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236

How To Use Podcasts To Improve Your English [My Favourite Strategies]

Feb 11, 2022
Language Learning
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27
minutes

Learn how to actually use podcasts to improve your English listening, vocabulary, speaking, and even writing.

This is a special episode packed full of tips & tricks to help you use podcasts in a more effective way.

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today is a special episode. 

[00:00:26] English Learning for Curious Minds is only just a couple of years old, but it recently passed a million downloads. It feels strange to say this, but there we go.

[00:00:38] So I wanted to mark the occasion with an extra special episode where I give you my best tips and tricks for how to use podcasts to improve your English. 

[00:00:50] I’ve spent the past two years making podcasts, we are now at almost 250, I’ve talked to hundreds of our members, and along the way I’ve learned some of the most effective ways to use podcasts to improve your English language skills.

[00:01:07] So, that’s what we’ll be talking about today. 

[00:01:10] We’ll start by talking about how to use them to improve your listening, then we’ll talk about how to improve your vocabulary, we'll then move on to how to improve your speaking with podcasts, and finish up by talking about writing. 

[00:01:27] In each of these sections you’ll find specific tips and tricks for different goals and for different difficulty levels, so I hope you’ll find it useful.

[00:01:38] OK then, let’s get cracking.

[00:01:42] I want to start with a couple of administrative points. 

[00:01:46] Firstly, no matter whether this is the first time you’ve listened to English Learning for Curious Minds or you have listened to every single episode - “that’s a message to my mother, by the way” - thank you for listening and being part of this. 

[00:02:01] This show really would be nothing without you, so from the bottom of my heart, thanks for your continued support.

[00:02:09] Secondly, all of the tips I’ll give you today can apply to almost any podcast, not just this one. 

[00:02:17] In fact, I’d definitely recommend you to listen to different podcasts in English to hear different accents, listen to different topics, and listen to people who speak in a different way. 

[00:02:31] That being said, these tips work particularly well with this podcast, with English Learning for Curious Minds, because it comes with all of the learning materials and support that you need, it has literally been designed from the ground up to help you as effectively as possible.

[00:02:51] And thirdly, our final but most important point. Learning English isn’t a competition. People have different goals, and different aims. Maybe you already work in an English-speaking company and you want to feel more confident and fluent in your conversations with colleagues. 

[00:03:10] Maybe you’ve never been to an English-speaking country and you just like improving your English for your own curiosity. 

[00:03:18] That’s completely fine. Everyone has their own goals, so you shouldn’t feel like you need to do everything I’m about to suggest. 

[00:03:28] Think of it like a buffet. Maybe you’re ready to try the really spicy dish and get hot and sweaty, but you don’t need to. 

[00:03:38] Feel free to pick and choose depending on your goals.

[00:03:43] The one thing I will assume though, given that you are already listening to a podcast in English, is that you want to improve your comprehension of spoken English and improve your vocabulary. And for most people this also implies that you want to improve your ability to be understood, and to improve your productive English skills, either speaking, writing or both.

[00:04:11] So, with that out of the way, let’s start with reminding ourselves what most people do with a podcast they’re using to learn English. 

[00:04:22] Perhaps this is what you’re doing right now.

[00:04:25] You press play and listen. Maybe you pick up a few new words, and there is of course some subconscious learning going on. 

[00:04:36] The more you listen, the more you understand. 

[00:04:39] Now, you might be thinking, “duh, tell me something I don’t know”. Bear with me here.

[00:04:46] The reason I mention this is because if this is the only way you are using English podcasts, then you are missing out on some excellent opportunities to improve your grammar, vocabulary, and even speaking and writing.

[00:05:02] For lots of people, especially if you’re the sort of person who listens to a podcast while doing something else - walking, running, driving or just doing stuff around the house - it’s hard to do something else with the podcasts because, well, you’re already doing something else.

[00:05:22] And that’s absolutely fine. In fact, one of the great things about podcasts, for language learning, is that you can fit them in alongside other things.

[00:05:34] And if this is you, if you normally put on a podcast on the bus or on your drive to work in the morning, here’s my suggestion for you. 

[00:05:44] It might sound simple, but in my experience remarkably few people do it.

[00:05:51] And this is to work on becoming a more attentive listener. 

[00:05:56] Try to pay as much attention as you possibly can to both the sound of the language and the choice of words used by the speaker.

[00:06:08] Let’s talk about the sound of the language point first.

[00:06:12] Listening to the sound of a language is incredibly important because if you can’t tell the difference between how different sounds are pronounced then you won’t be able to pronounce them correctly yourself.

[00:06:26] Not everyone can have native-level pronunciation but the more you pay attention to the exact sounds that are being made, the better chance you will have at being able to pronounce them yourself.

[00:06:41] This might sound quite theoretical, so let me give you a concrete, real-life example.

[00:06:50] We have lots and lots of listeners from Spain.

[00:06:54] Listen to what I just said: “We have lots and lots of listeners from Spain”.

[00:07:00] Spanish speakers often have trouble with words that begin with consonants, so a Spanish speaker might have said “ah-listeners” and “eh-Spain”. 

[00:07:11] Intead of "listeners" and "Spain". 

[00:07:14] And listen to the connected speech and intonation in that last sentence: “We have lots and lots of listeners from Spain”.

[00:07:24] If you were reading that sentence out loud, you might say “We have lots and lots of listeners from Spain”, but when listening to it carefully you see that the word “lots” flows directly onto “and”, and that the “d” of the “and” isn’t pronounced. 

[00:07:48] I’ll say it again, and listen very carefully: We have lots and lots of listeners from Spain.

[00:07:57] See, you might not have noticed that before, but if you start to train yourself to actively listen out for the sounds then you will find it much easier when it comes to actually pronouncing these words yourself.

[00:08:14] Now, let’s move onto the next “noticing” bit and talk about improving your vocabulary by becoming a more attentive listener.

[00:08:24] Exactly the same idea applies. The more carefully and critically you listen, the better.

[00:08:32] You can certainly use podcasts, just like any source of input, to help you learn completely new individual words or phrases, words that you have never seen or heard before, but I’d actually think about using podcasts differently in terms of vocabulary building.

[00:08:52] And that’s helping you reinforce words and phrases that you might already know, that might already be in your passive vocabulary. 

[00:09:03] What I mean by this is words or phrases that you would understand if you heard or read them, but that you wouldn’t normally produce yourself.

[00:09:14] An example of this might be words, expressions and phrases to move from one point to another, the kind of small words or phrases that you might never learn in a textbook or classroom but are one of the things that separates natural sounding English from obviously non-native English 

[00:09:35] Again, let me give you an example of this.

[00:09:38] Well, there you go. I just used the word “again” to smoothly move from one sentence to another. And I just said “Well, there you go”. 

[00:09:49] You probably already know what “again” and “well” mean, but would you have used them like that in your own speech? 

[00:09:58] If you would have, congratulations. 

