How to Read Chinese Characters: A Beginner’s Guide

It will only take 11 minutes to read this post!

Learning to read Chinese characters is something that many students of Chinese, who often just begin learning to speak, are reluctant to show interest in. I was one of those ‘students’, if I can even call myself that, who started to learn Chinese out of necessity. Once I got over the idea that learning to read Chinese was impossible, I realised how much easier my life had become in China, and how liberating it was to be able to read even just a handful of Chinese characters.

Of course, no one’s suggesting it’s an ‘easy’ journey. There are plenty of avenues to go down before being able to read, and below are some of the ‘stages’ you might want to visit whilst learning to read Chinese characters.

Before starting to read, you need to decide whether you’ll learn to read simplified or traditional Chinese characters. Chances are that you’ll automatically choose to learn simplified characters since this is the written language used in the mainland of China, and they are after all, ‘simplified’. However, don’t forget to take a look at traditional characters, especially later down the line.



Let me take you back to 2011 when I first arrived in China.  I had no intention of learning to read Chinese characters because back then, written Chinese looked like this:

Zip to several (too many) years later, when I eventually allowed myself to be introduced to the idea of Chinese characters. Below, I’m going to outline a few ‘steps’ you can go through to start recognizing and reading Chinese characters. But for now, I’m going to establish some general ‘rules’ for reading a Chinese character.

  1. Chinese characters are pictures

On a very simple level, Chinese characters are made up of small pictures, some literal whilst others are quite abstract.

  1. Chinese characters can be ‘broken down’ into separate parts

As mentioned above, Chinese characters are made up of small pictures, that make a full character. These ‘separate parts’ each have their own meaning or pronunciation.

  1. The separate parts have their own meaning

In every character, there is at least one ‘part’ that suggests the ‘meaning’ of a character. Sometimes, there are more than one ‘part’ of a Chinese character that suggests meaning, and these are often part of a more complex and abstract idea.

  1. One ‘part’ provides pronunciation

At least one ‘part’ of a character helps the reader to know how to speak the character. This ‘part’ is often on the right-hand side of a character.

  1. Balance is important in a character

The balance in a character can help us to read, as it helps the ‘breakdown’ of a character.

These are just guidelines, and as you learn to read more Chinese characters, you’ll find many that don’t fit this rule.


When I was first started to learn to read Chinese characters, my teacher first introduced me to characters known as pictographs. These are characters that basically look like the name of the object, which makes them a. fun to learn, and b.easier to remember.

Pictographs or pictograms were the first Chinese characters that show objects in their most rudimentary form. Although some pictographs have changed from their original bone oracle characters, most are still related to the word they depict.

The following are examples of pictograph characters:

I suspect that at first glance, you may not make the connections, but once you learn their meanings, you’ll be face-palming with an ‘oh, yeah!’

What did I tell you?

Well, that’s the reaction I had anyway, and the realisation that Chinese characters had a meaning that I could actually understand was one of the reasons why I stuck with learning to read Chinese.

You can get started learning pictographs in ‘Learn to Read with these 20 Chinese Pictographs’.

The reason why I recommend learning pictographs first is that many of them are also radicals, which you also need to learn. Of course, you can learn radicals first, but pictographs are a good ‘unscary’ introduction to Chinese characters that served me well!


A really important step of learning to read Chinese character is to learn the radicals. No, not the revolutionary type, the ones that we like to call the ‘building-blocks’ of Chinese characters. The reason why learning radicals is probably the next best step is that after learning the pictographs, characters begin to get bigger and slightly more complex, but NOT impossible to learn!

There are approximately 214 radicals in Chinese, which may seem a lot, but once you have learned around one-quarter of these radicals, you might want to continue by learning the remainder simultaneously with the characters in the step below.

Radicals generally provide you with the ‘meaning’ of a character, or sometimes the pronunciation. When I say ‘meaning’, there are times when this will only be a mere hint, and the origins of these characters (depending on the person) may need to be studied in more detail in order to fully understand it. It often helps to look at the traditional version to see the origins of a character.

For example, the simplified character 东 (dōng) meaning ‘east’ doesn’t really help us to find a meaning, whereas looking at the traditional character, 東 will help you to do deduce meaning and create a story.

