Great Websites for Listening Material

Due to my own difficulties with it, listening has become the latest field of TESOL I am most interested in. It is my favorite class to teach and I tend to read more articles related to listening, teaching listening, and pronunciation than any other type. I just finished “Listening Myths” by Steven Brown and just gave a well-received presentation on intensive and extensive listening with listening journals. Needless to say, I am passionate about listening.

Teaching listening is by no means easy. Neither is finding something to listen to. When searching for a listening text, you have to consider many things. Any random video from YouTube just won’t work. Among the things you have to consider are:

  • level – is it at or slightly above your students present level?
  • topic – is it a topic that is interesting or they have the necessary background for?
  • speed – is it too fast or too slow?
  • accent – is it an accent you want students to be familiar with?
  • vocabulary – does it contain vocabulary they are likely to know or does it contain field-specific vocabulary they probably won’t know?
  • transcript – does it have a transcript that you can exploit?
  • length – is it too long or too short?
  • purpose – does the video need to serve a specific listening focus, such as containing lots of connected speech, or being an academic lecture conducive for note-taking practice?

So, with all these in mind, where can you find high-quality and useful listening material. Below, I offer some of my favorite websites from which to source listening. Can you add any more? Please leave a comment!

Authentic Listening Sources

  1. TED – interesting videos, subtitles, and transcripts.
  2. 5-Minute Lectures – University of Wisconsin-Madison short lecture series, no transcripts, unfortunatley.
  3. MIT OpenCourseWare – MIT lectures with video! Several even have transcripts and subtitles.
  4. RSA Animates – interesting lectures accompanied with really cool visual whiteboard art. Most have transcripts.
  5. Ignite – Short 5-minute lectures. No transcripts.
  6. Podbay – a site that links to hundreds of popular podcasts

ESL Listening Sources

  1. LyricsTraining – awesome music-based gap-fill game
  2. News in Levels – world news stories told in three levels of English
  3. BreakingNewsEnglish – world news stories told in several levels of English, at different speeds, and sometimes with different accents
  4. FluentU – Short videos with interactive subtitles (they include picture vocab), transcripts, and vocab exercises
  5. EnglishCentral – Short videos with listening, vocabulary, and speaking exercises.
  6. ESL Podcasts – This is an actually an article linking to 12 different ESL podcasts. My students prefer ESL podcasts to authentic ones, for what are probably obvious reasons.

YouTube Channels and Videos

  1. PBS Idea Channel – very fast, but very interesting
  2. Conversations with my 2-Year Old – funny series of videos
  3. Celebrities Read Mean Tweets – A series of videos from Jimmy Kimmel that are hilarious
  4. 9 YouTube Channels for Learning English – article with links to ESL YouTube channels
  5. The Argument Clinic – great video to teach negation, argument, contrastive stress
  6. My Blackberry Is Not Working – great video for puns
  7. Weird Things All Couples Fight About – great video to practice listening and passive-aggressive complaining
  8. The World’s Toughest Job – a tearjerker that all students will enjoy

Finally, not for students, but a reminder about how difficult listening in a second language is:

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