[00:10:01] But this is the sort of stuff I’m talking about. Listen out very carefully for these sorts of words and phrases, notice them, and think critically about how they were used.

[00:10:16] This is a great start, and really is about as much as I’d recommend doing for those of you who are listening to podcasts while doing other things. 

[00:10:26] After all, trying to write something down or read a transcript while you’re running or driving is a mixture of foolish, dangerous and plain illegal, so my suggestion here is just to try to improve your “noticing” skills, particularly on the construction of different sounds and on how words and phrases are used.

[00:10:50] But really, where podcasts come into their own, where they really excel, where they are really fantastic, is on all of the things you can use them for if you concentrate 100% on them. 

[00:11:05] In other words, don’t only listen while you’re driving, running, or doing the dishes.

[00:11:10] Treat them as a learning activity, sit down at a table or desk and really focus on them.

[00:11:18] And this brings us to our next section.

[00:11:21] Now, in this section I will refer to having the transcript and vocabulary lists for a podcast. 

[00:11:28] In case you were unaware, all episodes of English Learning for Curious Minds, all episodes of this podcast, come with a transcript and key vocabulary, as well as subtitles. Some other podcasts provide transcripts, but most don’t, and to my knowledge there are no other English podcasts that provide subtitles, transcripts and the key vocabulary in the same way as this one does. 

[00:11:55] So, you can follow the tips I’m about to provide without these learning materials, but you will learn more quickly with them. 

[00:12:05] So, let’s get into it.

[00:12:07] You’re sitting down at your desk or kitchen table, you have decided to set aside 30 minutes to actively learn, what do you do?

[00:12:17] Well, because we were talking about active listening in the first section, let’s continue on that path.

[00:12:25] As you might expect, if you are fully concentrating, you can do everything we talked about in the first section but with considerably more success.

[00:12:36] Let’s talk first about building your vocabulary, and moving words and phrases from your passive vocabulary to your active vocabulary. Here’s what I’d encourage you to do.

[00:12:49] When listening to an English podcast, keep a notebook open to write down new and interesting words or phrases.

[00:12:57] Now, what does “new and interesting” mean? 

[00:13:00] The beauty of this is that the choice of what words you want to learn is completely up to you

[00:13:07] I remember talking to a member of Leonardo English from Argentina who worked with aeroplanes and he had a very good English vocabulary when it came to words related to aeroplanes and aviation

[00:13:21] But his day-to-day vocabulary wasn’t nearly as good.

[00:13:25] The point is that the most useful vocabulary for you depends on, surprise surprise, you. And for most people, there is little value in learning words that you won’t need in your day-to-day life.

[00:13:40] If you are listening to the episode on “whaling”, for example, you might hear the word “harpoon”. If you didn’t know what it meant, it was the weapon that was used to hunt whales.

[00:13:55] But, thankfully, this is a pretty irrelevant word for most people nowadays.

[00:14:00] So if I were you, I wouldn’t waste my time and energy trying to remember it.

[00:14:06] But for words and phrases that you hear and think, “hmm, that’s the kind of thing I would say in my own language”, this is where you should focus your energy. 

[00:14:17] And here’s how I’d do it.

[00:14:20] In your notebook, write down the original word or phrase. 

[00:14:24] Write down how it was used in context, so write down the entire sentence or clause, underlining the word or phrase.

[00:14:34] If you need to, if it is a particularly new word or phrase, you can write down the definition, either in English or in your own language. 

[00:14:45] Then I’d practice writing a different sentence with it, try to use it in a different way. There are tools online, such as Ludwig or Sentence Stack, which will help you see if you have used it in the right way.

[00:15:00] And then repeat it out loud, ideally several times.

[00:15:05] If you do this you are significantly more likely to actually be able to remember the word or phrase when it comes to the time to use it yourself.

[00:15:15] And it’s not hard to understand why.

[00:15:19] If you’re just listening and notice it while you’re doing something else you only hear it once.

[00:15:26] If you’re fully concentrating, you write the word down, you write it down in context, you write down the meaning, you try using it in a sentence and you try speaking it out loud, just think of how much more impactful this is. 

[00:15:41] You haven’t just heard it once, you have interacted with the word or phrase an additional five times.

[00:15:49] Of course, you can combine this with other ways of memorising vocabulary, such as flashcards or the Gold List method, but the point I’m making is that just by doing this you have engaged with the word or phrase 5 times more than you would have just by listening.

[00:16:09] One member of Leonardo English, an amazing German lady called Isabella, even told me she makes a little list of new words or phrases she heard in an episode and decided she wants to use, and makes a point of ticking them off as she uses them in her English conversation classes.

[00:16:29] The key here, as you have guessed, is to make sure you actually use the new words or phrases you are trying to learn, otherwise they will, at best, just continue to sit in your passive vocabulary.

[00:16:43] So, that’s improving your vocabulary.

[00:16:46] Let's move on to our third and fourth sections. Speaking and writing.

[00:16:52] Now, you might not have thought that you could improve your speaking or writing skills with podcasts but in the next few minutes I’ll give you some tips on how you can do just that.

[00:17:04] First up is speaking. 

[00:17:07] Here, I’m going to give you an intermediate tip, an advanced tip, and–just for fun–a super professional tip.

[00:17:16] Our intermediate tip is to get into the habit of recording yourself speaking, having used a podcast episode as a prompt

[00:17:25] One of my favourite ways of using podcasts for this is to record yourself giving a summary of an episode. You can use the show notes or transcript as a prompt to jog your memory, and try to speak out loud what you heard.

[00:17:43] This is a particularly good skill to develop if you work in English, as being able to listen to extended dialogues and extract the key points is a valuable skill in any business environment.

[00:17:58] You could also use the podcast as a way to share your thoughts on the topic. What did you think? What is your view on what you've just heard? 

[00:18:09] I always ask people to share their thoughts in our community, and we have some really interesting perspectives being shared. And yes, you can share audio recordings there too.

[00:18:21] If you are particularly interested in improving your pronunciation, and you have the transcript of an episode, you can record yourself actually pretending to be the host of a podcast. You literally read it out loud, record yourself, and then compare yourself to the original.

[00:18:40] You might be thinking…can I just speak out loud? Do I actually need to record myself?

[00:18:47] Of course, you can, but recording yourself has several benefits.

[00:18:52] Firstly, it actually forces you to do it, and do it for a fixed period of time. Tell yourself that you need to press record and not stop talking until the timer hits a certain time, perhaps just one minute to start, then two, and you can work your way up to giving a five-minute uninterrupted talk.

[00:19:15] Secondly, recording yourself allows you to recognise your mistakes. Recognising your mistakes when you speak live is really hard. Even if you are speaking with a native speaker they will often not point out when you make mistakes, and recording yourself and listening out for your own mistakes can be an excellent way to get better at self-correction.

[00:19:42] And the third reason is that it can be really helpful with tracking your progress and staying motivated.

