In case you’re not already familiar with TED talks, these are short talks by people from all over the world on a wide range of topics (no longer limited to the original three areas of Technology, Entertainment, Design). For me it’s precisely this huge variety of topics that makes them so fascinating. Many speakers are really inspiring – both in terms of what they have to say and how they say it. Have a look here to get an idea of recent talks held.


Why are TED talks good for learning English?

Apart from the fact that the topics are very motivating, TED talks offer a number of other benefits for those working on their English skills.

Length: Many talks are between 12 and 18 minutes long – that’s long enough to get used to the speaker’s accent or way of speaking, but not so long that you get lost somewhere in the middle and never make it to the end. If you’re short on time, listen to a talk lasting under 6 minutes – there are still plenty to choose from.  

Variety of speakers: You get to listen to both native and non-native speakers. And to people who speak relatively slowly and clearly and those who don’t. But no matter how challenging the speaker, you can rewind until you understand what they said.

Subtitles: These are available in many languages and sometimes they start automatically. In general I’d recommend either switching the subtitles off or just using the English ones. But if you’re really stuck with a sentence, you could turn on the German ones.

Transcript: This is a really useful feature! You can mark any new words you want to learn. Or read along as you listen a second time to check how words are pronounced. Or practise your pronunciation and intonation by reading the text aloud – naturally yet expressively.


How do you get started?

With 2,300 talks you’re spoilt for choice – and probably a little overwhelmed. Perhaps the easiest way to get started is to browse the playlists provided and see what appeals to you. 

Here are just three tips from me:

This is the most-viewed TED talk. It was the first one I ever watched and I’ve recommended it many times since then: 

Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity

This one resonates with me both as someone involved in communication training and as someone who seems to be getting more sensitive to noise as she gets older:

Julian Treasure: 5 ways to listen better

I found this one while I was preparing this post and it made me laugh:

Tim Urban: Inside the mind of a procrastinator 



Posted on Jan 9, 2017 in getting ahead
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Porträt Nicola Bartlett
Nicola Bartlett
I’ve been an English trainer for over 25 years, helping adults to get their message across in English – clearly and appropriately. Successful communication in English requires more than just a good knowledge of the language. An understanding of different mentalities and a feeling for the best approach are vital, too. » more