What happens when English language learners meet English language podcasts?

Clara Gonzalez Sueyro
3 min readJun 12, 2017

News podcasts and English language learners don’t seem to talk to each other often. They don’t hang out in the same places, and so it’s unlikely they would date but if they did, they’d create sparks.

Source: https://giphy.com/search/gify

Podcasts, such as The Daily, NPR Hourly News Summary or BBC Global News, as you find them in iTunes, are designed by native English speakers for native English speakers.

English-language learners often turn to podcasts specifically designed for language acquisition. But these are boring and disengaging, according to my interviews with this audience.

Why should we care to make podcasts accessible to English-language learners?

Source: https://giphy.com/search/gify

I said: this is a win-win situation.

People learning English need to be exposed to a lot of content to improve their listening comprehension. In an ideal world, they would be able to do that by accessing and enjoying the great variety of podcasts in English that are already available on a range of topics, but so far that is an ideal world.

Let’s put it this way:

There are around 1.5 billion English-language learners worldwide who need to improve their English.

Producers of English-language podcasts will benefit with this new audience. It would represent an enormous increase in both reach and potential engagement.

Photo credit: The Washington Post

There are over 300,000 podcasts that can do the job.

Photo credit: http://tidbits.com/

You might be asking, why can’t people learning English access and enjoy the podcasts as they are distributed today?

Well, let’s try an empathy simulation exercise.

Imagine you are an international student recently arrived to Stanford University. You will hear to the following audio:

Voice: Adriana Garcia — http://jsk.stanford.edu/fellows/class-of-2017/adriana-garcia/

A domestic undergraduate will have a slightly different experience:

Voice: Adriana Garcia — http://jsk.stanford.edu/fellows/class-of-2017/adriana-garcia/

Now we are beginning to see why it is important for English-language learners to acquire new vocabulary and improve listening comprehension.

Podcasts, as they exist today, can’t do the job. They need some extra help and this is where project LEAP comes to the rescue.

LEAP will help English language learners by:

  1. Forming a daily habit of practicing listening to English.
  2. Getting the most out of podcasts because it is level-appropriate and intrinsically interesting to them.
  3. Connecting the word to a phrase or sentence that it occurs in so that learning is contextualized.

Check LEAP and join our email list at http://learnenglishwithanypodcast.com/

Thanks for reading, watching and listening!



Clara Gonzalez Sueyro

2016–2017 Fellow @JSKstanford. UX Researcher and Anthropologist based in Palo Alto, California.