[00:19:50] If you are the sort of person who is learning independently, outside of a classroom, it can be hard to see that you’re actually making progress. If you record yourself then it’s really easy to see how far you have come. 

[00:20:06] And just on a practical level, you don’t need anything fancy. Just the inbuilt microphone on any mobile phone is perfect.

[00:20:17] You might also be thinking, “shouldn’t I be speaking to other people, not to myself?”.

[00:20:23] Yes, definitely. This shouldn’t be done instead of speaking to other people, but it can be done in addition to it. 

[00:20:32] The reality is that not everyone has the chance to speak to other people in English all the time, let alone native speakers, so recording yourself speaking to yourself can be a great option if you don’t have the opportunity to speak much in English.

[00:20:50] Ok, our “advanced” technique to improve your speaking skills with podcasts is Shadowing. 

[00:20:56] If you haven’t heard of Shadowing before, essentially it involves repeating a piece of text just after the narrator, copying what they said exactly.

[00:21:08] It is a technique that almost every successful polyglot and successful language learner swears by because, well, it is incredibly effective.

[00:21:19] We have an extended guide on Shadowing on our blog, so I won’t go into it in too much detail, but here’s how I’d use it with podcasts.

[00:21:29] I’d set aside a small amount of time each day, let’s say 10 to 20 minutes.

[00:21:35] Find a section of a podcast episode that you want to shadow, that you want to work with. It should be no more than 5 minutes long. I would even start shorter - even a minute or two is fine.

[00:21:49] Listen to the original audio. Assuming you have the transcript, scan through, look through and see if there are any tricky words that you might struggle to pronounce, and listen to how the narrator says them if you need to.

[00:22:06] Then press play and read the text out loud very shortly after the original. 

[00:22:13] If you haven’t done it before it will feel strange but if you stick with it I’m confident you will see excellent results. It helps pronunciation, connected speech, word stress and really will make you sound like a much more natural English speaker.

[00:22:32] Again, there’s a guide on the Leonardo English blog with a lot more information on this, so I’d definitely recommend checking that out if you want to do it.

[00:22:42] And I said I’d give you a super advanced, professional, even, way in which you can use podcasts to improve your speaking. I actually found out about this after speaking to an amazing member of Leonardo English from China who is doing a Masters in interpreting.

[00:22:59] She listens to a podcast and practises doing simultaneous interpreting, imagining that she is having to translate an episode real-time into Mandarin. 

[00:23:12] Of course, this is a very advanced technique, so it does come with that warning, but feel free to give that a go if you would like to give yourself a real challenge.

[00:23:24] Right, let’s move onto our last section, writing.

[00:23:29] This is a short section because, really, everything I spoke about with recording yourself can be done in writing.

[00:23:37] You can write down a summary of what you heard, you can write your own thoughts and opinions about it and share them online. And you can even transcribe it, you can try listening to a podcast episode, writing down what you heard, and comparing that with the original transcript.

[00:23:57] Of course, these activities develop a different set of skills - your writing skills.

[00:24:03] And even if you think, “well, speaking is much more important than writing”, I would strongly advise you to not overlook the power of writing, to not think that writing is unimportant. 

[00:24:17] Writing is an incredibly powerful skill in terms of forming ideas and structuring what you want to say. Writing also gives you the chance to think more critically about the words and phrases you want to use, and, perhaps counterintuitively, writing ends up improving your speaking skills.

[00:24:38] To explain how this works, writing gives you the time to think that you don’t have when speaking. You can use this to your advantage by choosing different, new words or phrases, and because you have started using them in writing, you will be more likely to recall, to remember them, when it comes to speaking.

[00:24:55] And if you’ve learned them in a podcast then you will already know how to pronounce them.

[00:25:06] OK, so those are my top tips and strategies on how to use podcasts to improve your English. 

[00:25:13] In case you haven’t guessed, I’m a huge proponent, a huge believer, in the power of podcasts for learning English. 

[00:25:22] I’ve spoken to hundreds of you and have seen the impact that podcasts have had on your language learning journey. 

[00:25:30] So, whether you are just getting started with podcasts, or you have been listening for a long time now, I hope these tips will help you become a more confident and more effective learner of English.

[00:25:45] OK then, that is it for today's unusual episode on how to use podcasts to improve your English.

[00:25:53] For those of you thinking “hang on, where have all the curious stories gone”, don’t worry, this is a one-of-a-kind episode, normal programming will resume in the next one.

[00:26:04] As always, and in fact even more than always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:26:11] How long have you been using podcasts to learn English? How have you been using them? 

[00:26:16] Have you been using any of the strategies I spoke about in this episode? Have you found them to be effective? And are there others that I should have mentioned?

[00:26:25] I’d love to know - you can hit me up, you can email me on hi - hi @leonardoenglish.com.

[00:26:33] The place you can go for all of that is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:26:39] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:26:44] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.


[END OF EPISODE]


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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today is a special episode. 

[00:00:26] English Learning for Curious Minds is only just a couple of years old, but it recently passed a million downloads. It feels strange to say this, but there we go.

[00:00:38] So I wanted to mark the occasion with an extra special episode where I give you my best tips and tricks for how to use podcasts to improve your English. 

[00:00:50] I’ve spent the past two years making podcasts, we are now at almost 250, I’ve talked to hundreds of our members, and along the way I’ve learned some of the most effective ways to use podcasts to improve your English language skills.

[00:01:07] So, that’s what we’ll be talking about today. 

[00:01:10] We’ll start by talking about how to use them to improve your listening, then we’ll talk about how to improve your vocabulary, we'll then move on to how to improve your speaking with podcasts, and finish up by talking about writing. 

[00:01:27] In each of these sections you’ll find specific tips and tricks for different goals and for different difficulty levels, so I hope you’ll find it useful.

[00:01:38] OK then, let’s get cracking.

[00:01:42] I want to start with a couple of administrative points. 

[00:01:46] Firstly, no matter whether this is the first time you’ve listened to English Learning for Curious Minds or you have listened to every single episode - “that’s a message to my mother, by the way” - thank you for listening and being part of this. 

[00:02:01] This show really would be nothing without you, so from the bottom of my heart, thanks for your continued support.

[00:02:09] Secondly, all of the tips I’ll give you today can apply to almost any podcast, not just this one. 

[00:02:17] In fact, I’d definitely recommend you to listen to different podcasts in English to hear different accents, listen to different topics, and listen to people who speak in a different way. 

[00:02:31] That being said, these tips work particularly well with this podcast, with English Learning for Curious Minds, because it comes with all of the learning materials and support that you need, it has literally been designed from the ground up to help you as effectively as possible.

[00:02:51] And thirdly, our final but most important point. Learning English isn’t a competition. People have different goals, and different aims. Maybe you already work in an English-speaking company and you want to feel more confident and fluent in your conversations with colleagues. 

[00:03:10] Maybe you’ve never been to an English-speaking country and you just like improving your English for your own curiosity. 

