese. There are over 90 episodes available and you will learn everything from current news to interviews and tips about English grammar. You can listen to it on Spotify. 

Podcasts for native speakers of Spanish 

Now, if you are a Spanish native speaker, we recommend you the podcast Aprende más Inglés, by Barcelona-based American teacher Daniel Welsch. All the episodes are about learning English with Spanish explanations for different topics. There are over 160 episodes available and you can learn grammar, phrasal verbs, and aspects of American culture. You can listen to it on Spotify. 

Have fun with these podcasts to learn English! I am sure you will get addicted to them in no time — and you will definitely learn a lot from them too. Remember that an English podcast with a transcript will help you improve listening skills and vocabulary knowledge, so what are you waiting for? Happy listening!