For students of ESL, podcasts can be a great way to improve your English. Although it may seem that they’re only useful for improving your listening skills on the TOEFL, they can actually expand your vocabulary and comprehension in ways that translate into higher scores in the reading, speaking, and writing sections as well. Furthermore, you can listen to podcasts almost anywhere: in the car, on the subway, relaxing after work—it’s completely up to you, on your schedule.
Nevertheless, there are so many podcasts out there that it can be hard to know where to start. Don’t worry! We’ve gone through the pile and picked out some of the best ESL podcasts for all levels of English speakers so you can start listening as soon as possible.
This podcast provides excellent information for non-native speakers of English—and it does so in only three minutes! It covers different phrases and slang expressions. The only downside for TOEFL takers is that the language is sometimes too informal for the test, and also mainly covers British English, while the TOEFL mainly tests North American usage. Still, there are some gems here: “My mind’s gone blank” is a great expression (although one we hope you don’t have to use on test day!)
For more advanced speakers of English, This American Life can provide an excellent way to hear different regional accents of the United States, as the podcast documents interesting stories from around the country. It may be difficult for intermediate or beginning ESL students, but the pronunciation and professionalism of the hosts—as well as their varied genders and voices—provides a good overview of the kind of speaking you may hear on the TOEFL.
These podcasts provide you with news in basic English. Focusing mostly on feature stories, the episodes give a great overview of many different subject areas, while remaining both topical and interesting. A good bet for intermediate listeners who want to brush up on their current affairs! News in Easy English is similar, but releases fewer episodes.
For those ESL students looking to return to the basics, or those who want to build on their knowledge of grammar and idioms, podcasts exist exclusively for this purpose. You can study the English language at Podcasts in English or English Class 101 for refresher lessons in aspects of the language you may have forgotten—or maybe never learned at all!