If you find the origins of characters interesting, I really recommend taking a look at the Fun with Chinese Character book series that breaks down characters, often considering Chinese culture and going back to the bone oracle where possible.

I don’t think that it’s necessarily imperative to look at the origins of a character to help you remember it. There are other methods you can use to help you read characters, such as this ‘story’ method.


Once you’ve learned some pictographs, you’ll soon be able to put some of them together (or break them apart) to learn more complex characters, known as 会意 (huì yì) combined Ideographs or ‘meeting of ideas’. These are characters that combine 2 or more pictographs or ideographs to make a new character.

These are the most enjoyable characters to learn, as there is often interesting (and sometimes entertaining) logic behind their creation.

This is also the most natural progression from pictographs and also to learn some of the more advanced radicals at the same time as this will help both along.

Build on the pictographs and radicals that you’re studying to learn these compound characters.

You can learn more about pictographs, combined ideographs and the other types of Chinese characters here.


As I mentioned in the five steps at the beginning of my post, a Chinese character also tells the reader how to pronounce the character, which is an essential part of learning to read.

Once you’ve built up a number of characters in your ‘bank’, you’ll soon be able to take a good stab at ‘guessing’ the pronunciation of a character.

Characters that combine pictographs and phonetics are known as 形声 (xíng shēng) or Determinative-Phonetic characters

You’ll probably find that there are some radicals that act mostly as the ‘determinative’ part of the character, such as 木 the tree radical, whereas others appear mostly for the pronunciation, like the (gōng) radical.

It’s fair to say there are some tricksters out there, that will only provide you with a ‘hint’ of how to pronounce the character.

For example, some characters have very similar pronunciation:

The pronunciation of 任 rèn is 壬 rén. The only difference is a slight change from the second tone to 4th tone (learn more about tones here).

However, there are examples such as 部 bù, that has the 阝 fù sound as its pronunciation.

Once you’ve started to read Chinese characters, remembering them all can become a challenge! There are several methods below that you can try in order to make reading and remembering characters a little easier!


As mentioned earlier, as Chinese characters are made up of small ‘pictures’, which makes it easier to create ‘stories’ around a character. You can be as creative or as literal as you want with these mnemonics, as they’re your personal method of remembering a character.

This reminds me of a game I used to play when I was teaching English, which involves the student rolling several dice that have tiny pictures on each face instead of numbers. The student then has to create a story based on these pictures.

Why not give it a go?


You might not have come across ‘bigrams’ before, but these are 2-character combinations that make up ‘words’ in Chinese. Although some words are single characters, a bigram offers more clarification to the meaning.

For example, (huì) has lots of meanings, including ‘can’, ‘to meet’ and ‘union’.

To clarify the meaning of 会 (huì), take a look at the bigrams that contain the character:

社会 (shè huì) society

不会 (bù huì) unlikely

会议 (huì yì) meeting

This makes learning bigrams more practical, AND easier, as you don’t need to struggle to understand the meaning behind a character that has little meaning!


If you’re just studying for fun, you may not want to choose a ‘path’ and just continue to study along the route you’re on now. However, studying a course or specific field of characters may provide you with more direction.


One of the more popular systems to follow is HSK. Beginning with HSK 1, you can study characters in chunks. HSK has been created for practical everyday usage, so you are likely to be learning characters that are common in everyday life.

You can see what the characters in HSK look like in the dictionary app. All the HSK vocabulary lists are free to study and review.

You can learn more about taking an HSK test in our article.

Most Common Characters  / Most Common Bigrams

An alternate method of study is to follow MIT’s list of most common Chinese characters found in print, which is great if you’re just learning to read.

Do you have a method for how to read Chinese characters? Share it with us below!

The post How to Read Chinese Characters: A Beginner’s Guide appeared first on Written Chinese.

