OK. It’s quarantine! Lockdown! Self-isolation!
We’re all at home wishing we could start travelling again or go swimming or go to the pub …
But we can’t.
Instead, we need to find new things to do. I mean … you can’t scroll Facebook all day, right?
So perhaps it’s time to get into a podcast — perhaps one to help you get even more awesome at English?
“But which one? There are so many out there!” I can hear you ask.
And that’s a very fine point you have there.
Perhaps looking at it like this will help:
I see the world of English learning podcasts as a sort of spectrum.
On one side (the left) you’ve got podcasts that examine the details of English — you know, all those little pieces of grammar and vocabulary.
On the other side (the right) you’ve just got people speaking. Naturally. In English. Almost like you’re listening in on someone’s conversation on the bus, or at the gym, or wherever it is that you listen in on other people’s conversations … I know you do.
And you’ve got everything in between.
“But which part of the spectrum should I learn from?” I hear you ask again.
And once again, you have a fine point.
As usual, my answer is “All of it!”
Sometimes it’s good to dive into the details.
Sometimes it’s good to just listen and relax.
So let’s take a look at my favourite English learning podcasts, starting from the left of the spectrum and moving right.
Podcasts that talk you through the details of English
Would it surprise you if I said that this podcast is all about idioms?
No? Good — then prepare to not be surprised.
I really like this podcast in particular because of the clean, friendly and easy-flowing dialogue between the two presenters.
On one side you have Martin, a Czech English teacher and entrepreneur with a voice like caramel.
And on the other you’ve got Rory, a bright, enthusiastic British English teacher who has a talent for explaining the idioms that appear in the podcast.
The format is simple: Martin and Rory discussing a single theme (e.g. animals, happiness, procrastination) and exploring the idioms around it.
Each episode is very short, so you can get a bite-sized dose of idioms without breaking the time bank.
The Espresso English Podcast
Shayna’s Espresso English Podcast looks at small features of the English language but in all the detail you need. Each “short and sweet” episode focuses on a specific topic, ranging from grammar points and pronunciation practice to confusing words and common phrases.
This is especially good if you want to learn about how to use idioms to express yourself or how to talk about the weather in detail … and things like that.
Let’s Master English Podcast
Oh, it’s Coach Shane!
What can I say about Coach Shane?
“Enthusiastic.” That’s what.
Shane’s been teaching English online since back when the internet was in black and white and was only on for two hours a day. A long time.
He’s great at getting down into the details without losing any energy.
Seriously — no one else will make you THIS excited about prepositions and gerunds.
The Happy English Podcast
They don’t call it “The Happy English Podcast” for nothing.
Michael, the man behind the podcast, keeps everything upbeat, going through vocabulary and grammar points so smoothly you’ll just want to keep listening.
The podcasts are each quite short (usually between 5 and 10 minutes) and cover many different language points, such as idioms with “foot” and using “any” and “all” in the negative — pretty specific!
If you want to dive deep into the details of English, then this is the place for you!
Extras: Each podcast comes with a PDF that outlines the main points.
English podcasts that are very easy to follow
OK. Perhaps you want to take it easy and avoid challenging yourself too much.
And that’s fine!
Never feel bad if you want to do something “easy.”
All practice is good. When you work on easy stuff, it can improve your confidence, and it means you can listen to A LOT more of it!
The English Club Podcast
These episodes are not only super short but super easy, too.
Each episode is only a few minutes (at most) and briefly describes some random thing — and I mean random.
Episodes include “A day on Venus is longer than a year on Venus,” “Lamborghini started as a tractor factory” and, my personal favourite, “Sarcasm means to tear flesh.”
So if you want to learn about the world and also enjoy some easy English listening, you could do worse than start here.
Extras: Pre-listening vocabulary and a quiz for each podcast
The Adept English Podcast
Again — the speaking is very slow, but that can be a good thing!
Put it on and take advantage of how easy it is to follow.
These guys cover a lot of topics, too.
Like English Club, The Adept English Podcast describes a simple topic at a slow and easy pace.
