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Do you prefer learning American, British, or any other type of English?
I know this is a typical question, but as an English teacher students often ask me where the "best English" is spoken?

Traditionally it was taught in the UK that "received pronunciation" was the best accent to learn, to understand it better say how the Queen speaks and how people at the BBC speak. But over the past few years society has opened up, and it's popular for there to be a variety of accents and for people from all areas of the country to be well represented in the media.

I have had such a variety of opinions from students and parents in Spain regarding accents, I am often surprised.

For example some have told me that Irish English is more "pure".

I have also had Americans call my British accent 'cute'.

Some students say they understand American English better. Could this be from watching American films and series more often as they are very popular in general?

In my case being British, I really enjoy watching shows and films in American, Australian, New Zealand, British, Irish, Canadian, South African English, to get that variety and richness that is individual to each country, and to see how pronunciation, typical phrases and expressions have developed and may have gone into different or parallel directions as the case may be.

What are your thoughts?

2020年5月4日 11:11
Comments · 5
I think the way we perceive this or that accent is largely biased. As you’ve mentioned, for some English learners the RP which is commonly erroneously called the British accent, is the desirable standard, mainly because audio recordings from ESL/EFL course books from Britain tend to be in RP. Also, the prestige of classical British education with the names like Cambridge and Oxford being in the top of the world’s universities, plays a great role in shaping an image of the “British accent”.
When it comes to American English, I agree with you that the huge American movie industry influences the way English learners understand the accent. And it’s not only about movies and series: a lot of content from the music, entertainment, IT and social media industries comes mainly in American English. That is not to say that the UK and other English-speaking countries don’t contribute in those spheres, they do, but again, on a global scale, the US remains the leader in this regard.
When answering a question about “the best English/accent”, I would say that it doesn’t exist. Generally, any intelligible, clear English, whether it’s British, Australian, Spanish, Japanese, or whatever, is something we all, English users across countries, should aspire to speak, if we want to use English as a tool for successful communication.
This was a pretty interesting question! I think talking about different accents was the only mandatory linguistics module I enjoyed at Uni HAHA

I think that English is (because of colonialism) so widespread that it is difficult to say that there is any one variety that is "correct" (in terms of accent/pronunciation). I would take it more as a matter of comphrehensibility than anything else- but that's also subjective.

In my country, many people are native English speakers but we have a strong Singaporean accent. I've heard from friends that it's difficult to understand when a group of Singaporeans are speaking. For me, however, I have quite a lot of difficulty understanding people with strong Irish, Scottish, or even American accents. Even some British people, if they speak any variety other than recieved pronunciation, are difficult for me. Strong South African/generalised African English accents, weirdly, remind me of Singlish and are consequently quite easy for me to understand, and I'm used to hearing Malay and Indian accents (from Hindi or Tamil speakers) so that variety of English is also very easy for me to understand. So, accents which are traditionally "harder" for Westerners to understand become easier for me to understand as someone from Southeast Asia, just because I'm used to them.

Of course, however, there are certain accents which are understood by more people than others, so things like standard American or Received Pronunciation would, by the criteria of "comprehensibility", be the best ones to learn.

If your students are asking the question with the goal of choosing an accent to learn, I personally feel that they should simply learn the accent of their teacher, because that's the most natural way the teacher can teach them, and also makes the most sense (if they are learning it in the context integrating into a specific society).

It was so nice to receive your feedback and opinions.

Adam: I think you are right in a way, it really depends on the teacher and the person who you are speaking to. If they make an effort to make themselves understood this is key. It's great to be open-minded too and not to generalise.

Anton: it's fascinating that you pay so much attention to accents from different countries. It seems you have changed your preferences over time.

Lana: I really liked your reply and I think you are spot on when you say that the most important thing is to be able to speak clearly and intelligibly wherever you are from, and that communication is key.

Rui: It's so cool that there was actually a subject on accents in your linguistics degree. I think you have a point when you say that English from some countries like in your case Singapore changes a bit from what you describre as 'standard American or Received Pronunciation' . For example I can remember working in a transport company many years ago and having to deal with our Hong Kong shipping company and finding it very difficult to understand their English, but it was probably that I wasn't used to it.

As they say, variety is the spice of life.
Why so many people are asking about that? I really don't know why. I think that it's not about the accent but rather individual style of speaking of concrete individual person.
I personally enjoy listening to all varieties of the English accents. My favourite is the Southern British accent. To me it is easy to catch it. However, it hasn't been always the case; when I heard native speakers for the first time, the most understandable accent was and remains Canadian. Maybe, that's also because of the less sophisticated vocabulary Canadians use in their everyday speech.
Later, I fell in love with the Australian accent because I started to watch Australian sci-fi serials and found cool Youtube channels. Their colloquial language language, however, requires some immersion into culture; otherwise it is challenging to understand what they really mean.
Then I switched to the British English and eliminated Canadian from my sources. It is not related to the accent, but to the content that I find interesting.
I think if I were to teach someone I would adhere to the British accents, but wouldn't mind sharing some nuances of other accents if I knew. That's a way to spark the interest.
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