This content was originally published here.


download app Learn English through short movies

ABA English .. Learn English through short movies
ABA English application is a valuable treasure for English learners on a smartphone! It is based on principles of the natural method that relies on learning through full immersion in the language, which makes it a complete educational system that simulates the same learning process that you will experience if you travel abroad to study English. The application contains 6 educational levels, from beginner to the language used for business, divided into 144 amazing free lessons in video clips that will help you to know everything you need about English!
The lessons are based on teaching English by watching short films that took place London and New York. First you will listen to what is said, understand it well, study the dialogues between the characters, and learn from them. After that, you start talking in order to play the role of one of the characters in the movie from the written script available in the application. All this will be done in a natural and spontaneous way that makes you feel like you are going through a realistic scenario. In the end of every lesson, a basic grammar will be studied in order to consolidate your knowledge with English grammar, with some practical exercise so you can understand grammars and gain new vocabulary and expressions gradually without feeling.


The app provides many unique features, such as:
– Progress feature; this enables you to easily measure your progress through the evaluation presented in the end of each level.
– Tutor feature – only for paid packages – that allows students to communicate with the tutors, so they help you reaching a better level in English by providing instructions and advice according to your progress pace.
– Certificates feature – only for paid packages -, which enables you to obtain an official certificate from the application once you complete your educational level.
The application has more than 35 million learners all over the world, as it suits both Android and Apple devices, the number of its users only on Android devices is more than 5 million users! The app got a total rating of 4.4 on the “Google Play” by nearly 94,000 users, while ranked 97th among the best educational applications on “App Store” with a rating of 4.6 by 4 thousand users.

For Android phone users, you can download the application from:

Apple phones users download of from:

Go to the application’s website from:

This content was originally published here.


How to Learn English the English Discoveries Way – Interactive Learning

English is a global language, familiar to people all over the world, regardless of where they live. Popular television programs from English-speaking countries that have been exported to every corner of the globe have familiarized audiences with English phrases, expressions and clever comments.
Songs with catchy tunes are heard in locations thousands of miles away from the studios where the songs were originally recorded. However, the English that might be heard at a party isn’t the same level of English that would be used when making a professional presentation in one’s field of employment. People hoping to learn English are often stumped by the dilemma of learning the appropriate styles of English to suit a variety of settings.

Edusoft, Ltd., a company that develops cutting-edge English learning solutions used by schools around the world, solves the problem of how to learn English for any occasion. Edusoft is a subsidiary of Educational Testing Services, (ETS), the developers of the TOFEL® and TOEIC® exams. Together, they make a winning team: the experience of Edusoft when it comes to English language learning plus the assessment leadership of ETS which is renowned worldwide, deliver the most effective English learning solutions that are available.

How to Learn English the English Discoveries Way

How to Learn English with an Effective Student- and Teacher-Centric Platform
Secondary and high school students are often uncertain when learning a new language, so the first step is to instill confidence in them.  That’s where Edusoft’s expertise makes the difference.

Edusoft’s flagship product,  has been selected by educational leaders all over the world who recognize its distinguished leadership and field-proven pedagogical approaches that are based upon the most current and comprehensive academic research. Boards of education, prestigious schools, and parent-teacher associations praise its thorough approach to the learning process.

What Makes English Discoveries So Different?
English Discoveries offers 10 CEFR-aligned general English courses to assist students in meeting standard, advanced, and elite-level requirements. The unique language reinforcement of the program’s state-of-the-art, video-based speaking and listening activities, which provide automated speech and writing feedback, optimizes learning outcomes. Students, who were once hesitant at the prospect of learning English, benefit from modern methods that transform their lessons into an interactive platform that helps them in their mastery of the English language.

Satisfied Clients Praise Edusoft Products
Thanks to Edusoft’s data-driven learning environment, educators are able to monitor the progress of the class as a whole and the individual student as well, maximizing effectiveness and ensuring student success. Real-time reports are generated that track the completion of the tasks, the test scores, and also the amount of time that the students spent on the tasks. These tools, and the Teacher Dashboard, allow customization so that instructors can create lessons from existing content with the option, if they choose, to develop and deliver their own content.

Winning results have made believers in both the corporate and academic fields. Is there any industry in today’s competitive market which is more global than travel, particularly the airlines? In order to provide service to all passengers, from seasoned, multilingual world travelers to inexperienced students making their way to a foreign country for the first time, airline employees must be able to communicate effectively.

