Improve Your Conversation Skills Through Listening: Four Podcasts About Real Life Recorded by Real People

Have you noticed that podcasts are super popular right now? Podcasts can be downloaded onto your computer or your phone and listened to anywhere – in the car, on the bus, in the kitchen, or just when sitting at your desk.

You can find podcasts on just about any topic, but for me, the best ones focus on life. That’s it. Life. Real life questions, concerns, confusions, and challenges, discussed by real people who are sharing their personal experiences with the world.

If you’re learning English AND you’re interested in understanding more about the way people live their lives in the real world, podcasts are perfect for you.

Even better, if you listen to podcasts that involve interviews and real conversations between two people, you can learn a lot about conversation skills and communication strategies.

Because many podcasts are recorded by everyday people who weren’t trained in skills of radio or television broadcasts, they’re often being their authentic selves when speaking.

That means they sometimes interrupt and jump into conversations with enthusiasm, or show active listening by making affirmative sounds and giving short responses to keep the other person talking.

That means that they use natural English: showing their excitement, frustration, or confusion through stress and intonation.

So even though you can easily listen to podcasts for pure enjoyment and education, absorbing the vocabulary used by native speakers, you can also listen more intentionally, focusing on the communication strategies you want to start using in your real life English conversations.

In this article, I’m going to talk about some of my favorite podcasts and how you can listen more carefully to these podcasts in order to absorb, learn, and imitate natural, native speech.

(You’ll notice that a lot of these podcasts focus on creativity, inspiration, and connecting with others and the world around you, because these are the topics I most enjoy learning about.)

You can use these strategies with podcasts more related to your own interests, but I hope I convince you to listen to how these people talk about their own lives and experiences!


Real Talk Radio with Nicole Antoinette

The name of this podcast says it all. Real Talk Radio is about two people having real conversations about the challenges of being human, which can include real struggles, professional, personal, health-related, or spiritual.

Nicole and her guests open up about what’s really going on in their lives, and that can mean talking about their morning routines, their favorite books or other obsessions, or projects they’re looking forward to.

Why is this podcast good for you if you’re focusing on conversation skills in English?

Because these podcasts are two hours long, Nicole and her guests let down their guard, which means their language is completely natural, unscripted, and authentic.

You’ll hear people show excitement through their intonation, change their tones when talking about difficult or frustrating topics, and punctuate their sentences with emphatic profanity (as well as clear word stress!).

How should you use this podcast to improve your conversation skills?

Listen to how Nicole and her guests respond to each other. How do they refer back to different topics that were mentioned? How do they show excitement? (Nicole often says, “I am obsessed with everything you just said.”) How do they transition between topics when one is finished?

Since the podcasts are usually about two hours long, it is more like a conversation you would have with friends on the phone or hanging out. It gives you a chance to see how people relate to each other in English.

Finally, none of these people have radio voices! They are real people, so that means you can practice listening to people with different local accents and ways of speaking. Here are some examples: Jordan Axani, Shenee Howard, Jeff Sanders, and Susan Hyatt.


Sounds Good with Branden Harvey

Branden Harvey focuses on how people spread love and positivity in the world with the Sounds Good podcast.

In each episode, Branden connects with someone whose life is very likely to inspire you, not just because they are creative people.

Branden himself is interesting to listen to – he’s in his early 20s and became well-known because of his use of Snapchat, so he basically represents youthful optimism and energy.

Why is this podcast good for you if you’re focusing on conversation skills in English?

Branden is a real person who expresses himself in the language of today, so when he’s speaking, he shows his interest and enthusiasm through active listening techniques, intonation, and those expressions that are part of native speech.

You can learn a lot by seeing how he engages his guests – sometimes letting them ramble on, other times trying to refocus them with questions, or just jumping in with his own insights.

How should you use this podcast to improve your conversation skills?

Besides paying attention to how Branden engages his guests, you should use this podcast to understand the natural ebb-and-flow, back-and-forth of conversation.

