The Best British English Podcasts [2023]

Published on
January 11, 2023
Updated on
April 8, 2024
min read
This article may contain affiliate links
Written by
Emile Dodds

I say, old chap, are you looking for podcasts from Old Blighty? Let’s take a look at the very best British English podcasts for language learners and how you can use them to improve your proficiency. God save the King!

The Best British English Podcasts [2023]
Table of contents

At Leonardo English, we’re all about the podcasts. We believe that they represent one of the easiest and most effective ways to study English by yourself.

Today, we’re going to look at podcasts from the UK - podcasts where British English is featured. So, hoist the Union Jack and let’s get started.

Does accent matter?

My students often ask me whether British English or American English is “better” or “more correct”.

As a Brit myself, I’m tempted to tell them that, of course British English is better! However, that’s not really true. Both are equally correct and both are used throughout the world.

So, then, does accent matter? Why focus on British English?

From one point of view, we can say, no, accent doesn’t matter and it’s more important to choose a podcast where the speaker talks clearly and at a speed and vocabulary level that you can understand.

But from another point of view, yes, accent matters. For a start, there are many more accents in the UK than in the US. Therefore, it’s always good to practise listening to various UK accents to familiarise yourself with them.

Also, getting to know the British accent is important if you will be living in Britain, travelling there, studying there or working with British people.

In addition, the IELTS exam mainly features British speakers in the listening section. British English podcasts can certainly help you prepare for the IELTS.

And lastly, well, British English is fun! I personally love listening to all the different UK accents, with my favourite being Cockney!

Is there a “standard” British accent?

Yes, there is a “standard” British accent; it is called Received Pronunciation (RP) and it is spoken in South East England by around 20% of the population.

In the past, the BBC, for example, only allowed newsreaders and hosts who spoke RP.

But those days are gone now, and you’ll hear British accents of all kinds on the BBC, Sky News and all over the Internet.

In short, the standard British accent is only one of many that you will hear.

Podcasts specifically for English language learners

The first group of podcasts that we will look at are specifically made for English language learners. After that, we’ll look at general interest British podcasts.

1. English Learning for Curious Minds

English Learning for Curious Minds is our own podcast here at Leonardo English and we’re very proud of it.

The podcast covers a wide range of general interest topics, such as artificial intelligence and slavery in the ancient world

There are over 300 episodes available. The English used by the host is standard British English, spoken slightly slowly.

It is our recommended podcast for intermediate and upper-intermediate speakers of English.

Transcript available: yes (and also pdf downloads and vocabulary lists)
Length: 20-30 minutes
Subscription needed: You can listen to many episodes for free, but you will need to become a member to access all of the transcripts and learning materials.

2. 6-Minute English

6 Minute English is designed specifically for English learners at intermediate level.

It’s produced by the BBC and presented in British English, usually by two hosts. The two regular hosts speak standard British English.

The best thing about this podcast is that, not only does it have a transcript, but it also has a vocabulary list and questions for you to answer.

Transcript available: yes
Length: 6 minutes
Subscription needed: no

3. BBC Learning English Dramas

The BBC has a lot of content that is great for language learners. Some of it is produced specifically for language learners, such as the BBC Learning English Dramas.

These dramas are not technically podcasts (you may not be able to download them using a podcast aggregator). However, they are short clips that you can stream or download to listen to later.

These dramas are classic stories, such as Gulliver’s Travels, that are simplified, split into five-minute segments and read out as a drama. They’re suitable for teens or adults.

There are over 130 individual episodes available and you will hear a range of British accents. Sometimes the actors adopt various accents for various characters in the story.

I recommend starting with one of my personal favourites, Alice in Wonderland.

The only drawback to these dramas is that no transcript is provided.

Transcript available: no
Length: around five minutes
Subscription needed: no

4. Luke’s English Podcast

Luke’s English Podcast has been around since 2009. As a result, he has a huge library of over 760 episodes.

Sample topics include the Louvre museum in France and the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Luke speaks standard British English at a medium-to-fast pace. He often has guests on his shows, usually who also speak fast, British English with various accents.

His podcasts tend to be long, sometimes almost two hours in length. Some are in video format and some not. He does not provide transcripts (probably because of the long format), but gives a long, written introduction to each episode.

Luke’s basic service is free, but he also provides premium content, which includes worksheets and special episodes on grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation.

Transcript available: no
Length: very long (up to two hours)
Subscription needed: only for premium content

5. SEND7

SEND7 is a simplified news service, offered as a podcast.

Their premise is simple. Every day, it offers a seven-minute news podcast in simplified form for English learners.

Although SEND7 is “simplified”, the vocabulary is reasonably advanced, but the host, Stephen, speaks relatively slow standard British English. (Occasionally, there are other hosts.)