When seeking to improve the English proficiency of its employees, COPA Airlines sought a reliable and practical program that answered the question of how to learn English. They found that solution in English Discoveries. In the words of Dominik Rus, Corporate Training Director for COPA, Edusoft’s customized blended learning solution has helped improve the English proficiency of COPA Airlines employees.” Rus goes on to note that, thanks to English Discoveries, COPA personnel, including pilots, mechanics, flight attendants , and administrative and passenger service employees were able to practice and improve their English-speaking skills using language functions that were related to their jobs.

Whether in flight or on the ground, Edusoft solves the dilemma of how to learn English.

This content was originally published here.


Gardez la date ! – Learn French in DC and Online

Bonjour tout le monde ! We are so excited to announce our online Zoom conference will be held August 15, 2020. We will talk with French teachers from all over the United States on how to teach remotely during school closures. We will also welcome Charlie and Maïa from Street French as our keynote speakers.

In addition, we will have a speaker on wellness and mindfulness, to help teachers manage stress brought on by these challenging times. There will also be a databank where teachers can share quizzes, tests, and any other resources they might find helpful. Several teachers will present on how to make teaching online easier, and will give useful tips on how to adjust to teaching languages remotely.

Please see our ad for more information and we hope to see you soon !

This content was originally published here.


Spanish Lessons on Central America – Spanish Playground

Forest Resener is the Communications and Operations Director for StoveTeam International, a nonprofit organization that has provided over 76,300 improved cookstoves in Central America. He created four free online lessons about Central America for Spanish levels 2 and up. He writes about the unit below.

When I created these Spanish lessons, my intention was to raise awareness of issues faced by people in Central America, including the problems caused by open cooking fires. Our organization StoveTeam International works to prevent the damage cooking fires cause. However, the unit has become something bigger. It’s helping students become global citizens, raising cultural awareness, and even helping students come together to take action and make a difference. 

Around the world, 3 billion people still cook over open fires, usually indoors, and the consequences are dire for women and children inhaling smoke all day long. Despite the extent of this problem, people in other countries often hear little about it. So, StoveTeam has set out to raise awareness.

Spanish Unit on Central America

These Spanish lessons use photos and stories collected by StoveTeam during our work in Central America, specifically in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. The lessons contain a mix of beautiful photos, interactive exercises, videos, class discussions, quizzes and more.

Lesson 1

The first lesson explores Central America and begins to discuss what life is like for many families living with few resources. Students learn new vocabulary like “fuego abierto”, watch a video, take a quiz, and pair up for a creative exercise.

Lesson 2

The second lesson dives into specific problems related to the worldwide issue of open-fire cooking, which kills over 4 million people each year, mostly women and children. The lesson explores how StoveTeam has been able to help over half a million people, and what that means for these families. During this lesson, classes have the option to video chat with Alex Eaton, StoveTeam’s staff person living full time in Guatemala. We’d love to answer your class’s questions, so contact us for more info.

Lesson 3

The third lesson shares several true stories from people whose lives have been changed by receiving an improved cookstove, or finding a job building stoves in their community. 

Lesson 4

Lesson Four, called “Tomar Acción”, shows students that StoveTeam’s work is only possible thanks to the generosity of people who take action. The lesson lists several examples of campaigns that have raised awareness and money to provide stoves, including an 8th grade Spanish class that recently raised over $1,200!

Using the Spanish Lessons on Central America in Class

I’d love to hear from anyone thinking about using this unit in their class. This is a new venture so I’m open to any thoughts you might have, and I’m happy to answer any questions. The unit “Centroamérica y el aire que respiramos” is available free on StoveTeam’s website.

Forest Resener, StoveTeam International

During my frequent trips to Nicaragua over the course of several years, I saw the damage caused by open cooking fires. I believe the Spanish lessons about Central America from StoveTeam International could be an effective way to learn more about the region, both its tremendous strengths and the challenges it faces.

I was in Nicaragua doing education workshops. Read about a few activities from that work in Spanish Question Game: El Repollo and Simple Spanish Word Games: Nicaragua.

This content was originally published here.


Learning English outside the classroom – Part 2: How to learn English with Netflix – Espresso English

This is a guest post series by Alastair Budge, the founder of Leonardo English and the host of the podcast, a podcast for intermediate English learners and curious minds. The podcast comes with subtitles, a transcript, and key vocabulary, and is trusted by 100,000 students in 157 countries.

