Learning British UK Accent (RP): 01/01/2011 - 02/01/2011

How to Learn a Language by Listening to the Radio

How to Develop a British Accent if You Are American - wikiHow

Did you ever study another language without feeling like you understood how it's really spoken? Would you like to get better at understanding speech in another language? One way to improve your listening skills and learn to understand native speakers when they speak at a normal rate is to listen to the radio in the language you're studying. Listening carefully can also help you improve your accent and fluency when you speak. Here's how to get the most out of your experience.


  1. Find a radio station broadcasting in the language you are studying.
    • If you live in an area where the language is spoken, you may find a local radio station just by scanning the dial. For example, if you want to learn Spanish and you live in many parts of the United States, there may be a local station broadcasting in Spanish. If you live near Quebec, you will probably be able to pick up some French stations.
    • If there is no radio station near you in the language you are studying, look online for internet radio stations. There are many possibilities available through live streaming nowadays; read How to broadcast radio from your computer for more details. Or, listen the old-fashioned way with a shortwave radio. The Internet usually works better, though.
    • Try to find a talk radio station or a station that has talk radio style programming rather than just music. You can listen to music, too, if you enjoy it, but you'll learn language best by listening to speech.
    • You may have to figure out how to search the web in the language you're seeking. If you know any native speakers who can help, ask them to help you find a station for you. If not, use a dictionary or online translator if you need to, and use a search engine to search for the word for "radio" and the name of a country or region in the local language. Don't be afraid to guess a bit to navigate the sites once you arrive.
    • You'll probably be able to find at least a few possibilities in English-language directories, such as the Radio Locator at http://www.radio-locator.com/.
  2. Try a few different stations until you find one(s) that seem to work best. Skip the loudmouth DJs who probably don't make much sense even to those who do speak the language. For learning the language, you'll be better off if you can find a station that focuses more on things like news, weather, and call-in advice programs.
    • Find a program that makes you want to listen. If politics is your thing, find a political talk show or a news broadcast that covers political developments. If you're a huge soccer fan, tune in to the game. When you want to understand what's being said for reasons above and beyond learning the language, learning is easier.
    • Sometimes you can find kids' programming on line, which might have narration of stories or simpler dialogue that is easier for you to follow.
  3. Set aside some time each day to listen. Even if you only listen for five or ten minutes each day, you'll still be exposed to the language, and that's what you are trying to do.
  4. Still a foreign language?

    Still a foreign language?
    Don't worry if you don't understand anything at first. If you're only getting the occasional word, you're still getting something. Even if you don't understand a word, you're still hearing the intonation and rhythm, the sound and the flow of the language. As you progress, you'll get better at picking out words and interpreting their meanings as they flow past at the speed of speech. This intonation and rhythm is also part of the accent that you will develop.
  5. Use any contextual clues available to you to begin to understand what you hear. One place to start is to listen to things that repeat.
    • The call sign and the commercials repeat exactly, often with jingles that will help you distinguish them from one another. Use these things as bookmarks and jumping-off points.
    • Things like weather and traffic reports don't repeat exactly, but they're often quite repetitive, in the sense that they'll always be talking about sun and rain and delays on freeways.
    • The programs themselves repeat less, but you will still have some context if you figure out that the psychologist is on every day at 8.
  6. Use contextual clues from the radio website.
    • If you're listening to Internet radio, see if the website has any shows as podcasts so that you can back up and listen to a segment several times. The repetition in listening is an important part of learning accurately.
    • Also look around for transcripts of shows or even little blurbs that tell you what each show is. Even the titles will give you something on which to build.
    • If you're listening to the news, the website may well have articles about the same news items that you can refer to while or after you listen. Even headlines of the articles can be enough to give you an handle on the topic being discussed.
  7. Don't worry about skipping words you don't know, especially at first. Looking up every word (even if you can spell it) is a motivation killer and it's not too effective for remembering the words. At this point, you're listening for language in general anyway, not because you actually need the details of each caller's question.
    • Get all you can from context. If you figure out the sense of a word for yourself, you'll understand that word as it is really used, and you won't need to think about that word as a translation of a word in your native language. You will also be far more likely to remember that word and be able to use it.
    • Do look up a word if you have heard it several times and you still don't understand it.
    • Also look up a word if only one word or a few words are preventing you from understanding the larger meaning.
    • If you don't understand all the words, choose the most common and the ones of interest or relevance to you to learn first. This strategy means that you will learn words in the order you need them.
  8. Try to understand a little more each time you listen. One day, you might figure out that what you're hearing is a weather report. Over the next days, challenge yourself to pick out the words for "sun" or "rain" or "degrees," and so on. Over time, work up to understanding more and more what the weather forecast is in the place where the radio station is based.
  9. Be patient and persistent. Languages are not small or simple, and learning an new language is a lifetime endeavor. Learn a few words today, any way you learn them, and learn a few more tomorrow. Eventually they will grow to add up to meaning, and it will get easier to understand, and to add on to what you can understand.
    • Find your own balance. It's ultimately up to you how much time to devote to listening, how much time to devote to other efforts to learn the language, and how much time to devote to your language overall. The right mix is the one that works best for you.
    • Don't get discouraged by what you don't understand. Instead, treat it as a challenge. You may find that the announcers speak clearly enough to understand, but that callers mumbling across poor phone connections are unintelligible. You may grow to understand the newscasts but have trouble understanding a rapid-fire sportscaster. Celebrate what you do understand and what you are learning, and don't worry too much about the parts that are still missing.
  10. Most of all, have fun. If it's drudgery, it will be hard to make yourself do it every day. If it's fun, a game, a puzzle, something you look forward to, then you'll be listening to more and richer broadcasts as the months and years go by, and one day you'll realize you understood the whole show!