[00:03:18] That’s completely fine. Everyone has their own goals, so you shouldn’t feel like you need to do everything I’m about to suggest. 

[00:03:28] Think of it like a buffet. Maybe you’re ready to try the really spicy dish and get hot and sweaty, but you don’t need to. 

[00:03:38] Feel free to pick and choose depending on your goals.

[00:03:43] The one thing I will assume though, given that you are already listening to a podcast in English, is that you want to improve your comprehension of spoken English and improve your vocabulary. And for most people this also implies that you want to improve your ability to be understood, and to improve your productive English skills, either speaking, writing or both.

[00:04:11] So, with that out of the way, let’s start with reminding ourselves what most people do with a podcast they’re using to learn English. 

[00:04:22] Perhaps this is what you’re doing right now.

[00:04:25] You press play and listen. Maybe you pick up a few new words, and there is of course some subconscious learning going on. 

[00:04:36] The more you listen, the more you understand. 

[00:04:39] Now, you might be thinking, “duh, tell me something I don’t know”. Bear with me here.

[00:04:46] The reason I mention this is because if this is the only way you are using English podcasts, then you are missing out on some excellent opportunities to improve your grammar, vocabulary, and even speaking and writing.

[00:05:02] For lots of people, especially if you’re the sort of person who listens to a podcast while doing something else - walking, running, driving or just doing stuff around the house - it’s hard to do something else with the podcasts because, well, you’re already doing something else.

[00:05:22] And that’s absolutely fine. In fact, one of the great things about podcasts, for language learning, is that you can fit them in alongside other things.

[00:05:34] And if this is you, if you normally put on a podcast on the bus or on your drive to work in the morning, here’s my suggestion for you. 

[00:05:44] It might sound simple, but in my experience remarkably few people do it.

[00:05:51] And this is to work on becoming a more attentive listener. 

[00:05:56] Try to pay as much attention as you possibly can to both the sound of the language and the choice of words used by the speaker.

[00:06:08] Let’s talk about the sound of the language point first.

[00:06:12] Listening to the sound of a language is incredibly important because if you can’t tell the difference between how different sounds are pronounced then you won’t be able to pronounce them correctly yourself.

[00:06:26] Not everyone can have native-level pronunciation but the more you pay attention to the exact sounds that are being made, the better chance you will have at being able to pronounce them yourself.

[00:06:41] This might sound quite theoretical, so let me give you a concrete, real-life example.

[00:06:50] We have lots and lots of listeners from Spain.

[00:06:54] Listen to what I just said: “We have lots and lots of listeners from Spain”.

[00:07:00] Spanish speakers often have trouble with words that begin with consonants, so a Spanish speaker might have said “ah-listeners” and “eh-Spain”. 

[00:07:11] Intead of "listeners" and "Spain". 

[00:07:14] And listen to the connected speech and intonation in that last sentence: “We have lots and lots of listeners from Spain”.

[00:07:24] If you were reading that sentence out loud, you might say “We have lots and lots of listeners from Spain”, but when listening to it carefully you see that the word “lots” flows directly onto “and”, and that the “d” of the “and” isn’t pronounced. 

[00:07:48] I’ll say it again, and listen very carefully: We have lots and lots of listeners from Spain.

[00:07:57] See, you might not have noticed that before, but if you start to train yourself to actively listen out for the sounds then you will find it much easier when it comes to actually pronouncing these words yourself.

[00:08:14] Now, let’s move onto the next “noticing” bit and talk about improving your vocabulary by becoming a more attentive listener.

[00:08:24] Exactly the same idea applies. The more carefully and critically you listen, the better.

[00:08:32] You can certainly use podcasts, just like any source of input, to help you learn completely new individual words or phrases, words that you have never seen or heard before, but I’d actually think about using podcasts differently in terms of vocabulary building.

[00:08:52] And that’s helping you reinforce words and phrases that you might already know, that might already be in your passive vocabulary. 

[00:09:03] What I mean by this is words or phrases that you would understand if you heard or read them, but that you wouldn’t normally produce yourself.

[00:09:14] An example of this might be words, expressions and phrases to move from one point to another, the kind of small words or phrases that you might never learn in a textbook or classroom but are one of the things that separates natural sounding English from obviously non-native English 

[00:09:35] Again, let me give you an example of this.

[00:09:38] Well, there you go. I just used the word “again” to smoothly move from one sentence to another. And I just said “Well, there you go”. 

[00:09:49] You probably already know what “again” and “well” mean, but would you have used them like that in your own speech? 

[00:09:58] If you would have, congratulations. 

[00:10:01] But this is the sort of stuff I’m talking about. Listen out very carefully for these sorts of words and phrases, notice them, and think critically about how they were used.

[00:10:16] This is a great start, and really is about as much as I’d recommend doing for those of you who are listening to podcasts while doing other things. 

[00:10:26] After all, trying to write something down or read a transcript while you’re running or driving is a mixture of foolish, dangerous and plain illegal, so my suggestion here is just to try to improve your “noticing” skills, particularly on the construction of different sounds and on how words and phrases are used.

[00:10:50] But really, where podcasts come into their own, where they really excel, where they are really fantastic, is on all of the things you can use them for if you concentrate 100% on them. 

[00:11:05] In other words, don’t only listen while you’re driving, running, or doing the dishes.

[00:11:10] Treat them as a learning activity, sit down at a table or desk and really focus on them.

[00:11:18] And this brings us to our next section.

[00:11:21] Now, in this section I will refer to having the transcript and vocabulary lists for a podcast. 

[00:11:28] In case you were unaware, all episodes of English Learning for Curious Minds, all episodes of this podcast, come with a transcript and key vocabulary, as well as subtitles. Some other podcasts provide transcripts, but most don’t, and to my knowledge there are no other English podcasts that provide subtitles, transcripts and the key vocabulary in the same way as this one does. 

[00:11:55] So, you can follow the tips I’m about to provide without these learning materials, but you will learn more quickly with them. 

[00:12:05] So, let’s get into it.

[00:12:07] You’re sitting down at your desk or kitchen table, you have decided to set aside 30 minutes to actively learn, what do you do?

[00:12:17] Well, because we were talking about active listening in the first section, let’s continue on that path.

[00:12:25] As you might expect, if you are fully concentrating, you can do everything we talked about in the first section but with considerably more success.

[00:12:36] Let’s talk first about building your vocabulary, and moving words and phrases from your passive vocabulary to your active vocabulary. Here’s what I’d encourage you to do.

[00:12:49] When listening to an English podcast, keep a notebook open to write down new and interesting words or phrases.

[00:12:57] Now, what does “new and interesting” mean? 

[00:13:00] The beauty of this is that the choice of what words you want to learn is completely up to you

[00:13:07] I remember talking to a member of Leonardo English from Argentina who worked with aeroplanes and he had a very good English vocabulary when it came to words related to aeroplanes and aviation

[00:13:21] But his day-to-day vocabulary wasn’t nearly as good.