This is Part 2 of our series on learning English outside the classroom. Check out Part 1 – Learning English with Podcasts and Part 3 – Learning English with YouTube.

Netflix needs no introduction. 

It’s watched by hundreds of millions of people around the world and is a collection of some of the best TV shows and movies out there.

You may already watch it in your native language, but you have probably watched some English language films too. Perhaps you’ve watched them with subtitles, or maybe you’ve thrown yourself in at the deep end and watched them without subtitles.

Here’s how you can use Netflix to help you learn English outside the classroom.

Before you start

Watching films, for most people, is an enjoyable activity. We watch films for fun, and so you might think that you can just start watching films in English and it’ll count as your ‘learning English activity’.

So instead of spending an hour reading a book or listening to podcasts, you switch on .

This is one of the

Netflix and TV can be great, but they are very passive language learning activities. showed that your brain can actually be more active when you are asleep than when you watch TV. 

So don’t make the mistake of thinking that all of these activities are equal. Watching Netflix can be very enjoyable, but it shouldn’t replace the more ‘active’ learning activities that you do (such as listening actively to podcasts).

How to use Netflix effectively

For all the doom and gloom around watching Netflix being a passive learning activity, there certainly still is a place for it.

Firstly, it’s fun. You enjoy it, and this means that it’s easier to do larger amounts of it.

Learning English isn’t a sprint, and if you mix ‘intensive’ activities (such as shadowing a podcast) with lower stress activities (such as watching Netflix), this is an excellent way to keep yourself surrounded by English but to not burn out.

We can’t all learn at 100% all the time (Pat from is a great person to follow if you like this kind of philosophy), and language learning should be an enjoyable journey.

Here are a few tips that should help you get started with Netflix:

1. Use English subtitles

Unlike with podcasts, you have video to help you understand. There really isn’t any excuse to use subtitles in your native language, even if you are a beginner.

You will be able to understand a lot through context, even if it’s tough at the beginning.

When I was 18 I lived in Perugia, in Italy, while I was learning Italian. 

I lived with a German guy, who couldn’t speak English or Italian, and I couldn’t speak German.

We always used to watch the German soap operas . When I started, I couldn’t understand a word of it. But after a few weeks, I quickly picked things up. 

If you are an Intermediate or above speaker, and you still feel that you need the crutch of the subtitles, then at least try not to look at them. It can be tempting but keep your eyes on the top of the screen, and only look down at the subtitles if there’s something that you really didn’t understand. 

If you are always just reading the subtitles, then you aren’t forcing your brain to actually listen, and you’ll be disappointed with how slowly you progress.

2. Turn off the English subtitles

If you feel that you can understand 80% of what is going on in a film or TV series, then turn off the subtitles. 

It might make watching it just slightly less fun, but from a learning perspective, you will improve so much faster. You’ll force yourself to understand the meaning, and you won’t just default to reading the subtitles.

Note, for beginners, that allows you to have two subtitles at the same time – the English, and your native language. Although this might be tempting, it’s easy to get complacent when using it. 

If you’re really looking to improve your English, and you do need some form of subtitles, then we’d recommend just sticking to English. It might feel a little uncomfortable to start, but it will help you progress 10 times faster.

This content was originally published here.


Bastille Day Trifle with Chef Marc Sievers | Learn French Chicago

Let’s celebrate Bastille day with a fabulous trifle! Here is your ingredient list you can prepare ahead of time.

Stay tuned! Marc Sievers’ video and directions will be shared on Tuesday July 14th at 3 p.m.

Ingredients (serves 6 – 8)

If you would like to get a signed copy of Marc Siever’s cookbook, click here.

To find out what else is happening at the Alliance Francaise de Chicago for Bastille Day, click here.

Take part in the Bastille Day new membership exclusive! Make sure to check here for this deal on which will only last from 12 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, July 14.

This content was originally published here.


I can’t speak English fluently even though I read a lot — Doing English

I can’t speak English even though I read all the time: why? In this article, I explain the 5 elements of fluency, and why you can’t speak.

“Why is it so hard for me to speak fluently even though I read all the time?”

This is a common question.

And one I get a lot from students on the A course.

