Want to improve your listening skills but don’t want to spend a dime? Well, we’ve got you covered!
Below are 14 free ways to work on your listening skills online, divided into the following categories:
- Podcasts and radio shows
- Listening exercises
- Pronunciation resources
Podcasts & Radio Shows
1. Podcasts made for English learners
These days, there are many podcasts made for English learners. The hosts talk about many interesting topics and also make sure you don’t get lost by speaking slowly and explaining difficult vocabulary. Here are a few:
- VOA Learning English Podcasts on all sorts of topics
- Podcasts made by the British Council
- “The English We Speak” by the BBC
2. Podcasts About English
Unlike the podcasts above, these are focused on explaining vocabulary, grammar, conversation strategies, and anything related to English.
- Grammar Girl comes with transcripts.
- Espresso English covers grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary.
- The Happy English Podcast covers vocabulary, grammar, and idioms.
- Adept English Podcast covers real-life English, idioms, grammar, language learning tips, and more.
3. Podcasts for Young Native Speakers
Did you know that there are also podcasts for kids? Many are made with parents in mind as well, so the content is interesting for people of all ages.
Kid-friendly podcasts cover many interesting subjects, like this one on science. There’s also this podcast, which answers common questions kids ask, like “how is ice cream made?” and “why do ladybugs have spots?”
And some podcasts just tell stories. For example, this story podcast has been airing since 2004! For more suggestions, just search for “best podcasts for kids.” You’ll be amazed at the variety.
4. Radio Shows for Adult Native Speakers
If you’re already an advanced learner who just needs to keep up your listening skills, then jump into the deep end with podcasts and radio shows made for adult native speakers.
Here are a few recommendations:
- New York Public Radio (they also have podcasts)
- This American Life
- Overheard at National Geographic
- Friday Night Comedy from BBC Radio 4
Finally, don’t forget that you can use Tunein.com to “tune in” (listen) to radio channels from around the world.
If you’re curious about languages, you might also enjoy podcasts about language itself. Here are just a few:
- The History of English podcast
- Talk the Talk
- The World in Words
- Lingthusiasm (this one has transcripts!)
5. English News From Around The World
Most learners have probably heard of the big news channels in the US and the UK. But did you know that other countries have their own English-language news channels?
These news channels allow you to learn more about their country as well as see international events from a different perspective.
6. Listen to Songs
Songs are a great way to practice listening. You can play them in the background while you’re commuting, exercising, or doing laundry.
To get the most language-learning out of songs, focus on a few at a time. For example, play the same 2-3 songs every day for a week before moving on to new ones.
7. Fill-in-the-Blanks Lyrics Exercises
While doing fill-in-the-blanks exercises may not sound fun, trust us — they feel like games when you do them with songs.
There are a few websites that let you do this:
You can choose totally random songs.That way you’ll not only practice your listening skills, but also discover new songs along the way.
We’re sure you already use Youtube, but did you know that you can use it for language-learning purposes as well? A great way to do this is to follow channels that are related to your interests.
- If you’re interested in cooking, follow Jamie Oliver’s cooking channel.
- If you’re into filmmaking, follow Every Frame a Painting.
- If you like animals and pets, follow The Dodo Site.
Just google “Youtube channels related to (your interest)” and you’re bound to find something you like!
9. Educational Videos
You’ve probably also heard of TED Talks. TED Talks feature experts sharing insights on their field for 18 minutes. The best part is that all the transcripts can be found underneath the videos with translations into many languages.
And if you like TED Talks, you’ll probably also like Big Think, in which influential people around the world share their “big ideas.”
10. Dictation Exercises
“Dictation” is when you listen to something and then try to write down exactly what you heard. Then you check what you’ve missed!
As you can imagine, this doesn’t just improve listening, but also spelling and grammar. Of course, you can do this with any video that has subtitles.
If you don’t have any videos in mind though, there are also many great websites for dictation exercises. We recommend the following sites, which all use recordings made by real people and not machines.
These have American English recordings:
And the following use British English recordings:
11. Listening Comprehension Exercises
The following websites let you listen to an audio recording and answer some questions about it. They have exercises for learners at all levels.
- The British Council’s listening exercises come with transcripts and vocabulary-building activities.
- Cambridge Assessment English also has listening exercises. If you make a mistake, a hint will be provided, telling you what to listen for.
- English Class 101 has a Listening Practice Playlist on Youtube.
- Test-English features a video with listening comprehension questions below.
- This state college has listening tests with 20 questions each. The answers are displayed at the end of the test.
It may seem weird to have a section on pronunciation resources, but if you have trouble understanding spoken English (“it’s too fast!”), you should first study the sounds of spoken English.
12. Pronunciation Teachers
Fortunately, there’s no lack of pronunciation teachers who share their expertise for free. Here are a few we recommend:
- The Accent’s Way for American English
- Oxford Online English’s pronunciation playlist for British English
- ETJ English also for British English
13. Pronunciation Dictionaries
You may also find pronunciation dictionaries useful. And by this, we don’t mean traditional dictionaries that have audio recordings.
We mean pronunciation dictionaries that have recordings of real people, such as:
- Youglish: Have you ever wondered how “innovative” or “crash” sounds in real life? Search them in Youglish and you’ll hear how people say them in Youtube videos.
- Forvo: Have a word that you can’t find the pronunciation of in a traditional dictionary? Ask for a native speaker to record it here.
- Rhinospike: Submit a request for a word, sentence, or paragraph to be recorded by a native speaker. Then record something in your language for someone else.
One Last Tip: Talk to Real People
Lastly, one of the best ways to test your listening skills is by talking to real people! Calling up friends in other countries is a great way to start.