If you are a news junkie, like me, you may really enjoy this service. And the more you listen to the news, the more you will be up to date with ‘news vocabulary’, which can be very helpful for IELTS preparation.

The podcast itself is free; but there is a paid membership.

Transcript available: yes, with membership
Length: 7 minutes
Subscription needed: Not for listening

6. Thinking in English

Thinking in English is hosted by a British guy called Tom. He’s an English teacher and researcher, and his podcasts are always very well researched and structured.

Tom uses standard British English and he speaks relatively slowly.

He covers a range of topics, with the objective of getting you to “think in English”, something which becomes very important at intermediate level and beyond.

He also hosts a conversation club, so you can have a chance to put your speaking skills into practice.

Transcript available: yes
Length: 20 minutes
Subscription needed: yes for the conversation club, no for the podcasts

7. Rock ‘N’ Roll English

Rock ‘N’ Roll English is a podcast hosted by Martin Johnston, who describes himself as an “idiot” who is also “fantastic” and can help you learn English.

As you can guess, Martin has a sense of humour and you can expect plenty of jokes and funny stories in his podcasts.

Martin speaks with a London accent and sometimes has guests with various accents, too. He doesn’t slow down his speech for the podcast, but he does provide a vocabulary list.

I think this is a great podcast if you wish to get to grips with British humour. If you like comedy, jokes and fun in a British context, this is the podcast for you.

Transcript available: yes, with membership
Length: around 20 minutes
Subscription needed: some episodes are free, some require membership

8. The British English Podcast

As you would expect from the name, the British English podcast is in British English. The hosts talk about typically British topics, like King Charles, in a humorous way.

There are generally two hosts and they speak in various accents, usually quite quickly.

I love the topics in this podcast, but I dislike the subscription system, which limits what you can access for free.

The main episodes are in three parts and you have to subscribe to listen to parts two and three (and for transcripts and worksheets). Although part one is quite long (around 40 minutes), this might be frustrating for listeners.

Nevertheless, if you want a focus on British English AND British culture, then this is a good option.

Transcript available: yes, with membership
Length: 15 minutes to 45 minutes
Subscription needed: part one of each podcast is free, parts two and three require subscription

Podcasts in British English Not Specifically for Language Learners

Let’s take a look at some British podcasts which are not aimed at language learners. You can expect these to be more difficult to understand, with faster speech, harder vocabulary and some confusing cultural references.

I recommend listening to these podcasts occasionally, as an added challenge.

1. Podcasts from the Guardian

The Guardian is an English newspaper, based in Manchester and known for coverage of political and cultural issues.

In the Internet age, the Guardian was one of the first newspapers to produce podcasts and “digital content”. As a result, it now has a huge library of audio.

The podcasts are hosted by many different speakers with many different accents. There is no standard length for their podcasts. All their podcasts are available for free.

If you’re overwhelmed by the choice and don’t know where to start, I recommend the “Chips with Everything” series. No, it’s not about food (although the Guardian has food podcasts, too). It’s about technology!

Subscription needed: no

2. Stories of Scotland

Let’s head north, to Scotland!

The Stories of Scotland podcast features stories from the history of Scotland, presented by two female hosts with lovely Scottish accents that are not too hard to understand (I promise!).

Although the vocabulary will be difficult and there is no transcript, I find that the two hosts speak relatively slowly and clearly. I highly recommend this as a first step into podcasts for native speakers.

Subscription needed: no

3. The Lovecraft Investigations

If you’re a fan of gothic horror, then you’ll recognise the name H.P. Lovecraft.

The BBC has taken a selection of Lovecraft’s stories and turned them into short podcasts of around five minutes per episode.

What I like about this podcast is that there is lots of bonus material on the main page, which will help you learn more about Lovecraft and his stories.

Choose this podcast if you like scary stories!

Subscription needed: no

4. The British History Podcast

My final recommendation is for history lovers. In particular, British history lovers!

The British History Podcast is hosted by Jamie, a Welshman who grew up in the United States (so he actually has an American accent).

He tends to go into British history in great detail, so this is for hardcore history fans, but he also makes the stories come alive with humour. And British history really is rich and fascinating with Roman, Viking, Anglo-Saxon and Norman invasions and over a thousand years of kings and queens.

There are over 400 episodes available with more added about twice per month.

Subscription needed: no

Podcasts are great study tools

Now that you have a list of podcasts to choose from, we have some great tips for using podcasts (and other Internet resources) to practise listening here

But podcasts are also great for just listening on the go - in the car, on the bus, at the gym or at your desk at work.

Listening to podcasts is simply a great use of your time. 

Not only can they help you improve your English and learn more about Britain and the world, but they can certainly help you to reach your language learning goals..

Give them a try and you might discover why they are the smart English learner’s “secret weapon”.

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