You’re learning English and have your favourite podcast to listen to. What to do now? How to use a podcast to improve your English? Here are some effective life hacks on how to use podcasts to upgrade your English.
The Secret Ingredient
If you want to improve your English by listening to podcasts you should be 100% focused on what you are listening to. So, you should do active listening. Active listening means NOT listening while you’re driving, cooking or cleaning up. This is passive listening. Active listening is when you listen and are present here and now. You listen and write things down, check up words or listen and repeat after the speaker.
But remember, any listening, passive or active, is better than no listening, ok?
How to listen to Podcasts?
1. First just listen
Just listen to it. No transcript. No dictionary. No stopping or pausing. No stressing out if you don’t understand most of what you hear. Just listen and understand what you can. It’s fine not to understand every single word. Learn this useful skill of being ok with not understanding everything.
2. Check up Words
Very often podcasts have a list of words which were used in the episode and the explanations of the harder words. Read the explanations, check up new words in a dictionary and write them down on your phone or notebook.
3. Now you know the words, so you can listen to the podcast again and understand more!
4. Listen with a script
Read the transcript of the episode, then read and listen at the same time. In this way you can follow every word the speaker says. This is how you can get 100% sure of what is said on the podcast.
5. Read aloud
Imagine it’s your podcast and you’re the speaker. Read the transcript aloud and copy the speaker’s intonation. Or you can read aloud and listen to the podcast at the same time.
6. Remember the words
Choose the words from the episode which you want to use and write them down in your notebook or phone. Check them up in a dictionary and make sure you understand what they mean and how to use them. Then write sentences about yourself using these words.
How to use Podcasts like a Pro?
- Have fun with the speed
Do they talk too fast? You can change the speed and slow it down! Lots of podcast applications allow you to slow down the audio. It will help you to understand everything before you listen at a normal speed. You can speed it up if you want.
Re-listen to your favourite episodes a few days or weeks later. We tend to forget stuff and can forget about 70-80% of what we’ve learnt. So, it’s a good idea to go back to the episode and listen to it again hearing all the good words you want to remember once again.
- Take Notes
When you read a book, do you ever write down the quotes you like? It could be the same with podcasts) Take notes of good phrases or useful grammar you want to use. You can even write down the whole sentences! Perhaps, taking notes on your phone might be a good idea because your phone is always with you, right?
- Make a habit out of it
Make podcasts your daily routine. Podcasts should live on your phone and be with you at any time you need them. They are there for you, on Monday morning or Friday night. If podcasts could speak, they’d say: listen to me. Every day.
What to do with Transcripts?
- First, listen to the episode without the transcript and understand what you can. You can then read the transcript and check up the words you don't understand in a dictionary
- Read as you listen: read the transcript and listen to the podcast at the same time
- Transcribe a part of the podcast. Choose a part that you like and transcribe 2 minutes of it. Listen, pause, write it down, rewind and check what you have. Then compare it to the original podcast transcript. This is super effective if you want to understand how the language works.
- Read the transcripts aloud. You can do it on a different day.
- You can read the transcript as a text before you listen to the podcast. This is effective if listening is really hard for you and when you listen you don’t understand anything. Read it first, check up the blocking words, and then listen. You’ll be happy to see that you do understand things)
What to do with Words?
- As you listen to the podcast or read the script, cherry pick (choose) the words you want to learn and use. Choose your favourite words, no need to learn everything. Choose the words you want to remember and use.
- Write down the words you want to remember and use in your notebook, phone or create flashcards on quizlet.
- Writing sentences about yourself using these words helps you to remember them.
How to Upgrade your Pronunciation and Speaking?
Listen, Stop and Repeat Technique
Listen to one sentence, stop the episode and repeat exactly what the speaker says. Copy the intonation and the way the speaker pronounces everything.
Shadowing (for more advanced levels)
Listen to the podcast and repeat things after the speaker without stopping the episode. Copy the speakers’ voice. It’s great to improve fluency and pronunciation!
Listen Repeat Record Compare Method
Listen to a section of the podcast, repeat after the speaker, record yourself saying it the way the speaker says it, and then compare it to the original.
Imagine you have your own podcast. Record yourself speaking about what you did on the weekend or why you watch Netflix.
Speak out loud to yourself
Talk to yourself about what you’ve heard on the podcast or what you liked in the episode. You can say the words or phrases out loud and also make up sentences with some of the words you heard on the podcast.
Do what Babies do
Babies don’t learn a language, they just pick it up naturally. They try out new sounds and words that they hear. They make mistakes. Babies know that it’s through trying new words and phrases that they will actually get it right. So, listen, re-listen, repeat, make noises, copy the speakers and try out different strategies. Choose the ones which work for you. Always remember: any listening is better than no listening.
If it’s really hard for you to understand what people say on the podcast, have the transcript with you as you listen. Or read the transcript before you listen to the episode. Then, when you feel more confident and can listen without the script.
Convert your friends, colleagues and random people you meet into listening to your favourite podcasts. You can then talk about them, help each other and learn together. You can motivate your friends and they can support and motivate you.
Listen to it passively. We do get tired and lazy sometimes, so it’s ok to just listen to it without doing anything. It’s like lying on the bed watching TV. We need that at times. Don’t feel bad because you listen and do nothing. Babies listen to people talking without speaking themselves for a long time.