  • Recognize what you are getting (even if it's little or nothing at first) and don't get bogged down on what you're not getting yet. Keep listening, and you'll get there eventually.
  • The radio is patient, and you should be, too. There will be broadcasts tomorrow and next month, whether you understood today's or not.
  • Listening is only one part of learning a language, so don't only use the radio. Instead, use the radio to supplement the other things you're doing to learn the language, whether that be taking classes (in person or online), reading, working with a conversation partner or pen pal, practicing your writing, or anything else. See How to Learn Any Language for general tips on language learning.
  • You'll probably find that longer segments are easier for finding context than shorter segments.
  • Listening to the radio will be most effective when you also learn some basics of the language from another source.
  • Comedy can be a great source of language learning if you enjoy a laugh. Look for foreign language comedy shows on the radio, including plays and stand-up. If you can understand another culture's comedy, then you're ready to immerse yourself in a visit!
  • It's easier to Understand TV in Another Language than radio: you can see what they're talking about.

Things You'll Need

  • Radio or internet radio access
  • Prior knowledge of channels (optional)
  • Notebook for recording anything of interest
  • Dictionary

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    Want to speak in a clear confident British Accent?  Download my British accent course today: http://www.learningbritishaccent.com/the-ultimate-rp-british-accent-course/

    Language Acquisition: A Case for the Hard Wired Brain

    Accent Reduction Blog | Accent Neutralization Blog

    Have you ever wondered how languages are made?  Who invents all the rules anyway?  Are we really ‘hard wired’ for language acquisition or is it something we learn if given the right set of circumstances?  Or both?

    pronunciation rules

    It’s rare that we get to see the birth of a whole new language…one that develops completely naturally, without any help from role models or teachers.  But that’s exactly what happened in Nicaragua in the early 1980’s, and it gives us great insight into the ‘nature’ vs. ‘nurture’ question of language acquisition.

    Prior to the early ‘80’s, most deaf children in Nicaragua had little or no contact with other deaf children or adults.  Their means of communication were limited to a set of ad hoc gestures that ‘made sense’ to family members.  But when the government opened its first school for the deaf in Managua, all that changed.  Two hundred children had the opportunity, for the first time, to convey their thoughts, feelings, and ideas as fully as any hearing child in Nicaragua, or around the world.  But first they had to create the means to do so…

    According to Ann Stenhgas  of the Language Acquisition Development and Research Laboratory in New York City (http://www.columbia.edu/~as1038/L02-sign-language.html), “…as (the children) interacted, they began to change the gestures and home signs they were using.  Their vocabulary grew quickly over those first few years, just like when a little child learns to talk.  Their signs became more systematized, more regular, and less gestural.  The structure of signed sentences became much more complicated. By the time this generation became adults, at the end of the 1980s, their signs were rapid and fluent.  The language had grown to resemble other languages around the world.  It could now express ideas as complex as any other language."  It joined the family of more than 6,300 human languages and is called Nicaragua Sign Language, or NSL.

    Languages share an essential, bottom-line characteristic: they’re governed by as strict set of intricate rules. But who ‘makes up’ these rules? I think the answer comes from the children of Nicaragua.  Communities of people who need to interact in similar ways not only create language, they can do so in less than a decade.  Wow!

    Sometimes our accent reduction learners are amazed by the number of pronunciation rules that govern the American accent.  At the beginning, it may seem overwhelming. But I’m on the side of “we’re hard wired for language acquisition”—all aspects of it.  Language learning is part of our universal, human experience.  And just as a decade is more like a nanosecond with respect to inventing an entire language, 15 hours of instruction (our standard English pronunciation training program) is a blink of the eye.

    It’s not an easy task to learn a new language, but I think we can all be inspired by the creators of NSL.  For those who are mastering a second language, rest assured that we’re programmed for success.

    To see how Nicaragua Sign Language came into being, see the YouTube story:  

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