Six podcasting sites for language learners

Another guest list, this time I am pleased to be joined by Jackie McAvoy a colleague and co-author of mine. Jackie is active in the online ELT world, especially in the area of podcasts (you can see an interview with her here) . I’m happy she has shared her expertise and opinion on the pros and cons of six popular podcasting sites. Twenty-first century teachers and learners, take note! 

The rise in ELT podcasting sites has been a real boon for learners of English (especially for those in non-English speaking countries) providing interesting, fun, appropriate audios which can be listened to wherever, whenever. (Remember that the only difference between a site which has audio files and a podcasting site is that the latter has an RSS feed. Confused? Check out the blog!) There’s a growing range out there so something for everyone. I haven’t included our own (although do have a look!) but here’s a list of six of popular sites which your students may find interesting. Some are certainly better than others.

1 Breaking News English

2 Listen to English – Learn English

I’m lumping these two together as they are very similar. Both sites are run by British men who write articles about topical subjects or recent news events.  These are then read out as broadcasts. The main difference is that the former has a range of activities to do before, while and after listening (suitable for teachers), while the latter sometimes has a quiz or vocabulary note following the podcast.


  • hundreds of up-to-date topics


  • higher levels only
  • same person does the broadcast each time
  • the voices are a touch dull

3 China 232 (informal conversations between 2 Canadian brothers)


  • everyday vocabulary (lots of slang and idioms) and how it’s used
  •  popular topics for younger adults


  • the starting banter is real but the focused conversation is scripted and slowed down so unnatural sounding
  • always the same two guys who sound very similar
  • higher levels only


4 English through football (informal conversations, 2 British guys)


  • packed with resources (suitable for teachers)
  • provides real motivation for students who are lovers of the beautiful game


  • advanced level only
  • it’s just football (but then that’s the point!)

 5 British Council podcasts (British)


  • for different levels plus business English and kids


  • the elementary level is too difficult and very long (over 20 minutes)
  • the elementary ‘conversations’ are scripted and read out by actors trying to sound natural (which personally I find very irritating)
  • the website is difficult to navigate for learners

6 Elllo (informal conversations, various accents)


  • almost a thousand conversations on a variety of everyday topics
  • many different nationalities interviewed (and women too!)
  • a range of interesting interactive activities


  • lower levels only

Definitely one to recommend to students.

Published in: on March 9, 2009 at 12:26 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] been asked by Lindsay Clandfield to contribute an article to his Six Things blog – and so I’ve made a list of  six popular podcasting sites (although of course […]

  2. Yes, I’ve used Elllo, and my students liked it. I wouldn’t touch the BC one with a twelve-foot bargepole, though. And the first two I’ve found good for listening comp stuff too – all very up to date, although the activities need a bit of “sharpening” in my opinion.

    For example, the “subject warmers” are sometimes rather surreal, unintentionally of course – “talk to your partner for one minute about the last time you saw a UFO/plane-crash/politician in a wig”, etc… The formula never varies, despite the sometimes complex and rare subject matter!

  3. @Sandy

    Yes, there are some surreal ideas. One of my faves is from “Indian couple escape jail for kissing – warm up: Walk around the class and talk to other students about kissing. Change partners often. After you finish, sit with your partner(s) and share your findings.”

    hee hee – I like change partners often!! Can’t see me doing that in Jordan!

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