[00:13:25] The point is that the most useful vocabulary for you depends on, surprise surprise, you. And for most people, there is little value in learning words that you won’t need in your day-to-day life.

[00:13:40] If you are listening to the episode on “whaling”, for example, you might hear the word “harpoon”. If you didn’t know what it meant, it was the weapon that was used to hunt whales.

[00:13:55] But, thankfully, this is a pretty irrelevant word for most people nowadays.

[00:14:00] So if I were you, I wouldn’t waste my time and energy trying to remember it.

[00:14:06] But for words and phrases that you hear and think, “hmm, that’s the kind of thing I would say in my own language”, this is where you should focus your energy. 

[00:14:17] And here’s how I’d do it.

[00:14:20] In your notebook, write down the original word or phrase. 

[00:14:24] Write down how it was used in context, so write down the entire sentence or clause, underlining the word or phrase.

[00:14:34] If you need to, if it is a particularly new word or phrase, you can write down the definition, either in English or in your own language. 

[00:14:45] Then I’d practice writing a different sentence with it, try to use it in a different way. There are tools online, such as Ludwig or Sentence Stack, which will help you see if you have used it in the right way.

[00:15:00] And then repeat it out loud, ideally several times.

[00:15:05] If you do this you are significantly more likely to actually be able to remember the word or phrase when it comes to the time to use it yourself.

[00:15:15] And it’s not hard to understand why.

[00:15:19] If you’re just listening and notice it while you’re doing something else you only hear it once.

[00:15:26] If you’re fully concentrating, you write the word down, you write it down in context, you write down the meaning, you try using it in a sentence and you try speaking it out loud, just think of how much more impactful this is. 

[00:15:41] You haven’t just heard it once, you have interacted with the word or phrase an additional five times.

[00:15:49] Of course, you can combine this with other ways of memorising vocabulary, such as flashcards or the Gold List method, but the point I’m making is that just by doing this you have engaged with the word or phrase 5 times more than you would have just by listening.

[00:16:09] One member of Leonardo English, an amazing German lady called Isabella, even told me she makes a little list of new words or phrases she heard in an episode and decided she wants to use, and makes a point of ticking them off as she uses them in her English conversation classes.

[00:16:29] The key here, as you have guessed, is to make sure you actually use the new words or phrases you are trying to learn, otherwise they will, at best, just continue to sit in your passive vocabulary.

[00:16:43] So, that’s improving your vocabulary.

[00:16:46] Let's move on to our third and fourth sections. Speaking and writing.

[00:16:52] Now, you might not have thought that you could improve your speaking or writing skills with podcasts but in the next few minutes I’ll give you some tips on how you can do just that.

[00:17:04] First up is speaking. 

[00:17:07] Here, I’m going to give you an intermediate tip, an advanced tip, and–just for fun–a super professional tip.

[00:17:16] Our intermediate tip is to get into the habit of recording yourself speaking, having used a podcast episode as a prompt

[00:17:25] One of my favourite ways of using podcasts for this is to record yourself giving a summary of an episode. You can use the show notes or transcript as a prompt to jog your memory, and try to speak out loud what you heard.

[00:17:43] This is a particularly good skill to develop if you work in English, as being able to listen to extended dialogues and extract the key points is a valuable skill in any business environment.

[00:17:58] You could also use the podcast as a way to share your thoughts on the topic. What did you think? What is your view on what you've just heard? 

[00:18:09] I always ask people to share their thoughts in our community, and we have some really interesting perspectives being shared. And yes, you can share audio recordings there too.

[00:18:21] If you are particularly interested in improving your pronunciation, and you have the transcript of an episode, you can record yourself actually pretending to be the host of a podcast. You literally read it out loud, record yourself, and then compare yourself to the original.

[00:18:40] You might be thinking…can I just speak out loud? Do I actually need to record myself?

[00:18:47] Of course, you can, but recording yourself has several benefits.

[00:18:52] Firstly, it actually forces you to do it, and do it for a fixed period of time. Tell yourself that you need to press record and not stop talking until the timer hits a certain time, perhaps just one minute to start, then two, and you can work your way up to giving a five-minute uninterrupted talk.

[00:19:15] Secondly, recording yourself allows you to recognise your mistakes. Recognising your mistakes when you speak live is really hard. Even if you are speaking with a native speaker they will often not point out when you make mistakes, and recording yourself and listening out for your own mistakes can be an excellent way to get better at self-correction.

[00:19:42] And the third reason is that it can be really helpful with tracking your progress and staying motivated.

[00:19:50] If you are the sort of person who is learning independently, outside of a classroom, it can be hard to see that you’re actually making progress. If you record yourself then it’s really easy to see how far you have come. 

[00:20:06] And just on a practical level, you don’t need anything fancy. Just the inbuilt microphone on any mobile phone is perfect.

[00:20:17] You might also be thinking, “shouldn’t I be speaking to other people, not to myself?”.

[00:20:23] Yes, definitely. This shouldn’t be done instead of speaking to other people, but it can be done in addition to it. 

[00:20:32] The reality is that not everyone has the chance to speak to other people in English all the time, let alone native speakers, so recording yourself speaking to yourself can be a great option if you don’t have the opportunity to speak much in English.

[00:20:50] Ok, our “advanced” technique to improve your speaking skills with podcasts is Shadowing. 

[00:20:56] If you haven’t heard of Shadowing before, essentially it involves repeating a piece of text just after the narrator, copying what they said exactly.

[00:21:08] It is a technique that almost every successful polyglot and successful language learner swears by because, well, it is incredibly effective.

[00:21:19] We have an extended guide on Shadowing on our blog, so I won’t go into it in too much detail, but here’s how I’d use it with podcasts.

[00:21:29] I’d set aside a small amount of time each day, let’s say 10 to 20 minutes.

[00:21:35] Find a section of a podcast episode that you want to shadow, that you want to work with. It should be no more than 5 minutes long. I would even start shorter - even a minute or two is fine.

[00:21:49] Listen to the original audio. Assuming you have the transcript, scan through, look through and see if there are any tricky words that you might struggle to pronounce, and listen to how the narrator says them if you need to.

[00:22:06] Then press play and read the text out loud very shortly after the original. 

[00:22:13] If you haven’t done it before it will feel strange but if you stick with it I’m confident you will see excellent results. It helps pronunciation, connected speech, word stress and really will make you sound like a much more natural English speaker.

[00:22:32] Again, there’s a guide on the Leonardo English blog with a lot more information on this, so I’d definitely recommend checking that out if you want to do it.

[00:22:42] And I said I’d give you a super advanced, professional, even, way in which you can use podcasts to improve your speaking. I actually found out about this after speaking to an amazing member of Leonardo English from China who is doing a Masters in interpreting.

[00:22:59] She listens to a podcast and practises doing simultaneous interpreting, imagining that she is having to translate an episode real-time into Mandarin. 

