The good news is that at an advanced level, you can listen to any podcast you want, including podcasts for native speakers of which there are millions. All you need to do is type a topic that you’re interested in into the search bar of a podcast app. And you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for.
At the same time, faced with millions of options, you can feel intimidated. I get it. You may worry about picking the wrong one. Listen, there is no wrong one. And the right one is whichever one is right for you: for your needs, for your level and for your interest.
But to make life a bit easier I’ve put together this list of 11 podcasts for advanced English learners. You’ll find investigative journalism podcasts, interview podcasts, comedy podcasts and more. A big shout out to Leo listener Serguei who listens to lots of podcasts and who helped me put this list together. So let’s get into it.
Juicy bonus – some of these podcasts have also been transformed into TV series. Keep reading to find out which ones. By the way, if you’re struggling to understand native speakers when they talk fast, I recommend Movies on the Run. It’s an audio course that will teach 10 English listening skills secrets through movie quotes.
Investigative Journalism Podcasts for Advanced English Learners
#1 The Shrink Next Door
A while back I was looking for an investigative journalism podcast that was not a true crime podcast. You’ll find tons of true crime podcasts out there, the most famous of which is Serial.
Spoiler – you won’t find any true crime podcasts on this list because I wanted it to be a bit different. Anyway, after a bit of searching, I came across “The Shrink Next Door”.
This is a podcast that I binged in a day. That’s why I love investigative journalism – the stories are so compelling that you can’t wait to listen to the next episode. And when you’re motivated to listen to something, you keep coming back to practise your listening and your English.
The podcast is the story of Ike and Marty. Ike was Marty’s shrink. Shrink is a word worth learning – it’s an informal way to say psychiatrist. But Ike gradually exerts more and more influence over Marty’s life to an extent that’s almost unbelievable.
If you like TV series, then you’ll be pleased to know that “The Shrink Next Door” has become a TV series starring three of my favorite actors: Kathryn Hahn, Paul Rudd and Will Ferrel.
#2 The Dropout
This is another super compelling podcast that tells of the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes, the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire. Elizabeth dropped out of college to found Theranos, a company that invented a revolutionary blood test machine that needed only small amounts of blood to return rapid results for a wide range of tests.
Sounds amazing right? As you can imagine, the business world went wild for the big claims this Silicon Valley startup was making. Huge names poured millions of dollars into the company. The problem is, it turned out that it was all lies as Theranos could not get its device to work properly. Elizabeth Holmes is now awaiting trial for fraud and conspiracy.
This is an amazing podcast about the power of vision and wanting to believe something that’s too good to be true. And how a charismatic founder can rally people to a cause that isn’t even there. The podcast will let you take a look at the psychology of Holmes, so you can try to understand how built and lost an empire on lies.
This is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. Highly recommended. Guess what, The Dropout has also become a TV series!
#3 The Dream
This is one of my favourite podcasts. There have been two seasons so far, both excellent. Jane Marie, the presenter is great, she’s so down-to-earth and funny.
The website vulture.com described “The Dream” as “a vibrant and sustained inquiry into various systems of capitalist exploitation”. So let me try to give you an explanation.
In season one, Jane Marie investigates the world of multi-level marketing. So if you’ve ever seen friends or family trying and failing to sell leggings, essential oils or overpriced make-up online, then that’s multi-level marketing or an MLM. Before this podcast, I’d never really heard of MLMs as they’re more of an American phenomenon.
Basically, MLMs are pyramid schemes. So they’re very good for the people at the top who make a ton of money. The problem is that the people at the bottom are left with very little money or even debt because they can’t sell the products they’ve bought from people higher up.
The second season is all about the wellness industry and all the weird powders, potions, detoxes, juices and vitamins that you can now buy. This season tries to understand the obsession with the gigantic wellness industry.
And you’ll learn that some of these products are no good and that some can even do harm. Again this is an excellent season to listen to to understand some aspects of American life, like the obsession with vitamins. Be sure to check out the other Little Everywhere shows.
This podcast tells a similar story to The Dropout. WeCrashed is about the rise and fall of another promising start-up, WeWork. Are you noticing a pattern here in the podcasts I’m recommending!?
WeWork was founded by another charismatic young person, in this case Adam Neumann, an Israeli who moved to the USA for his studies. In the end he dropped out of his studies too, like Elizabeth Holmes, to focus on his entrepreneurial dreams. He started out making baby clothes which was the wrong business for him.
But he seemed to find his calling with WeWork, a co-working space start-up. He had a huge vision for what WeWork could become – elevating the world’s consciousness, with his community company. But that didn’t quite add up in reality on an actual balance sheet.
One of the favourite things about this podcast is when they interview Professor Scott Galloway who is just so funny! As he said of We Work – “dude, you’re renting desks! You’re not the Messiah.”
By the way, if you like Prof Galloway’s dry sense of humour, then you might enjoy the Prof G Show. Or the Pivot show that he co-hosts with Kara Swisher. Bonus: WeCrashed is also going to become a TV series starring Anne Hathaway and Jared Leto!
#5 On Being with Krista Tippett
You’ll actually find several podcasts over at On Being such as Poetry Unbound and This Movie Changed Me. As you can imagine, that last one piqued my interest.
This podcast is award-winning and has been downloaded over 200 million times. Krista Tippet interviews top thinkers, writers, academics etc about the big questions:
- What does it mean to be human?
- How do we want to live?
