Tune in and take off: Polish your English by listening to podcasts

From beginners to masters of the language, there is always a podcast tailored to your needs

  2022
Input from kids makes podcast Brains On! knowledgable and fun. (Taiwan News/Chris Chang photo)

Input from kids makes podcast Brains On! knowledgable and fun. (Taiwan News/Chris Chang photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — An estimated 62 million people listen to podcasts weekly in the U.S. and for aspiring English-learners, it is a fantastic learning resource.

This article is for those who have reached a plateau in their English language learning journey and want to push on. With more than 700,000 shows on digital platforms, there are plenty of podcasts to choose from, it's just a matter of finding the right one.

I found Brains On! while looking for podcasts to feed my science-craving brain. Brains On! has an energetic vibe, clear flow, and is well articulated. Having kids as co-hosts makes the show stand out from the many tedious educational programs out there.

"I think what makes us different from other kid podcasts is that we do have real kids as co-hosts in each episode, and we just integrate their smarts and ideas as much as we can," the host Molly Bloom shared with me at the headquarters of American Public Media in Saint Paul, Minnesota. "And we really care about not talking down to kids."

It's easy to be awed by the intelligence and eloquence of these kid co-hosts. For a non-native speaker, learning science through a new language is a thrilling experience.

"Our audience comes from all over the world and is not limited to English-speaking countries," Bloom said. "We have had co-hosts from the U.K., Sweden, and Eswatini, we want adults to like our show as much as kids do."

Brains On! is perfect for someone who plans to begin their first English podcast. If an advanced English speaker is how you introduce yourself, the podcast's spinoff debate show, Smash Boom Best, is all about high-level reasoning and argumentation, with endless snarky humor.


Content for Brains On! is often inspired by listeners' letters and comments. (Taiwan News/Chris Chang photos)

Podcasts from English media sources are obviously helpful, but how about a show that is tailored to Taiwanese English learners?

NG English (NG 英文) is a production from HOPE English, a platform that aims to revolutionize English teaching in Taiwan. The host, John Drummond, a southern Californian, fell in love with this island nation during his surfing trips and has now settled here.

"We don't want to make the show feel so academic and go over too many grammar rules," Drummond said. "The idea is to spark a little interest and show our listeners there are so many different people, and they all use English to help their careers."

Indeed, what makes NG 英文 so welcoming for first-time listeners is how the show intersperses Chinese explanations among the intriguing life stories. In addition to famous entertainers, the guests range from entrepreneurs to Olympic ice skaters, highlighting the advantages of language learning in life.

"I feel younger Taiwanese generations are equipped with an international mindset, and the technology is really shifting the way of language learning," Drummond said. "I believe making the show in half English, half Chinese, will make it more accessible to everyone: early beginners can follow along while fluid speakers can fully enjoy."

Listening to these amazing podcasts will not improve your English overnight. Finding individual interests and reasons for learning English will always be the answer to mastering this language.


NG 英文 show host John Drummond in his self-built studio.