Podcast 18: What You Should Listen To

Feb 17, 2017 | podcast | 4 comments

2 weeks ago, I told you that you shouldn’t listen to TED talks.


That episode is now my most popular one on Soundcloud.


It seems you like to be told what’s not good for you.


So let’s talk about what you should listen to.


First a disclaimer though.


Only you can decide what you should listen to.


I don’t like telling people what they should and shouldn’t listen to in English. Because, unless you’ve told me, I don’t know why you’re learning. And before you choose to listen to anything, you need to ask yourself “why?”.


  • Why am I working on my comprehension skills?
  • What do I want to understand?


Only you can answer that. Then you’ll know what you should listen to.


Now you’re confused though. You’re thinking, wait a second. Why are you telling us what we should listen to then?


Let’s talk about my why. I started this website for students who struggle to understand conversational English.


That’s you if you find TED talks ok to understand. But you would worry about chatting to that TED speaker over a coffee. And you still need subtitles to understand the dialogue in the films and series you watch.


That said, if you want to listen to the news or watch documentaries because your aim is to watch and understand them in real life, by all means, keep doing it.


But if you’re living in an English-speaking country. Or you’d like to one day. Or if you have to interact with English-speaking colleagues. Or even if you just want to understand shows and films without subtitles, you need a different approach.


TED talks, documentaries, the news – won’t help you with those comprehension problems.


You need to expose yourself to conversational English with all its particular difficulties.


  • No slides, no pauses for effect, and no internal organisation like a presentation to help you follow. When you transcribe a presentation or speech it looks almost like normal written language. When you transcribe (write down a recording of) conversational English, it looks like an incoherent mess.
  • Casual, not careful pronunciation and delivery of words. In more academic types of English (speeches, talks, news etc), speakers take more care to pronounce words and use intonation for effect. This makes it easier to understand their message. In conversational English, we make less of an effort, we relax our pronunciation. And make some words sound completely different to how you’d expect.

So, if you want to master conversational English, you’ll love today’s episode.

While Listening

I’ve picked some tricky sections for you to listen to and write down. Listen to them 3-5 times, write what you hear and then compare what you wrote with the answers below. What words or expressions did you miss? What did you mishear? Were there any new words?


Dictation 1

Cara's fast, natural English podcast

Dictation 2

Cara's fast, natural English podcast

Dictation 3

Cara's fast, natural English podcast

Dictation Answers

Here are the transcribed sections of each dictation. Which words or expressions did you find difficult to catch? Let me know in the comments.

Dictation 1: So a couple of weeks ago I spoke to you about why you shouldn’t listen to TED talks

Dictation 2: Or that could be on the radio you know sometimes there are radio shows where it’s  just kind of people having a chat really

Dictation 3: where…they…are..you know based on interviews..and the interviews are really unscripted chats

19 Listening Resources To Help Your Understand Fast-Talking Native English Speakers



For learners:

Luke’s English podcast: http://teacherluke.co.uk/

You can hear me chat with Luke in these episodes of the podcast:

For native speakers:

You could try listening to the Being Boss podcast which is for creative entrepreneurs. If you’re into entrepreneurship, you might also enjoy the School of Greatness podcast. Also, check out the 11 best advanced English podcasts. 

You can try podcasts by comedians. But, beware

  • Offensive language and content
  • Private jokes between the presenters
  • Cultural references you may not understand
  • Long episodes: 1.5 – 2 hours

One advantage is that they’re usually video podcasts, so you can watch the speak and use their body language to help you understand. Or just download the Mp3 file of the podcast to train your ears!

Otherwise, go into whichever podcasting app you use and start typing topics that interest you and see what suggestions come up!


Talk Shows


If you want to know more about how to use talk shows to improve your English check out this post I wrote for the iTalki website. Otherwise here are some suggestions:


Learner Resources



TV Series


I love so many different TV series. Some of my favourites are:

  • Breaking Bad
  • Game of Thrones
  • Man Seeking Woman
  • Stranger Things
  • Gilmore Girls
  • The Americans

Sometimes, instead of watching a film, I prefer to watch 2 episodes of Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad back to back. The acting, scenario, visuals etc are so good it feels like I’ve just watched a film.

I’ve recently started watching People of Earth. You can watch a preview here The dialogue sounds like people chatting in real life. And the characters are realistic and adorable. Also, it’s about aliens taking over the earth.

If you’re really motivated to understand native speakers at full-speed with lots of slang, then I recommend that you watch reality TV. Here are 5 reality TV shows to get started.




I’m not a big YouTuber, but my partner and I like Kyde and Eric’s channel. They’re a vlogging American couple who live in Japan

If you’ve got more resources like these ones to share, tell us about them in the comments.

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Want to use your favourite movie or TV show to understand native English speakers when they talk fast? Download your free guide, Understand Movies in English.

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