October 1, 2020

Top 5 ways to listen to real English

No matter how many times you practise listening exercises from English class, it won’t prepare you for the ‘real’ English you will hear when you’re living and working in the UK.

Although listening exercises are important in the beginning of your learning journey, listening to the way people actually speak is essential. In real life, people often speak more quickly, with an accent and with mistakes and broken speech, which is common in real conversations.

So how can you practise listening to more natural speech?

Here are the top 5 ways to practise listening to real English:

1. Podcasts

One of the best ways to stay motivated when practising your listening is to listen to things you enjoy. There are podcasts on all kinds of subjects from painting to politics so whatever your interests, there will be a podcast out there for you.

Check out the podcasts from BBC to get started:


Tip: To save time, listen to podcasts while you are doing other things such as cooking, driving, taking a bus or exercising.

2. TV Series

Netflix has allowed us to watch lots of TV series from all over the world. They are not only entertaining but also provide a fantastic opportunity to practise listening. If you are living in the UK and want to hear different British accents, I can recommend The Crown, Peaky Blinders, Shameless to name but a few. Check them out on Netflix:


Tip: Watch with English subtitles to begin with. It can really help to see the words when listening to natural speech, especially when people have unfamiliar accents.

3. Songs

Songs are a fantastic way to listen to English in an interesting way. Songs emphasise the rhythm of English, which will help you when you are listening to people speaking too. Melodies also make words and phrases memorable, as does the emotion we often feel when listening to music. From rock to pop, to folk, to hip hop, there is a genre of music everyone will love. I always use Spotify to find new music: www.spotify.com

Tip: Search for your favourite songs on Youtube with ‘lyrics’ and sing along. It will help you with your pronunciation skills and you’ll feel great!

4. Radio

I love listening to the radio. I like that there are conversations, interviews and songs all in one place. You can also do other things while you are listening to save time. If you are not based in the UK, you can now tune into British stations online. The BBC have lots of great radio stations which cater to different ages and musical tastes. Check them out here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds

Tip: If you are living in the UK, tune into your local radio station. Listening to people from your local area more regularly will help you to become more familiar with the local accents.

5. Earwigging

What is ‘earwigging’? Well, it’s listening to other people’s conversations. As a curious person myself (some may say nosey!), I often listen to people’s conversations – on the bus, on the train or in the queue for the supermarket! It can be a good way to become familiar with local accents and also help you to understand how people use English every day.

Tip: Next time you’re on a train journey, take out your headphones and listen to the people around you. You may even be able to start a conversation and make a new friend :-)

Happy Listening! If you would like more help with your listening skills, join one of my speaking and listening courses. Get in touch for more information.