When it comes to improving your English, there’s nothing better than listening to the language in real life. Podcasts are perfect for this, and today we will tell you about 5 of our favourite podcasts for English learning.

First of all, what is a podcast? Think of a special radio show – but online. Some podcasts are short, and others are up to 1 hour long. Sometimes, there is just 1 person speaking, and sometimes there are conversations with many different people. Some podcasts tell stories, and others talk about interesting subjects in politics, sports, music or language. Lastly – best of all – podcasts are free and available on multiple platforms. So you can download, listen, learn and enjoy – anytime you like!

You don’t need to have a high level of English to enjoy podcasts (Intermediate or above will do). Like learning vocabulary, all you need is time – to listen carefully, study and learn new words. We’re sure you’ll find a podcast in our list that you will love or find useful. So, let’s begin by looking at some podcasts for English learning which you can use to push your English to incredible levels.

Our first podcast isn’t actually a single podcast, but a huge collection of podcasts.
National Public Radio (NPR) is a non-profit organisation in the USA with a 50-year history, and it is now the king of English-language podcasts.
Browsing their podcasts, you can find almost every subject, from movies and music to business and politics. The best part, though? Transcripts are available. Click on any episode in (almost) any podcast and you can read exactly what everyone is saying. This is an amazing and fun way to improve your English listening skills. Take some time to study the words you don’t know and you’ll find your vocabulary growing every day.
With the NPR One app, which is available on iTunes and Android, you can listen to podcasts whenever you want on your mobile device. (However, the transcript is not available.)

Listen because… With transcripts for podcasts on a range of subjects, presented by clear native-English speakers, this is perfect for anyone, anywhere.

Recommended podcast: Planet Money – short, interesting presentations from the business world. Check out their analysis of an American bank which let down its employees (a story which inspired this post on English42).

Radiotopia – another popular radio/podcast organisation – presents a podcast especially for language nerds like us! Helen Zaltzman’s The Allusionist explores the world of words, looking at how and why we use the words we do. Many episodes begin with a quick “Word History” presentation. Following this is a “small adventure in language” where, with a transcript to help, you can learn some amazing vocabulary. Best of all, you can listen to some amazing stories. Then, many podcasts end with Zaltzman choosing a strange word from the dictionary and explaining it. So, even if you’re not a language nerd, this is one of the best podcasts for English learning.

Listen because… If you want to hear a natural British accent, then Helen Zaltzman’s wonderful – and clear – voice is perfect.

Recommended podcast: Eponyms: Great stories from everyday words.

3. CrimeTown

podcasts for english learning
podcasts for english learning
podcasts for english learning
podcasts for english learning

In a US city called Providence, politics and the Mafia have a long history together, and Crime Town tells this story.
The podcast craze really started with a crime series called Serial. Since then, many podcasts have tried to repeat the success, but very few have come close in telling really great crime stories like Crime Town. Made by Gimlet Media (who also do the amazing shows Science Vs and Reply All), every episode of Crime Town is so interesting that you’re almost angry when it’s finished! Explore every level of crime and politics, from regular “wiseguys” to the corrupt mayor of the city of Providence.

Listen because… With every great episode, the CrimeTown website provides pictures, newspaper clips and media from the time to learn more about the characters and stories.

Recommended podcast: Gerald and Harold: 2 brothers, a murder and a difficult choice

4. Radiolab

podcasts for english learning
podcasts for english learning
podcasts for english learning
podcasts for english learning

Ask most podcast fans about their favourite things to listen to, and Radiolab will probably be mentioned. Why? Firstly, there are so many episodes to choose from, and so many things to learn. Whether you are a legal student, a scientist or a sports lover, you’ll find long episodes which are more interesting than any TV show. As well as this, the team making this podcast are excited and interested, and they speak clearly. So, even though no transcript is available, they will certainly entertain you – if you can concentrate!

Listen because… Millions of podcast lovers can’t be wrong!

Recommended podcast: On The Edge


5. FT News

podcasts for english learning
podcasts for english learning
podcasts for english learning
podcasts for english learning

With no download available and no transcript, you might be wondering why the Financial Times News podcast appears on our list. Well, if you want to keep up with current events and seriously push your English at the same time, the Financial Times is the best place to do it. New episodes appear several times per week. These episodes are quite short (usually around 5-10 minutes) and feature experts giving information and analysis on important events. This is only for the most advanced English speakers, but it’s well worth it!

Listen because… This is the publication where world leaders and London businesspeople get their news.

Recommended podcast: How will Britain’s economy fare post-Brexit?

Podcasts for English learning: keep exploring!

In conclusion, these are just a tiny amount of podcasts for English learning. There are thousands more – you just need to explore and find the ones you like!

Of course, if you want to continue practicing your English listening skills, we have lots of free exercises here on English42. We can also happily help to advise you on your vocabulary for free!