[00:23:12] Of course, this is a very advanced technique, so it does come with that warning, but feel free to give that a go if you would like to give yourself a real challenge.

[00:23:24] Right, let’s move onto our last section, writing.

[00:23:29] This is a short section because, really, everything I spoke about with recording yourself can be done in writing.

[00:23:37] You can write down a summary of what you heard, you can write your own thoughts and opinions about it and share them online. And you can even transcribe it, you can try listening to a podcast episode, writing down what you heard, and comparing that with the original transcript.

[00:23:57] Of course, these activities develop a different set of skills - your writing skills.

[00:24:03] And even if you think, “well, speaking is much more important than writing”, I would strongly advise you to not overlook the power of writing, to not think that writing is unimportant. 

[00:24:17] Writing is an incredibly powerful skill in terms of forming ideas and structuring what you want to say. Writing also gives you the chance to think more critically about the words and phrases you want to use, and, perhaps counterintuitively, writing ends up improving your speaking skills.

[00:24:38] To explain how this works, writing gives you the time to think that you don’t have when speaking. You can use this to your advantage by choosing different, new words or phrases, and because you have started using them in writing, you will be more likely to recall, to remember them, when it comes to speaking.

[00:24:55] And if you’ve learned them in a podcast then you will already know how to pronounce them.

[00:25:06] OK, so those are my top tips and strategies on how to use podcasts to improve your English. 

[00:25:13] In case you haven’t guessed, I’m a huge proponent, a huge believer, in the power of podcasts for learning English. 

[00:25:22] I’ve spoken to hundreds of you and have seen the impact that podcasts have had on your language learning journey. 

[00:25:30] So, whether you are just getting started with podcasts, or you have been listening for a long time now, I hope these tips will help you become a more confident and more effective learner of English.

[00:25:45] OK then, that is it for today's unusual episode on how to use podcasts to improve your English.

[00:25:53] For those of you thinking “hang on, where have all the curious stories gone”, don’t worry, this is a one-of-a-kind episode, normal programming will resume in the next one.

[00:26:04] As always, and in fact even more than always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:26:11] How long have you been using podcasts to learn English? How have you been using them? 

[00:26:16] Have you been using any of the strategies I spoke about in this episode? Have you found them to be effective? And are there others that I should have mentioned?

[00:26:25] I’d love to know - you can hit me up, you can email me on hi - hi @leonardoenglish.com.

[00:26:33] The place you can go for all of that is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:26:39] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:26:44] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.


[END OF EPISODE]


[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today is a special episode. 

[00:00:26] English Learning for Curious Minds is only just a couple of years old, but it recently passed a million downloads. It feels strange to say this, but there we go.

[00:00:38] So I wanted to mark the occasion with an extra special episode where I give you my best tips and tricks for how to use podcasts to improve your English. 

[00:00:50] I’ve spent the past two years making podcasts, we are now at almost 250, I’ve talked to hundreds of our members, and along the way I’ve learned some of the most effective ways to use podcasts to improve your English language skills.

[00:01:07] So, that’s what we’ll be talking about today. 

[00:01:10] We’ll start by talking about how to use them to improve your listening, then we’ll talk about how to improve your vocabulary, we'll then move on to how to improve your speaking with podcasts, and finish up by talking about writing. 

[00:01:27] In each of these sections you’ll find specific tips and tricks for different goals and for different difficulty levels, so I hope you’ll find it useful.

[00:01:38] OK then, let’s get cracking.

[00:01:42] I want to start with a couple of administrative points. 

[00:01:46] Firstly, no matter whether this is the first time you’ve listened to English Learning for Curious Minds or you have listened to every single episode - “that’s a message to my mother, by the way” - thank you for listening and being part of this. 

[00:02:01] This show really would be nothing without you, so from the bottom of my heart, thanks for your continued support.

[00:02:09] Secondly, all of the tips I’ll give you today can apply to almost any podcast, not just this one. 

[00:02:17] In fact, I’d definitely recommend you to listen to different podcasts in English to hear different accents, listen to different topics, and listen to people who speak in a different way. 

[00:02:31] That being said, these tips work particularly well with this podcast, with English Learning for Curious Minds, because it comes with all of the learning materials and support that you need, it has literally been designed from the ground up to help you as effectively as possible.

[00:02:51] And thirdly, our final but most important point. Learning English isn’t a competition. People have different goals, and different aims. Maybe you already work in an English-speaking company and you want to feel more confident and fluent in your conversations with colleagues. 

[00:03:10] Maybe you’ve never been to an English-speaking country and you just like improving your English for your own curiosity. 

[00:03:18] That’s completely fine. Everyone has their own goals, so you shouldn’t feel like you need to do everything I’m about to suggest. 

[00:03:28] Think of it like a buffet. Maybe you’re ready to try the really spicy dish and get hot and sweaty, but you don’t need to. 

[00:03:38] Feel free to pick and choose depending on your goals.

[00:03:43] The one thing I will assume though, given that you are already listening to a podcast in English, is that you want to improve your comprehension of spoken English and improve your vocabulary. And for most people this also implies that you want to improve your ability to be understood, and to improve your productive English skills, either speaking, writing or both.

[00:04:11] So, with that out of the way, let’s start with reminding ourselves what most people do with a podcast they’re using to learn English. 

[00:04:22] Perhaps this is what you’re doing right now.

[00:04:25] You press play and listen. Maybe you pick up a few new words, and there is of course some subconscious learning going on. 

[00:04:36] The more you listen, the more you understand. 

[00:04:39] Now, you might be thinking, “duh, tell me something I don’t know”. Bear with me here.

[00:04:46] The reason I mention this is because if this is the only way you are using English podcasts, then you are missing out on some excellent opportunities to improve your grammar, vocabulary, and even speaking and writing.

[00:05:02] For lots of people, especially if you’re the sort of person who listens to a podcast while doing something else - walking, running, driving or just doing stuff around the house - it’s hard to do something else with the podcasts because, well, you’re already doing something else.

[00:05:22] And that’s absolutely fine. In fact, one of the great things about podcasts, for language learning, is that you can fit them in alongside other things.

[00:05:34] And if this is you, if you normally put on a podcast on the bus or on your drive to work in the morning, here’s my suggestion for you. 

[00:05:44] It might sound simple, but in my experience remarkably few people do it.

[00:05:51] And this is to work on becoming a more attentive listener. 

[00:05:56] Try to pay as much attention as you possibly can to both the sound of the language and the choice of words used by the speaker.

[00:06:08] Let’s talk about the sound of the language point first.

[00:06:12] Listening to the sound of a language is incredibly important because if you can’t tell the difference between how different sounds are pronounced then you won’t be able to pronounce them correctly yourself.

[00:06:26] Not everyone can have native-level pronunciation but the more you pay attention to the exact sounds that are being made, the better chance you will have at being able to pronounce them yourself.

[00:06:41] This might sound quite theoretical, so let me give you a concrete, real-life example.