This podcast has quite a strong contemporary feeling, with episodes covering topics like FOMO and the Me Too movement, but they also have a lot of episodes about how to learn English and tips on how to improve.
Extras: Each episode comes with a transcript.
Podcasts that pre-teach vocabulary
Sometimes it’s nice to be given some new words and phrases and then hear them in action.
That’s exactly what these podcasts do!
Easy Stories in English
One of the most relaxing ways to listen to English and pick up new vocabulary is with stories.
Ariel Goodbody’s Easy Stories in English start off with new words and phrases, then you get a story. It’s that simple.
That way you get the vocab and then you get to listen to it in context straight away.
Oh, and there’s a good mix of easy, medium and advanced levels here — so you can find the right one for you.
Extras: Each episode comes with a transcript.
The English Funcast
Covering a variety of topics including jokes, Star Wars and slang, this podcast features Ron, who likes to talk about more or less anything.
This is kind of a “trail of thought” podcast, with Ron talking about all sorts of different things and explaining the tricky grammar and vocab along the way.
Oh, and because Ron is a comedian, each episode features at least one (usually terrible) joke. And I love terrible jokes.
Extras: The transcripts for each of the jokes in the episode
English podcasts that focus on soft skills and confidence building
Sometimes it’s not the language that you need help with.
Sometimes, you just need to bring up your confidence and learn how to interact with people in a new language.
Wait a minute … What’s a canguro?
Welcome to a nice example of Australian humour.
If you read this out loud, you’re basically saying “kangaroo” in an Aussie accent.
Canguro English is great! This is not a place to go to if you want grammar and vocabulary explanations.
But this is definitely the place to go if you want excellent guidance on HOW to learn English and, very importantly, how NOT to learn it.
Feeling stuck with your studies?
Feeling like you’ve lost inspiration?
Well, let Christian talk you through some new ways of looking at your learning.
English With Kirsty
Kirsty is much more than just a teacher.
She’s also a communications manager.
And in her podcast, she focuses on what makes good communication with all sorts of tips and advice.
Again, this isn’t the sort of place to get lots of little grammar rules.
This is where you go if you want some strong strategies to help you communicate with people more effectively.
The nice thing about this? You can take what you’ve learned and apply it to your first language communication, too!
English podcasts with a lot of completely natural chatting
OK — here we are on the right of the spectrum.
These are the podcasts where we can really dive into the joy of just listening to people have a conversation.
Natural and genuinely interesting conversations.
But happily, for learners like you, they sometimes stop every now and again to help explain what’s going on with new words, phrases and weird expressions.
Better @ English
OK. So you just want to listen in on some people … just … talking. In English. Naturally.
One of the things I like about this podcast is that Lori, the presenter, who has a conversation with one of her friends for each episode, doesn’t grade her language.
That means she doesn’t slow down or avoid phrasal verbs or anything like that … it’s all totally natural speaking.
Extras: You can download the transcripts for each episode from the website.
Culip’s English podcast
These guys might talk a little slower than most people do (I guess they’re making sure everyone can understand), but it IS pretty natural, and you’ll be able to pick up loads of new words and phrases.
They cover all sorts of topics: being pressured into marriage by your family, how to check in for a flight, making new habits … more or less anything you can think of.
And when you’ve got a lot of different topics, you get lots of different words and phrases.
And that’s a good thing, right?
Extras: They provide study guides, but only for paying members.
All Ears English
These two always have some sort of language focus in their podcasts.
And this is what I like about it: they do it in a totally fluent, natural, conversational way.
If you want to learn how to “banter” in English, this is probably a great place to start.
Extras: You can get the transcripts, but again … you’ll need to sign up. There’s also an iOS app where premium subscribers can get the transcripts in real time.
Faster Fluency Conversation Club Podcast
She wrote a blog post for us back in … wow … back when my hair was red and turning 40 years old felt like far, far away. So yeah — really long ago now.
Christina runs a successful YouTube channel and has got started on this neat little podcast.
The setup is simple — Christina and one of her teachers having a chat about a single topic.
It’s useful because, like all the podcasts in this section, it’s perfectly natural English.
