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English Language Institute Blog

How to Improve Your Listening Skills with Podcasts

Woman Listening to podcasts to improve her English in New York City

With long commutes on crowded trains in the subway every day, New Yorkers can often be found with some kind of headphones. We are trying to block out the world or get caught up on their latest podcasts on their way to work, classes, and fun. While you probably already have some of your favorite English songs, you may not know where to start with podcasts. If you start listening to podcasts, you can practice your listening skills, work on pronunciation, learn new vocabulary, and keep up-to-date on the topics that interest you.

Podcasts are digital audio file that you can download using an app to listen to anywhere. There are more than half a million active podcast series available, and most of these have many, many episodes. You will never run out of English audio once you find them.

Where do I start?

If you have an iPhone, you should already have a purple podcasts app on your phone. If you have an Android phone, go to the Play store and download Google Podcasts (or any other podcast players if you don’t like Google). Once you download a podcast app, you can start searching for shows to listen to.

What shows should I listen to?

man listening to a podcast on the NYC subway to improve his English listening skills

English language and news: Voice of America has 22 different podcasts, each with many episodes. Voice of America is recorded for learners of English, so they speak abit slower to help you with your listening skills.

Careers: Hello Monday! With Jesse Hempel has interviews and advice on jobs and work in the modern workplace. Are you interested in finding a job, acing your interview, or improving your work communication skills? Sign up for our winter Career and Professional Skills courses.

Fun Stuff: Everything is Alive imagines that your chair could talk, that the lamp post has feelings, and that your pillow doesn’t like how you keep flipping it over at night. Practice listening to different accents and voices each week.

How do I improve my listening?

In addition to the practice you get by listening closely without distractions, you can use note taking methods to understand more. In our Intensive English Program, we offer Conversation & Listening courses, and note taking is a big part of it. Learn how to listen and find the most important points from podcasts, lectures, movies, etc. Try the Cornell note taking system to start.

Can this help with pronunciation?

man talking into a can to symbolize pronunciation

Pronunciation can be hard to practice on your own, but listening to native speakers and repeating their pronunciation can be a great exercise. Pay special attention to vowelsounds (a, e, i, o, u) of different words and how the people on the podcasts pronounce them. With podcasts, you can listen to individual words again and again to try to make the same sound.

Listening is a hard skill to improve if you aren’t always surrounded by English and native speakers. That’s because it’s a skill you can’t control (like writing and speaking) but also it’s fast, so you can’t take your time (like reading) to review and check your understanding. Use podcasts to help improve that so you’ll be ready for any encounter here in the big city.

If you are interested in learning how you can improve your English and study in New York City, you can visit the ELI websitecontact the ELI  or apply here.

Word list

  • get caught up on: we use this phrase to mean finishing old episodes up to the current one
  • up-to-date: to know the latest information on a topic
  • run out: to not have any more of something
  • to ace: to do better than anyone else in a task (e.g. a test, an interview)
  • to flip: to turn something over to the other side