[00:06:50] We have lots and lots of listeners from Spain.

[00:06:54] Listen to what I just said: “We have lots and lots of listeners from Spain”.

[00:07:00] Spanish speakers often have trouble with words that begin with consonants, so a Spanish speaker might have said “ah-listeners” and “eh-Spain”. 

[00:07:11] Intead of "listeners" and "Spain". 

[00:07:14] And listen to the connected speech and intonation in that last sentence: “We have lots and lots of listeners from Spain”.

[00:07:24] If you were reading that sentence out loud, you might say “We have lots and lots of listeners from Spain”, but when listening to it carefully you see that the word “lots” flows directly onto “and”, and that the “d” of the “and” isn’t pronounced. 

[00:07:48] I’ll say it again, and listen very carefully: We have lots and lots of listeners from Spain.

[00:07:57] See, you might not have noticed that before, but if you start to train yourself to actively listen out for the sounds then you will find it much easier when it comes to actually pronouncing these words yourself.

[00:08:14] Now, let’s move onto the next “noticing” bit and talk about improving your vocabulary by becoming a more attentive listener.

[00:08:24] Exactly the same idea applies. The more carefully and critically you listen, the better.

[00:08:32] You can certainly use podcasts, just like any source of input, to help you learn completely new individual words or phrases, words that you have never seen or heard before, but I’d actually think about using podcasts differently in terms of vocabulary building.

[00:08:52] And that’s helping you reinforce words and phrases that you might already know, that might already be in your passive vocabulary. 

[00:09:03] What I mean by this is words or phrases that you would understand if you heard or read them, but that you wouldn’t normally produce yourself.

[00:09:14] An example of this might be words, expressions and phrases to move from one point to another, the kind of small words or phrases that you might never learn in a textbook or classroom but are one of the things that separates natural sounding English from obviously non-native English 

[00:09:35] Again, let me give you an example of this.

[00:09:38] Well, there you go. I just used the word “again” to smoothly move from one sentence to another. And I just said “Well, there you go”. 

[00:09:49] You probably already know what “again” and “well” mean, but would you have used them like that in your own speech? 

[00:09:58] If you would have, congratulations. 

[00:10:01] But this is the sort of stuff I’m talking about. Listen out very carefully for these sorts of words and phrases, notice them, and think critically about how they were used.

[00:10:16] This is a great start, and really is about as much as I’d recommend doing for those of you who are listening to podcasts while doing other things. 

[00:10:26] After all, trying to write something down or read a transcript while you’re running or driving is a mixture of foolish, dangerous and plain illegal, so my suggestion here is just to try to improve your “noticing” skills, particularly on the construction of different sounds and on how words and phrases are used.

[00:10:50] But really, where podcasts come into their own, where they really excel, where they are really fantastic, is on all of the things you can use them for if you concentrate 100% on them. 

[00:11:05] In other words, don’t only listen while you’re driving, running, or doing the dishes.

[00:11:10] Treat them as a learning activity, sit down at a table or desk and really focus on them.

[00:11:18] And this brings us to our next section.

[00:11:21] Now, in this section I will refer to having the transcript and vocabulary lists for a podcast. 

[00:11:28] In case you were unaware, all episodes of English Learning for Curious Minds, all episodes of this podcast, come with a transcript and key vocabulary, as well as subtitles. Some other podcasts provide transcripts, but most don’t, and to my knowledge there are no other English podcasts that provide subtitles, transcripts and the key vocabulary in the same way as this one does. 

[00:11:55] So, you can follow the tips I’m about to provide without these learning materials, but you will learn more quickly with them. 

[00:12:05] So, let’s get into it.

[00:12:07] You’re sitting down at your desk or kitchen table, you have decided to set aside 30 minutes to actively learn, what do you do?

[00:12:17] Well, because we were talking about active listening in the first section, let’s continue on that path.

[00:12:25] As you might expect, if you are fully concentrating, you can do everything we talked about in the first section but with considerably more success.

[00:12:36] Let’s talk first about building your vocabulary, and moving words and phrases from your passive vocabulary to your active vocabulary. Here’s what I’d encourage you to do.

[00:12:49] When listening to an English podcast, keep a notebook open to write down new and interesting words or phrases.

[00:12:57] Now, what does “new and interesting” mean? 

[00:13:00] The beauty of this is that the choice of what words you want to learn is completely up to you

[00:13:07] I remember talking to a member of Leonardo English from Argentina who worked with aeroplanes and he had a very good English vocabulary when it came to words related to aeroplanes and aviation

[00:13:21] But his day-to-day vocabulary wasn’t nearly as good.

[00:13:25] The point is that the most useful vocabulary for you depends on, surprise surprise, you. And for most people, there is little value in learning words that you won’t need in your day-to-day life.

[00:13:40] If you are listening to the episode on “whaling”, for example, you might hear the word “harpoon”. If you didn’t know what it meant, it was the weapon that was used to hunt whales.

[00:13:55] But, thankfully, this is a pretty irrelevant word for most people nowadays.

[00:14:00] So if I were you, I wouldn’t waste my time and energy trying to remember it.

[00:14:06] But for words and phrases that you hear and think, “hmm, that’s the kind of thing I would say in my own language”, this is where you should focus your energy. 

[00:14:17] And here’s how I’d do it.

[00:14:20] In your notebook, write down the original word or phrase. 

[00:14:24] Write down how it was used in context, so write down the entire sentence or clause, underlining the word or phrase.

[00:14:34] If you need to, if it is a particularly new word or phrase, you can write down the definition, either in English or in your own language. 

[00:14:45] Then I’d practice writing a different sentence with it, try to use it in a different way. There are tools online, such as Ludwig or Sentence Stack, which will help you see if you have used it in the right way.

[00:15:00] And then repeat it out loud, ideally several times.

[00:15:05] If you do this you are significantly more likely to actually be able to remember the word or phrase when it comes to the time to use it yourself.

[00:15:15] And it’s not hard to understand why.

[00:15:19] If you’re just listening and notice it while you’re doing something else you only hear it once.

[00:15:26] If you’re fully concentrating, you write the word down, you write it down in context, you write down the meaning, you try using it in a sentence and you try speaking it out loud, just think of how much more impactful this is. 

[00:15:41] You haven’t just heard it once, you have interacted with the word or phrase an additional five times.

[00:15:49] Of course, you can combine this with other ways of memorising vocabulary, such as flashcards or the Gold List method, but the point I’m making is that just by doing this you have engaged with the word or phrase 5 times more than you would have just by listening.

[00:16:09] One member of Leonardo English, an amazing German lady called Isabella, even told me she makes a little list of new words or phrases she heard in an episode and decided she wants to use, and makes a point of ticking them off as she uses them in her English conversation classes.

[00:16:29] The key here, as you have guessed, is to make sure you actually use the new words or phrases you are trying to learn, otherwise they will, at best, just continue to sit in your passive vocabulary.

[00:16:43] So, that’s improving your vocabulary.

