Using Podcasts to Learn English (Part 1)

The internet has changed the world. We now live in an instantly connected global society. As long as you have access to an online computer, you can find out about events almost as soon as they happen. Take the sad story of the death of Michael Jackson as an example. Within seconds of the event, millions of people all around the world knew what had happened: The King of Pop had died.

It’s not all sad news stories though. The internet can be a really useful tool to help you learn English, and there are lots of ways to do this. You can read blogs, like this one. People are blogging all the time, about lots of topics. If you like, you can blog about your own life too. As well as that, you can use social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace to try and make friends and chat with other people around the world. You can use Twitter, in order to keep up with the latest conversation topics, follow interesting people, tweet about yourself and read other people’s tweets. You can also use YouTube to watch videos on almost any topic in English, or to upload your own videos for the world to see.

In my opinion, podcasts are one of the best ways to use the internet to improve your English. There are lots of podcasts on the internet and almost all of them are free. But, which are the best ones out there, and more importantly what actually is a podcast?

This is part 1 of a series of blog posts I’m going to write about podcasts. In this series, I’ll explain what podcasts are, how to listen to them and how to use them to improve your English. I’ll also recommend some good podcasts that you can find on the internet and can download for free.

So, watch this space for more blog posts about podcasts in the near future. For now though, have a look at the definitions of some of the useful ‘internet vocabulary’ I have used in this blog post, and feel free to write a comment or ask a question if you want to.


podcast - n (C) an audio programme which you can listen to on the internet, or download and listen to on your computer or mp3 player. 'Pod' comes from the word 'iPod' and 'cast' comes from the word 'broadcast'. So, a podcast is like a broadcast (e.g. a radio show) on your iPod.

online - adj connected to the internet. The opposite is offline. E.g. my computer is offline at the moment because I don't have an internet connection at home.

blog - n (C) a website on which someone can regularly write posts, comments, stories, reports, diary entries, etc. Blogs are regularly updated. Blog is short for web-log.

blog - v to write on a blog. E.g. "I'm just blogging about how to use the internet to learn English".

blog post - n (C) an article, story, report, etc which has been written on a blog, by an author of the blog

social networking site - n (C) a website which people use to make friends, chat to people and share music & video, and make social arrangements

to chat - v this has two meanings. The most common meaning is to have an informal conversation with someone (it could be face to face or on the telephone), e.g. "I was just chatting with your Mum about what you want for your birthday...". The second meaning is newer than the first, and it means to have a text conversation with someone on the internet, using a messaging service like MSN Messenger or in an internet chat room.

chat - n (C) an informal spoken conversation, or a text conversation on the internet. E.g. "I had a chat with Mum about what you wanted for your birthday..."

to keep up with something - phrasal verb to stay up-to-date with something. E.g. "I like to keep up with the latest film reviews by using the BBC's film review website" or "I use Facebook to keep up with what my friends are doing"

tweet - n (C) a status update or comment which has been written on the website Twitter. It's a new word which is used for updates written on Twitter only. E.g. "Follow our tweets by visiting the LSE Twitter page"

tweet - v to write a status update or comment on Twitter. E.g. "The London School of English tweets about something every day"

upload - v to put an audio file, video file or photograph onto the internet from your computer. E.g. "Click here to upload your profile picture" or "You can't upload videos onto YouTube which are longer than 10 minutes"

download - v (and a noun sometimes) to take an audio file, video file or photograph from the internet and save it on your computer. E.g. "I downloaded Skype last night, so we can use it to chat from now on" or "Click here to download the mp3"

watch this space - fixed expression this is a common expression that people use to say a development is coming so pay attention to this. it is often used in newspapers, on TV and on websites. E.g. "Watch this space for news of the latest iPhone release"

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