But because it’s between two teachers, you get the extra benefit of everything being very, very clear. We teachers just can’t help speaking Very. Very. Clearly.
Conversations with Kate
A podcast that does exactly what it says on the tin!
Conversations With Kate, you’ll be unsurprised to learn, feature lots of conversations with someone called Kate.
Her approach is simple: she talks to a different person each episode and finds what makes that person interesting — what motivates them, what makes them tick.
These episodes are down-to-earth and have a sort of reflective feel to them. You might get an insight into how humans work or what makes people different from each other.
(You can also check out the episode where she had a conversation with me here.)
Extras: Transcripts and lesson guides are available for each episode to help you get the most out of listening. You can download some of the episodes on the podcast page (or all of them on her Patreon page).
English podcasts that cover all of these areas
Luke’s English Podcast
This podcast has been running since the dawn of time … like … even before dinosaurs were around.
Well — either then or 2009, whichever was most recent.
Luke now has over 600 episodes, and that’s probably why his podcast is in this category. He covers everything!
You can find an episode with a bunch of phrasal verbs and their explanations.
Or you can find him interviewing working-class kids from his neighbourhood in London.
If that doesn’t do it for you, then you can find some episodes with solid advice on how to approach learning the language.
And there are lots of episodes where he just has a chat with his dad. Those are my favourites. I like Luke’s dad.
Whatever you need, Luke probably has it.
Extras: Some, but not all, of the episodes have transcripts. You could also go premium for extra episodes with tests and practice exercises. There’s also the Luke’s English Podcast App on iOS and Android with all the episodes plus bonus content.
This one’s all about English in South Africa.
No — just joking.
This one specialises in Australian (Aussie) English.
And this is another presenter who isn’t afraid just to sit down with his dad and shoot the breeze — have an informal chat.
Really natural, relaxed and fascinating conversations about a huge variety of topics — some of which are quite heavy, like white supremacy and domestic violence.
Extras: If you pay! Go premium and you get a lot of goodies like transcripts and study plans.
The Clark and Miller English Podcast
Oh — didn’t I tell you?
I’ve got one, too!
The Clark and Miller English podcast is very much like the blog … but there’s more.
Like the blog, it covers all sorts of different areas.
It could be the details of the language, like the difference between “say” and “tell.”
Or it might be an episode for you to set up a self-study “menu.”
It might even just be me talking nonsense for half an hour, because … well, I really like talking nonsense.
We also have the occasional “red” edition. These are the episodes that are less about English learning and more about the language itself.
Whether it’s an interview with a language expert or a chat about why there’s no future tense in English, these are designed to give you a more philosophical look at the language.
Extras: Each episode comes with a PDF of the show notes with the core ideas from the episode that you can read while listening. But only if you’re not driving.
Bonus section: Podcasts just for English teachers
I wouldn’t be able to write a blog post about podcasts without including two of my favourite podcasts aimed at teachers.
The TEFLology Podcast
Three curious teachers and lots and lots of ideas.
Matthew, Robert and Matthew (Yeah, I know, there are too many “Matts” in the world!) discuss a huge variety of topics related to teaching, including English as a lingua franca, regional dialects, learning styles, experimental teaching methodologies and … well …. everything.
They also interview some of the giants of the English teaching world.
In a nutshell, you can’t not learn something from any of their episodes.
TEFL Training Institute
Don’t have time to listen to 40 minutes on Haliday’s framework of systemic functional linguistics or how Suggestopedia is supposed to access the reserves of the subconscious through infantilization of the student?
Then the lighter, more approachable TEFL Training Institute podcast might be more of a relaxing listen.
The episodes are much shorter and consist of two or three teachers sharing their ideas about a single topic.
Because the episodes are short, they don’t get too deep into any topic but leave you with something to help inspire your teaching or something useful to take into your next class.
OK! That’s it!
Before we leave, let me ask you a question.
Do you listen to any other podcasts that aren’t on this list to help you with your English?
If the answer to that question is “Yes, Gabriel! Yes, I do, and I’d love to tell you about it!” then … tell me about it in the comments below!
Until then … Wash your hands, stay safe and happy listening!