There are two things to consider:

This video explains both points in detail:

So, as you see, “fluency” in English is more complicated than people think: and speaking is much more complex than reading.

What actually is fluency?

Fluency is simply how efficiently English is being processed in your brain, and if we look at what’s going on there are roughly 5 key elements to fluency:

That’s a pretty quick ‘n’ dirty summary. For more detail (and how to use the ‘shadowing’ exercise to develop them), go here.

Basically, fluency is the result of all 5 of these elements working smoothly together. And that’s why it’s perfectly possible to be fluent in some topics but not others, be able to understand but not say it well, why you can know something but fail to remember it when you need it… and on and on.

I can’t speak English fluently… about just some topics

This is an extreme example, but I had a client who could use English all day at work but struggled to order a coffee in Starbucks. Another of my clients said she could understand conversation, but not the news (others say the opposite).

There’s a video here about this:

The point is, we never get “fluent” in English, exactly. We get fluent in topics, but not others if we don’t learn to be fluent in them.

Reading Fluency and Spoken Fluency are Different

The second part of this problem is that reading only uses some of these 5 elements of fluency – but not all.

Encoding and organisation (to an extent), yes. And while reading will help with “activation”, it’ll do little to nothing to develop motor skills (see here for an exercise that will), for example.

You get good at what you do.

So if you want to get good at speaking, you’ll need to:

The 5 Changes Improve in English Fast

If what I’ve said here resonates with you, and you’re stuck of saying “I can’t speak English!” there’s a free training here that will teach you the nuts-and-bolts of how to improve as a higher-level learner.

Julian Northbrook

This content was originally published here.


Learning English outside the classroom: How to learn English with podcasts, Netflix, and YouTube – Espresso English

This is a guest post series by Alastair Budge, the founder of Leonardo English and the host of the podcast, a podcast for intermediate English learners and curious minds. The podcast comes with subtitles, a transcript, and key vocabulary, and is trusted by 100,000 students in 157 countries.

I’ve got some news for you. 

If you think that you’ll learn English only in a classroom, you’re in for a bit of a shock.

It may feel comfortable and familiar to sit behind a desk, with a friendly teacher in front of you, surrounded by like-minded fellow students, while you practice your speaking, listening, reading and writing. 

And of course, the classroom can be an important part of anyone’s English learning journey.

But, in order to really make progress, the learning has to happen outside the classroom. 

It’s where you put what you’ve learned into action, it’s where you explore new areas of interest, discover things you would never have done within the confines of a classroom’s four walls, and where you can progress at your own pace, at your own schedule, and at times that suit you.

Actually how to do this, though, can be a little daunting.

What if you don’t live in an English speaking country?

What if you don’t have anyone to practice with?

What if you have no idea where to start?

If some of these questions are also running through your mind, here are our tips on how to improve your English outside the classroom using three excellent resources: podcasts, YouTube, and Netflix.

There are a million ways to learn English, and learning in a classroom is just one of them.

If you’re serious about making progress, you will know that learning happens outside the confines of your classroom. 

Your teacher isn’t the person who will make you learn, nor are your classmates.

Learning comes down to one person, and one person alone. 


Podcasts, Netflix, and YouTube can be great companions on your English learning journey. 

They all have great benefits, and there is a time and a place for all three of them.

Good luck – if you have got this far, and you put some of these techniques into practice, then you are already on the path to success.

This content was originally published here.


Learning English outside the classroom – Part 1: How to learn English with podcasts – Espresso English

This is a guest post series by Alastair Budge, the founder of Leonardo English and the host of the podcast, a podcast for intermediate English learners and curious minds. The podcast comes with subtitles, a transcript, and key vocabulary, and is trusted by 100,000 students in 157 countries.

This is Part 1 of our series on learning English outside the classroom. Check out Part 2 – Learning English with Netflix and Part 3 – Learning English with YouTube

Podcasts are my favourite tool to learn any language, and are actually one of the most underutilised tools used by English learners.

So, how can you use podcasts outside the classroom to improve your English?

Well, they are one of the most versatile tools, and there are plenty of detailed guides on .

Here are some of my favourite tips from the listeners of my that have helped them improve their listening, speaking, and even reading and writing.

