Posted on | February 12, 2007 | 2 Comments
It was Friday night, the time to host my ad-hoc skypecast again. In the past two weeks, I hosted the ‘Learn a Language Now’ skypecasts to talk about all kinds of languages. This time, I wanted to do something different. I created a skypecast called ‘In Search of RP English Speakers’, with the following description:
“I don’t speak RP (BBC/Queen’s) English, but I would love to chat with anyone who does. In fact, I wonder if they still exist outside the BBC studio and the Buckingham Palace.”
Received Pronunciation (RP) is a form of pronunciation of the English language which has been long perceived as uniquely prestigious among British accents and is the usual accent taught to non-native speakers learning British English.
Most people joining the skypecast did not have a clue what ‘RP English’ was. Some got the idea when I mentioned the Queen’s English or the BBC English. I managed to get hold of four people from the UK altogether, which was a bit over my expectation since it was very early in the morning in their time zone. Three of them were British natives but none of them speak RP. In fact, they told me that if they hear someone speaking RP on the streets, they would think the person is trying to be ‘classy’ or something.
Although RP is still commonly used in foreign English schools, people in Britain hardly speak the accent anymore. I have read reports claiming that only about 3% of the British population speaks it today. Even BBC itself claims to be losing its speakers:
“If nothing else, it is simply no longer the case that most of the voices that come out of our TV sets are speaking RP. Perhaps the last bastion of RP on the BBC is the news, which still requires maximum clarity and the widest possible range of comprehension.”
Even the Queen herself has recently been identified of her accent change, as well as other members in the Royal family. Personally, I find the report ridiculous. It compared the Queen’s speeches which were five decades apart. Everyone changes the way he speaks over such a long period of time.
I often bring up the subject of English accents when I have chance to talk to people who are learning English. Most of them give me the impression that at their levels, they don’t care about adopting which accent, as long as it is not their own foreign accents. They also admit that although they love to hear the BBC English, they would rather go with the American accent.
In the skypecast, I expressed my sadness about seeing RP go extinct, as it is likely to be the case in the near future. Well, I guess all languages change through time. There is nothing much we can do about it, except to accept the fact and go with the trend.