More than that, you can listen carefully to how accents affect speech.

Since he is based in Nashville (in the American South), some of his guests have very American accents which gives you a chance to practice listening to the way real people talk in certain regions.

You can also see how some guests go off topic and share their own ideas – which can happen in a real-life conversation, too!

Pay attention to how he goes with it and lets the conversation flow naturally rather than trying to control what the other person is saying.

Here are a few episodes to start with: Ruthie Lindsey, Aaron Draplin, Dallas Clayton (who actually has this conversation on a cell phone!), and BC Serna.


The Good Life Project with Jonathan Fields

This podcast is one that I wasn’t sure about including because Jonathan has been interviewing people for years and has totally acquired the radio voice. Many of his guests have become well-known in the US and abroad, but the thing is, they’re still talking about real life and their approach to living a good life.

So if you’re looking for a dose of inspiration and learning about how how people have followed their intuition to achieve their dreams, this is an excellent podcast for you.

Why is this podcast good for you if you’re focusing on conversation skills in English?

These podcasts often focus on the stories of his guests’ lives and how they have gone through changes and adapted their approaches to life, career, home, and family.

As such, they go beyond the standard small talk conversations or job interviews and talk about issues that matter to these guests and his listeners.

How should you use this podcast to improve your conversation skills?

Because they are often tracing the history of important moments in their lives, there is a emphasis on transition language, questions that lead guests back to their thoughts, and language that rephrases or restates an idea.

This is a good podcast to listen to if you want to improve your vocabulary in telling your personal story, and learning how to “reflect” or “echo” what the other person has said to deepen the connection.

Start with these episodes: Mark Manson (contains profanity but they talk about why!), Chris Guillebeau, Sekou Andrews, and Elizabeth Gilbert.


Being Boss Podcast

If you have any interest in creativity, entrepreneurship, or creating good habits in your life in order to move you toward your goals, you’ll like the Being Boss podcast. While the podcast is geared towards business owners and entrepreneurs, the topics cover all aspects of life.

In my opinion, the reason this podcast has become so successful is that the hosts, Kathleen Shannon and Emily Thompson, are open-minded, genuine people who are willing to talk about just about anything.

The podcast started with these two friends recording their conversations on topics related to creating successful businesses, but it has evolved.

Each week, they interview a guest, which enables you to listen to three people having a serious and often fun – and funny! – conversation about the ups and downs of life and work.

Why is this podcast good for you if you’re focusing on conversation skills in English?

As I mentioned, Emily and Kathleen are real people, and they are incredibly expressive in the way they speak. Emily tends to be sarcastic, direct, and concise with her responses, and Kathleen tends to ramble, ask questions, and interrupt wanting to know more information.

By listening to the podcast, you will get a sense of different conversation styles and ways of connecting to other people.

How should you use this podcast to improve your conversation skills?

In particular, this podcast is good for focusing on transitions between topics, changing the subject, and both good and bad ways to interrupt to show enthusiasm and interest.

As they talk, they often acknowledge that they’re getting off topic, and do a good job bringing the conversation back to the main point. These are all important skills for having a real conversation especially in a group of people!

Try listening to these episodes: Katie Lee, Ramit Sethi, Brené Brown, and Paul Jarvis.

Listen to the Being Boss podcast.

Your Turn

So now you know – these are four of my favorite podcasts because of their focus on real conversations between real people, otherwise known as real talk.

Besides learning conversation skills, I hope tuning into these podcasts helps give you a sense of how English is used in today’s culture talking about topics that are important to so many of us.

Now it’s your turn – what podcasts do you listen to? Do you have any favorite podcasts that help you improve your English? What about podcasts focused on other subjects?

Leave a comment sharing your favorite podcasts and why you listen to them! I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Ready to communicate more effectively in conversations? Learn communication skills that enable you to connect with other people and engage in natural conversations and professional discussions. Get started here.

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