- And who will we be to each other?
You’ll also find related shows like Living the Questions where Krista muses on questions from our listening community. And Becoming Wise, short clips from the podcast for you to listen to on a tea break. Huge news, the episodes come with transcripts! This makes this podcast one of the top one on this list for improving your advanced English listening and language skills with podcasts.
#6 Armchair Expert
If you want to listen to long-form interviews, then this is a great option. These unscripted interviews are a great way to listen to real English. And hear how people talk in real-life, spontaneous conversations. Armchair Expert describes itself as a podcast that celebrates the messiness of being human.
The host, Dax Shepard, loves talking to people. Join him and co-host Monica Padman for honest conversations with celebrities, authors and academics as they tell their stories of vulnerability and growth.
If you’re curious about the name of the podcast, Dan describes himself as an armchair expert because he’s working to discover great truths outside of a lab. This puts him squarely in the tradition of 16th century scientists, the armchair experts.
Cool fact: Dan is married to actor Kristen Bell and she’s a guest in one of the episodes.
#7 Business Wars
Coke vs Pepsi. Burger King vs Mcdonalds. Nike vs Adidas. As host David Brown puts it: “Behind every successful business, there’s a hard fought war that the public rarely gets to see.” This podcast will take you behind the scenes of these famous business rivalries, between the world’s most famous companies.
Each season deals with a different pair of companies in a particular industry. If you’re a movie fan like me, you might enjoy this season about Netflix vs Blockbuster.
If you’re into business strategy or you have your own business, then you’ll enjoy learning about how the winners of the business war came out on top. As you listen, you’ll also learn how these business wars have shaped not just the economy, but also the culture.
#8 The Tim Ferris Show
You probably know who Tim Ferris is if you’ve heard of his book, “The 4-Hour Work Week”. His podcast has had 100s of millions of downloads and has come out top in best podcast lists. Apple podcasts often ranks it as the #1 business podcast.
He invites top performers, not just in business but also sport, the arts etc, onto the show to learn more about their tactics, tools and routines. That way you can apply them to your life, whether that’s books to read, a morning routine to try or time-management tips to implement.
Some of your favourite authors, actors, sports people etc have probably already been on the podcast. You can simply type a name in the search bar to find out. These podcasts are long, 2 hours or so, but that will give you deep immersion into informal spoken English.
Other Advanced English Podcasts
#9 Deserter Pubcast
Want to listen to British English while having a laugh? Normally I could recommend my pal Luke from Luke’s English podcast. And technically we could also include Armchair Expert here as the host Dax Shepard as he is a comedian. But, the Deserter Pubcast is something a little different.
Dulwich Raider and Dirty South, not their real names, podcast from South London. You’ll hear them broadcast from pubs in and around London. And listen to two real British English presenters chat like a couple of people down the pub would.
This is an immersion in real British life including a lot of things you might not understand like the names of pubs, different places around London and the nicknames of their friends.
This is the perfect podcast if you want to listen to conversations in English, especially British English. The podcast is recorded outside so it’s not the easiest one to listen to.
But then again, listening to conversation with background noise is great preparation for real life. Chances are you’ll be chatting to people in not ideal environments like noisy streets or noist pubs. And this podcast will be great preparation for that!
#10 Bitches Get Riches Podcast
Are you a millennial? If you need some dough (money ;)) and you don’t know where to go in this patriarchal, capitalist hellscape, as the girls sing in the intro, then this is the podcast for you! Bitches Get Riches is an millennial money advice blog with endless Harry Potter references.
They (Kitty and Piggy) now also run a podcast that’s a great way to hear how two friends chat to each other informally in English. To be honest, you may struggle to understand some of the jokes they make and what they reference. But who cares!? They’re funny and you’ll learn some tips to manage your money better.
In the podcast, the bitches answer listener questions such as: What Do I Need to Know about Moving into My First Apartment? I’m Not Ready to Buy a House—But How Do I *Get Ready* to Get Ready? I’ve Given up on My Dream Career. Where Do I Go From Here? Bonus: the season one episodes have transcripts! Perfect for breaking your passive listening habits.
#11 Warm Regards
Warm Regards describes itself as a climate podcast about people, hosted by Jacquelyn Gill, a paleoecologist at the University of Maine, and Ramesh Laungani, a biologist at Doane University.
Their goal is to humanize the science of the climate crisis and to uplift the voices of the people most affected by our warming world. They have honest, real and raw conversations with newsmakers, researchers, activists, policymakers, artists, and others.
If you’re interested in solving our biggest challenge, while also asking what it means to be human, then you’ll love these messy and heartfelt conversations about climate change. Science communication with a heart.
Podcasts For Advanced English Learners
So there you have it, 11 podcasts that are perfect for advanced English learners. Your next step is to experiment with them. Listen and see if you like them and if they’re at your level. If not, try another one. Once you’ve found a podcast that suits you though, just listening to these podcasts is not enough to improve your English listening skills.
You need to make your listening active with podcasts. You can prepare yourself before you listen by reading the show notes. After the episode, why not leave a comment on the website of the podcast? If you’ve got a friend or teacher who listens to the podcast, why not chat to them about it?
Challenge yourself to learn 3-5 new words or expressions in each podcast. Pick the ones that interest you and that you think you’ll use and try them out in your speech or writing. The possibilities are endless.
Tell me in the comments – what are your favourite advanced English podcasts? Are there any podcasts from this list that you want to listen to?
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