ESL Podcasts for Beginners

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

The abundance and availability of podcasts make them a great learning tool. This lesson includes a list of podcasts for English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom use with tips on how teachers can use them.

Podcasts in the Classroom

When podcasts exploded as a new media type several years ago, few people could have imagined how popular and ubiquitous they would become. Thousands of podcasts on dozens of topics are released every week. The quality and content of podcasts can vary from amateurish to highly professional, and listening time may range from a few minutes to several hours.

ESL students, particularly beginning students, benefit greatly from hearing English spoken by native speakers in a natural, real-world way. Using podcasts as part of a comprehensive ESL curriculum can provide a number of benefits.

  • The ability to pause, slow down, and quickly reverse a podcast enables ESL learners to instantly review unfamiliar vocabulary, grammar structures, and idioms.
  • The wide variety of topics and formats to choose from means that every student can find something of interest to listen to.
  • Many of the most popular podcasts are released weekly, bi-weekly, or even daily, so the content remains fresh, current, and engaging.
  • Students likely already own one or two of the numerous devices podcasts can be streamed, downloaded, and played on. This eliminates the need for expensive new equipment.
  • Podcasts can be listened to anywhere at any time, a huge convenience for busy students.

Podcast Discussion

Before sharing this list with your students, ask the following questions to facilitate a class discussion.

  1. What is a podcast?
  2. Why do people listen to podcasts?
  3. Do any of you listen to English language podcasts? If so, which ones?
  4. Where can you find and download podcasts?

During the discussion, write down helpful information and tips on the blackboard so that students can remember new information.

ESL Podcasts for Beginners

The podcasts listed below have been chosen because they either focus specifically on ESL learning or are intended for audiences with lower-level English language skills.

ESL-focused Podcasts

Podcasts that are specifically focused on teaching language skills can be great way to supplement a lecture and also give students ample listening practice.

  • English as a Second Language (ESL) Podcast: With over 200 episodes, this podcast is specifically designed to help ESL learners with a variety of topics from everyday English to academic vocabulary.
  • 6 Minute English (BBC Radio): This short, informative podcast gives students bite-sized tips on how to use English in common situations.
  • All Ears English: Experienced ESL teachers Lindsay and Michelle teach listeners how to use vocabulary, idioms, and expressions like a native English speaker.
  • Culips ESL Podcast: This podcast focuses on common situations and expressions
  • Grammar Girl: This popular podcast focuses on helping listeners improve their English writing skills through a series of short, informative lessons. (This podcast may be a bit difficult for beginner ESL students.)

Entertainment/News/Business-focused Podcasts

While not focused specifically on language acquisition, podcasts about history, sports, news, politics, and other topics enable ESL learners to hear English being naturally spoken while learning and being entertained.

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