For most people, the answer is that they need to learn more grammar and vocabulary. Yes, that is certainly necessary but it isn’t enough. The problem with learning English as a second language (ESL) is that the basics like memorizing the alphabet, pronunciation rules, and basic grammar rules are not difficult to master.
All of us can do it with patience and practice; we just have to be willing to invest our time and make learning English a priority in our lives. But what about speaking? We all know people who mastered their ESL skills quite well but only at an elementary level. They might understand almost everything you say but they lack fluency because they don’t speak very often or feel embarrassed when they do it. If this sounds familiar then you may want to consider listening to podcasts in English.
Listening is the most important skill for ESL students; it is also much harder than speaking because we need time and patience to learn a language by ear. It’s a bit like learning how to ride a bicycle: you know everything there is to be known about balancing and steering but when you get on your bike, you have no idea how to do it correctly. That takes practice!
So where can you find good material for listening practice? The simple answer would be ‘YouTube’. However, if possible I would recommend avoiding YouTube because there are many distractions that will take your attention away from the video content. Instead, try downloading episodes from iTunes or Podcast Addict then listen carefully while following along with the transcripts. It is very important to learn English by ear because this will enable you to speak correctly and enjoy complete control over your speech.
Make sure you understand every word the speakers say! Don’t focus on certain phrases or words; listen carefully and treat it like a normal conversation. If necessary, rewind the video and listen to it again until you’re confident that you know what was said. Then check that everything makes sense by reading through the transcript (you can find these resources by searching for “podcast” in Google). Finally, practice speaking aloud as much as possible so that you don’t forget what you learned listening to podcasts in English. Keep these 3 steps simple but efficient if you really want to become good at English quickly!