“NPR” stands for “National Public Radio,” a not-for-profit radio network that emphasizes high quality, in-depth, long-form news and conversation. Most radio shows are available as podcast episodes, and there is some content only available via podcast. For advanced English language learning, the NPR website and apps are a gold mine for working on listening, vocabulary, and even pronunciation. Virtually all content can be downloaded for free. There are hundreds of different voices to listen to. A large proportion of audio files are transcribed, word-for-word, within 24 hours of original broadcast on air.
To get started
Search for a topic that interests you, then narrow results to “heard on air.” Choose from among the listed conversations to pick the one you’d like to listen to.
For listening: Now you have access to the sound file, a summary, and a transcript. You can read the summary, then listen. You can listen first, then check the transcript. You can preview the vocabulary in the transcript with VocabGrabber, then listen.
For vocabulary: While listening, follow along with the transcript. Choose words and phrases that you want to explore more, or to repurpose for future conversations of your own. Look up phrases that you’re not certain of the meaning of in your favorite dictionary. You might even want to save words on a vocabulary.com list.
For pronunciation: Identify a voice you like. Pick a short segment of this person’s speech, and “shadow” their voice, trying to imitate their timing, intonation, and vocal style. This process is helpful for gaining greater flexibility in the pronunciation of connected speech. You may also notice tricky sounds that are hard to articulate clearly; these are good spots to go over a few times more slowly with the transcript before returning to the original sound file. Limit these focused practice sessions to 10 minutes or less. Imitate lots of different speakers over time.
Which show or podcast have you enjoyed listening to, and why?