Before you start

1. Find a podcast that suits your level

It’s obvious, but worth underlining. Don’t choose a podcast that is too easy, and don’t choose one that is too hard. 

If you are just getting started, then you should probably choose one that also has some speaking in your native language.

If you are Intermediate or above, then you should probably be fine with one that is just in English.

If you feel comfortable enough, then you can listen to podcasts aimed at native speakers, but this can often feel like you’re jumping in at the deep end.

It’s fine to not understand everything. In fact, you shouldn’t listen to a podcast where you understand everything. If you understand everything, you won’t learn anything new.

The magic ratio is around 80:20. Aim for a podcast where you understand 80% of it, but that 20% of it is new. If it feels too easy, you probably aren’t learning enough.

2. Make a habit out of it

Podcasts are very easy to listen to. They live on your phone, you can listen while doing something else (although beware of ), and they don’t require anyone else to be there. 

So they’re very easy to fit into your day.

But if you don’t make a habit out of listening to them, you won’t do it. So carve out a regular time in your day or week, and make sure you actually listen to them.

3. Find a podcast that interests you

Learning happens most effectively when you are using materials that are actually interesting. There’s nothing worse than feeling that learning English has become a chore, and it’s something you fear doing.

There are over a million podcasts available for you to listen to, from everything on dog breeding to swimming pool maintenance. Or less niche subjects, like business, philosophy, or sports. There’s something for everyone.

Even for podcasts aimed at English learners, there is a large variety that you can choose from.

Are you interested in one that talks about life in a particular country? Or perhaps you want one that teaches you interesting things about the world (like the )? 

Or do you want to listen to one that teaches you grammar and vocabulary (like )

There’s something there for everyone, and it’s very easy to test lots of them out. Just press play, have a listen and see what you like.

How to use podcasts effectively

So, you’ve chosen a podcast. You’re sitting comfortably, and you’re ready to learn.

You just close your eyes and press ‘play’, right? Surely there’s nothing more complicated than that?

In fact, getting the most out of a podcast for English learning purposes is a bit of an art. But when done properly, this technique pays dividends and can help you improve your listening and speaking skills.

Here’s what I suggest.

1. Listen with nothing

When you first listen to a podcast episode, try listening with nothing. Don’t press pause, don’t look up words, don’t get caught up if you don’t understand a word or sentence.

This helps you build up your confidence. If you’re the kind of person that worries if they don’t understand something, then learning to not worry if you don’t is actually a skill that you need to develop.

that learning happens most effectively in low anxiety situations, and so listening to a podcast and learning to accept that you won’t understand every single word is actually a very useful skill to master.

You’ll also be surprised that the meaning of words or phrases that you didn’t understand when you first heard them will become clearer when you hear them in another context, later on in the podcast. 

Learning through acquisition is how we all acquire our first language as children, and using this technique when you first listen to a podcast, in order to try to ‘acquire’ meaning through context is a far more effective way than listening to a text in class with definitions provided in your mother tongue, so you don’t have to do the work yourself.

2. Listen with vocabulary

If you’re listening to a podcast aimed at English learners, they often come with vocabulary provided, which explains some of the harder words. 

If you’re listening to one of these podcasts, then you can listen to it again after looking through the key vocabulary. 

If there are words that you didn’t get the first time around, then this will help fill in the gaps.

If you want to give yourself even more of a challenge, you can look at the key vocabulary words, and try to guess your own definitions. This is a great exercise to improve your English writing and will help you .

3. Listen with a transcript or subtitles

With some podcasts for English learners, like the podcast, they come with a transcript.

This allows you to follow along with the speaker and will help you see exactly what they have said. It can be particularly useful if the host speaks fast, uses unfamiliar words or expressions, or if you just want to be 100% sure of what has been said.

If there’s a transcript, you can also shadow the podcast. where you copy the voice of a native speaker, so you end up improving your speaking and pronunciation just by mimicking the host.

It’s a fantastic technique, and well worth using if you have never heard of it.

As a final note on podcasts, you may have thought that only TV or movies come with subtitles. 

Not so fast. With the podcast, we actually built subtitles within the website, so you can follow along with the podcast. You can even tap on a word and your browser will give you the definition in your language.

This content was originally published here.