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How to use Architecture Podcasts to Learn English and Boost Your Architecture Vocabulary

Are you an architect, landscape architect or designer looking to improve your English and want to know the best ways to use them to build a richer vocabulary? You're in the right place.

About Think Big - English for Architects

Think Big is for anyone working in or interested in architecture and its various disciplines who want to take their English language skills to the next level. Built design disciplines transcend many disciplines, so we need to explore the intersections to think like an architect. Think Big is so much more than just learning the technical teems or the names of houses, buildings or landscapes. We explore all the topics related to architecture, communication and culture to help you improve your English at the same time.

Listen to the latest episode 👇

Why I love podcasts as a language learning tool

I've long been a supporter of using podcasts to learn English, having used the method myself to learn French and now Portuguese.

Research suggests that extensive listening improves understanding of grammar rules and considerable benefits for vocabulary development, accent recognition, and students' pronunciation and speaking. A specific study also showed that participants who listened to a podcast improved their speaking test scores more than those who didn’t listen to a podcast. However, what seems to count and make an even more significant difference is the action you take after listening to the podcast.

As an Architecture professional, it's essential to listen to relevant and engaging content that will show you positive results for advancing your English. You'll find a list of my favourite podcast recommendations in architecture, landscape architecture communication and authentic English conversations. If you want to build a richer vocabulary to become a more outstanding speaker quicker, I encourage you to be actively learning.

What is the difference between active learning and passive learning? Passive learning is anything you do to learn a language without producing it.

For example: Watching YouTube videos of Netflix with English subtitles, listening to English podcasts while running or drafting in CAD, or reading articles.

On the other hand, active learning is anything you do to produce the language or think in the language.

For example:

Listening to English podcasts and taking note of essential vocabulary and using it in conversation, responding to questions or thinking more deeply about the content (not just consuming it) or writing in a journal daily to review the day, week or month. Many of my current clients and students use the ArchiEnglish Planner to keep track of daily reflections and language use in context and refections they have from listening to podcasts or watching videos.

Suppose you're interested in the Neuroscience behind this. In that case, I suggest podcasts like Andrew Huberman or YouTube channels like Dr Jarden Cooney Horvath, who breakdown the science behind why deep learning is a more effective way of making vocabulary stick! So, the key is to be engaging in active activities as much as possible. Podcasts can be a vital tool to help you, and here are my top tips for using podcasts to learn English to boost your architecture vocabulary.

How to use podcasts to learn English effectively.

1. Listen for enjoyment first without distractions First, listen to the podcast without using the transcript. This forces you to understand the fundamental concepts by using the context. The extra challenge with a podcast is you have to envisage what is being said without visuals. Listen with focus. That means, make time to sit down without distractions and focusing on listening. Even if you don't understand everything, push through until the end. Note down words that you're unsure about as you go along. Be curious about what you hear. You may even notice the repetition of words and phrases. As Dr Jarden Coney Horvath mentions, when you listen to something with more focus, you're more likely to remember it and pick up on the small details you might miss if you listened to it while doing another task. The fact that you're listening to a podcast about the topic you're trying to learn about is the most important aspect of listening. It’s much more interesting to learn vocabulary and grammar in context than to learn them from lists of words or a textbook.

2. Use the key vocabulary and transcript

Once you've listened once, go back and find the transcript and listen along while reading the transcript. Try and find podcasts that have a transcript (like Think Big - English for Architects), or if it doesn't, you can use apps like Airr. to request the transcript of several different podcasts not necessarily made for language learners.

If there’s a word that you can’t understand, check the transcript before looking at the key vocabulary. While reading the transcript as you listen along will make it easier to understand, make sure to push yourself to try and understand it without the transcript first.

3. Write a summary or create a visual sketch note of the podcast

As a creative professional who most likely uses sketching and drawing every day in your job, you might resonate more with the idea of creating sketch diagrams or visual notes.

Here is are two examples of sketch notes. Natasya Sunarto created the first to summarise Episode 3 of Think Big - English for Architects. The second is one of my examples using a YouTube Video by ArchiMarathon.