[00:16:46] Let's move on to our third and fourth sections. Speaking and writing.

[00:16:52] Now, you might not have thought that you could improve your speaking or writing skills with podcasts but in the next few minutes I’ll give you some tips on how you can do just that.

[00:17:04] First up is speaking. 

[00:17:07] Here, I’m going to give you an intermediate tip, an advanced tip, and–just for fun–a super professional tip.

[00:17:16] Our intermediate tip is to get into the habit of recording yourself speaking, having used a podcast episode as a prompt

[00:17:25] One of my favourite ways of using podcasts for this is to record yourself giving a summary of an episode. You can use the show notes or transcript as a prompt to jog your memory, and try to speak out loud what you heard.

[00:17:43] This is a particularly good skill to develop if you work in English, as being able to listen to extended dialogues and extract the key points is a valuable skill in any business environment.

[00:17:58] You could also use the podcast as a way to share your thoughts on the topic. What did you think? What is your view on what you've just heard? 

[00:18:09] I always ask people to share their thoughts in our community, and we have some really interesting perspectives being shared. And yes, you can share audio recordings there too.

[00:18:21] If you are particularly interested in improving your pronunciation, and you have the transcript of an episode, you can record yourself actually pretending to be the host of a podcast. You literally read it out loud, record yourself, and then compare yourself to the original.

[00:18:40] You might be thinking…can I just speak out loud? Do I actually need to record myself?

[00:18:47] Of course, you can, but recording yourself has several benefits.

[00:18:52] Firstly, it actually forces you to do it, and do it for a fixed period of time. Tell yourself that you need to press record and not stop talking until the timer hits a certain time, perhaps just one minute to start, then two, and you can work your way up to giving a five-minute uninterrupted talk.

[00:19:15] Secondly, recording yourself allows you to recognise your mistakes. Recognising your mistakes when you speak live is really hard. Even if you are speaking with a native speaker they will often not point out when you make mistakes, and recording yourself and listening out for your own mistakes can be an excellent way to get better at self-correction.

[00:19:42] And the third reason is that it can be really helpful with tracking your progress and staying motivated.

[00:19:50] If you are the sort of person who is learning independently, outside of a classroom, it can be hard to see that you’re actually making progress. If you record yourself then it’s really easy to see how far you have come. 

[00:20:06] And just on a practical level, you don’t need anything fancy. Just the inbuilt microphone on any mobile phone is perfect.

[00:20:17] You might also be thinking, “shouldn’t I be speaking to other people, not to myself?”.

[00:20:23] Yes, definitely. This shouldn’t be done instead of speaking to other people, but it can be done in addition to it. 

[00:20:32] The reality is that not everyone has the chance to speak to other people in English all the time, let alone native speakers, so recording yourself speaking to yourself can be a great option if you don’t have the opportunity to speak much in English.

[00:20:50] Ok, our “advanced” technique to improve your speaking skills with podcasts is Shadowing. 

[00:20:56] If you haven’t heard of Shadowing before, essentially it involves repeating a piece of text just after the narrator, copying what they said exactly.

[00:21:08] It is a technique that almost every successful polyglot and successful language learner swears by because, well, it is incredibly effective.

[00:21:19] We have an extended guide on Shadowing on our blog, so I won’t go into it in too much detail, but here’s how I’d use it with podcasts.

[00:21:29] I’d set aside a small amount of time each day, let’s say 10 to 20 minutes.

[00:21:35] Find a section of a podcast episode that you want to shadow, that you want to work with. It should be no more than 5 minutes long. I would even start shorter - even a minute or two is fine.

[00:21:49] Listen to the original audio. Assuming you have the transcript, scan through, look through and see if there are any tricky words that you might struggle to pronounce, and listen to how the narrator says them if you need to.

[00:22:06] Then press play and read the text out loud very shortly after the original. 

[00:22:13] If you haven’t done it before it will feel strange but if you stick with it I’m confident you will see excellent results. It helps pronunciation, connected speech, word stress and really will make you sound like a much more natural English speaker.

[00:22:32] Again, there’s a guide on the Leonardo English blog with a lot more information on this, so I’d definitely recommend checking that out if you want to do it.

[00:22:42] And I said I’d give you a super advanced, professional, even, way in which you can use podcasts to improve your speaking. I actually found out about this after speaking to an amazing member of Leonardo English from China who is doing a Masters in interpreting.

[00:22:59] She listens to a podcast and practises doing simultaneous interpreting, imagining that she is having to translate an episode real-time into Mandarin. 

[00:23:12] Of course, this is a very advanced technique, so it does come with that warning, but feel free to give that a go if you would like to give yourself a real challenge.

[00:23:24] Right, let’s move onto our last section, writing.

[00:23:29] This is a short section because, really, everything I spoke about with recording yourself can be done in writing.

[00:23:37] You can write down a summary of what you heard, you can write your own thoughts and opinions about it and share them online. And you can even transcribe it, you can try listening to a podcast episode, writing down what you heard, and comparing that with the original transcript.

[00:23:57] Of course, these activities develop a different set of skills - your writing skills.

[00:24:03] And even if you think, “well, speaking is much more important than writing”, I would strongly advise you to not overlook the power of writing, to not think that writing is unimportant. 

[00:24:17] Writing is an incredibly powerful skill in terms of forming ideas and structuring what you want to say. Writing also gives you the chance to think more critically about the words and phrases you want to use, and, perhaps counterintuitively, writing ends up improving your speaking skills.

[00:24:38] To explain how this works, writing gives you the time to think that you don’t have when speaking. You can use this to your advantage by choosing different, new words or phrases, and because you have started using them in writing, you will be more likely to recall, to remember them, when it comes to speaking.

[00:24:55] And if you’ve learned them in a podcast then you will already know how to pronounce them.

[00:25:06] OK, so those are my top tips and strategies on how to use podcasts to improve your English. 

[00:25:13] In case you haven’t guessed, I’m a huge proponent, a huge believer, in the power of podcasts for learning English. 

[00:25:22] I’ve spoken to hundreds of you and have seen the impact that podcasts have had on your language learning journey. 

[00:25:30] So, whether you are just getting started with podcasts, or you have been listening for a long time now, I hope these tips will help you become a more confident and more effective learner of English.

[00:25:45] OK then, that is it for today's unusual episode on how to use podcasts to improve your English.

[00:25:53] For those of you thinking “hang on, where have all the curious stories gone”, don’t worry, this is a one-of-a-kind episode, normal programming will resume in the next one.

[00:26:04] As always, and in fact even more than always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:26:11] How long have you been using podcasts to learn English? How have you been using them? 

[00:26:16] Have you been using any of the strategies I spoke about in this episode? Have you found them to be effective? And are there others that I should have mentioned?

[00:26:25] I’d love to know - you can hit me up, you can email me on hi - hi @leonardoenglish.com.

[00:26:33] The place you can go for all of that is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:26:39] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:26:44] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.


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