Do I Need To Learn The British Accent?
Summary: Learn British Accent
British people expect you to talk “funny” because everyone in the UK speaks English differently. Being understood is far more important than you learning a specific British accent.
The modern English language, is a mixture of many different languages. The Scottish, Irish & Welsh contributed Celtic languages. The Normans, Romans, Vikings all of whom contributed their words, culture, accents and pronunciation to the English language when they invaded the UK. People from around the world who travelled to the UK have also brought their own words and culture mixing them into the modern English language.
You only have to travel 100 miles in the UK and you can listen to someone speaking English in a different British accent. So everyone in the UK who speaks English expects to hear a different British accent at least once a day. British accents just aren't a big deal anymore, being understood when you speak English is.
Audio Transcript: Do I Need To Learn The British Accent?
Hi there and welcome to this short podcast from Adept English. I thought I’d do something different today and do a podcast which is almost entirely spontaneous. So I’ve done much less preparation today, with the idea of it being spontaneous. So it’s more like I’m having a relaxed chat with you, not so much formal learning. Just let’s see how it goes. You can feedback to us on Facebook, or you can email us at [email protected]
British Accent and Received Pronunciation
OK, so the topic today? Learn British Accent – is it necessary to learn the British accent, in order to be understood? Well, once upon a time, anyone in broadcasting, so anybody who worked in TV or radio, especially for the BBC – they would have a British accent which was ‘Received Pronunciation’ or RP. So this is what used to be seen as the standard, the standard way of speaking English in Britain. If you think about the way that the Queen, Queen Elizabeth speaks – and there are certain actors as well, who would speak like this.
What’s interesting, Received Pronunciation – you also find it when an American actor is playing a British part, playing the part in a film of an English person. So they kind of ‘overdo it’, really. That’s not how most British people speak. If you listen to the younger members of the royal family, William and Harry for instance. They don’t speak quite like the Queen. They don’t used Received Pronunciation. They speak more like ‘general people’ do. So the standard of English is...it’s more relaxed. It’s more a ‘normal’ standard.
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What is ‘standard English’ now?
Usually the accents that are common in...probably the southern half of the country is seen as more ‘standard English’ than the northern part. Where it’s ‘accent-less’ - there are plenty of places in the south of English, where it doesn’t really sound that much like an accent, it’s just ‘standard English’. But I do know people….people up north, might object to that because they would still see it as a southern accent, because it was different from their northern accents. So sometimes, people can get quite competitive about British accent.
It’s not necessary for you to learn a particular British accent. As long as you can be understood – that’s the most important thing. You hear on the radio much more regional accents than you used to hear. And it’s quite common now, for people reading the news on the television or the radio, to have an accent. It’s seen as much more acceptable. It’s part of a person’s personality, it’s part of who they are.
If you listen to me, I have quite a medium accent. I started life, living in the north of the country and had quite a strong accent when I was younger. But I think it’s softened because I’ve been away since I was 18 so I’ve lived other places. And I’ve been in the south a long time, so that’s influenced the way I speak. Not my intention, but this is what’s happened. So if you learn the British accent with me, then you’ll get a little bit of a mix of ‘standard southern English’ with a bit of Northern in it, as well. There are certain words where my northern pronunciation comes out. I don’t think that really matters for you though. What’s most important is that you can be understood by most people.
A Mix of Accents is OK!
So it’s not necessary when you want to learn a British accent to be too ‘hung up’, too bothered about exact pronunciation of words. It’s not necessary to learn the British accent. It’s actually quite common for speakers of English to have an American accent purely because they’ll have had an American English teacher at some point. And it’s amazing how quickly people take on the accent of the person that they’re learning from. And sometimes people have a really interesting mix of accents. It happens with footballers. Where you get a footballer who comes say, from somewhere in Europe, they might be Spanish or Portuguese. And then they go and play for a club in the north of England. And you hear them interviewed on the television. And they have the most wonderful British accent. It’s a mix of Spanish and Newcastle or Portuguese and Manchester. And different words show different accents. But again, as long as the person can be understood, it just means that they’re showing in their voice, the way that they speak, part of their personal history. It just shows where they’ve been, where they’ve been living, what’s influenced them. It’s there in their voice. So I think actually your accent and its telling of your history is quite a nice thing.
So really, don’t feel the need to learn the British accent in a way that’s too precise or wants to be too perfect. Whatever accent you have when you speak English, it’s part of your personality, it’s part of your personal history, so be proud of it.
British People Are Used to Different Accents!
So what’s really important is that your pronunciation is just good enough to be understood by most people. If you take some of the accents in the UK, actually it seems very difficult sometimes for people in the south to understand Scottish or to understand accents from Newcastle or Liverpool. An accent from Ireland can be quite hard to understand also, if you’re English and you’re not used to it. So what you find in the UK is that people are very tolerant of different accents, because we have plenty of different British accents here! So we’re used to taking the time to understand people whose accent is different from our own.
Just Make Sure That Most People Can Understand You
So I think my main message today, is when you’re learning the British accent, it needs to be close enough that people can understand you, but it certainly doesn’t have to be perfect. One thing’s for sure. The ‘listen and learn’ method of learning English, which we use at Adept English, where the focus is on listening is a really good way to learn the British accent. It’ll be happening without you realising it, every time you listen to a podcast!
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
PS: Accents In The UK Used To Be About Class
Not that long ago, in the 1950s the UK had two groups of British accents. The “proper” received pronunciation (standard British accent) which you would hear on the BBC TV & Radio, and everyone else.
If you were one of the “Everyone else” group you were unlikely to be “posh” or upper class, you were working class and poorly educated (even if you were not!). Posh people decided what class you were in purely based upon the way you spoke English.
Thank goodness it’s just not like this anymore. In the last 70 years the UK has nearly removed this accent ‘bias’ from society. Today people worry less about your accent and more about are you understood when you speak English. Clarity of diction, correct pronunciation are far more important today than your underlying accent.