How to Use Storytelling to Connect to Your Clients

Archimarathon - critical thinking in architecture

Sketchnotes or visual notes don't even have to be presentable posters. They can also be simple notes in a notebook using colours and highlighting key points and vocabulary.

Visual notes for learning English

In addition to key points, you can also include a summary of what the podcast was about.

What new things did you learn?

What questions do you still have?

Did you agree or disagree with everything that was said? Why is this important to do this? Firstly, creating your visual aids in the comprehension of information and helping you to organise it in a way that you understand.

You don't have to write everything down, and that's its beauty. Each time you do this, you might notice different things or different ways of seeing things. Drawing while listening helps you focus on the information you're hearing, and the added benefit is it will allow you to significantly uplevel your listening skills. Listening with focus allows you to use any sentence structures or expressions you heard used in the podcast in ways relevant to you. Listening to podcasts with the language you're likely to use daily is also the key. Drawing and summarising your ideas and what you hear helps you contextualise and recall the information quicker when needed in an authentic context.

4. Make your vocabulary diary

Many of my students and clients have their little notebooks for building vocabulary, and they include expressions, phrases and practical examples they hear. The ArchiEnglish Planner also has space for you to write notes daily and practical language examples already inside it for you to build on as you listen to podcasts and watch videos. I recommend writing down every new piece of vocabulary, expression, or structure in your notebook. Don't be afraid to get messy and create some diagrams and visuals with imagery like the one you see above. Usually, I go back over mine at the end of the week to check back on vocabulary I've written down or sketched, so it stays fresh in my memory. Make sure that you review this vocabulary book on (at least) a weekly basis, and try to put every new word or expression into use that week. Without sounding like a broken record, it’s only through practising using these phrases that you will improve.

5. Teach someone about what you learn

Studies show that students who spend time teaching what they’ve learned to others show better understanding and knowledge retention than students who simply spend the same time re-studying or passively taking in information.

Use your notebook or sketch notes and talk it through with someone else to synthesise the information and hear yourself say it.

6. Read the transcript aloud and use it as a shadowing exercise

Once you've listened to the podcast, you can also use the transcript as a way to read it out loud. You can always relisten to specific parts if you're stuck on pronunciation. Better still, you can use shadowing to help you with pronunciation and stress and rhythm of the language. You'll find out more about the process of shadowing in this blog post about improving presentation skills.

The Main steps for shadowing:

  1. Find audio such as a podcast episode or video with this person or a few others speaking.

  2. Listen to the audio first.

  3. See if you can identify some of the different elements of vocal variety. In particular, focus on pitch, pace and pauses.

  4. Shadow the audio with a transcript.

  5. Shadow without a transcript.

This technique, pioneered by Alexander Arguelles, is a technique that is taught and recommended by many teachers and language learners all over the world. I started doing this early on in my French learning journey, and I also do it with many of my clients. They either use excerpts from the podcast or write their paragraphs for me to record during sessions, and they use it as a shadowing exercise for the time in between sessions. I have seen first-hand how significantly this improves pronunciation, fluency and vocabulary.

7. Be consistent

You need to make sure that you set aside a consistent amount of time each day or week to practise the skill. It doesn't have to be an extended period; just 10 minutes a day can make a difference.

8. Join the ArchiEnglish Learning Community Many people (including myself) repeat time and time that accountability with learning helps. When I work with groups of learners, they always tell me when I set them a podcast to listen to or a video to watch. They find the accountability helpful. They are more likely to do tasks and pay attention to key vocabulary and questions if they know there is a group of learners to discuss the topics with afterwards.

Accountability works well for people who need external motivation to push them. Still, it also helps people who want to meet like-minded people, share experiences and ideas with other professionals in your field.

In 2022, the ArchiEnglish community will be the number one place for Architecture students and professionals who want to increase their vocabulary and feel more confident using English.

You can signup for the waitlist here to join The Creative Language Learner Community.


Not sure which English podcasts you should listen to? Check out our favourite podcasts in my extensive list, or get started with Think Big - English for Architects podcast.

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