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Learn to Speak The Queen’s English

By Jon, published on 21/03/2018 We Love Prof - AU > Languages > ESOL (English) > How to Speak the Queen’s English

At the start of your English learning adventure, choosing a speaking style – American English versus British English for example, has great significance and relevance.

The worst consequence of choosing badly depends on where you will eventually live, study, and work. For example, adopting a north American vocabulary could risk your not being well understood anywhere in the UK or Australia.

Throw it all against the wall and see what sticks

That is a slang phrase that means “try every avenue and method to see which one will yield faster, better results.”

Many non native English speakers hoping to study outside of their home country avidly apply at every possible institute of higher learning that recruits international students, regardless of what country, in the hopes of being accepted at any one of them.

Such a practice puts the English learner at a disadvantage because, in anticipation of IELTS or TOEFL results, s/he does not know which style of English to increase competency in.

Assuming that you have selected Britain as your destination of choice and have only sat for IELTS, you might ponder which accent and style of British English you should cultivate in order for your speech to be effective.

Many non native English speakers logically aim for the poshest sounding tone.

Is posh vital in everyday English?

Let us explore why the Queen’s English is revered, BBC English is lovingly mocked and whether either one of them are actually ever used in ordinary English conversation.

The Queen speaks Standard English Although formal sounding, our Queen speaks Standard English (Source: Pixabay Credit: Monica Volpin)

English Lessons: What is ‘The Queen’s English’?

To understand this question, we first have to look at a bit of history.

Unfortunately, it involves social classes.

Historically, the more elevated in society a person was, the more education s/he received and the better his/her diction was.

The monarchy symbolized the highest possible social class; the one that every commoner aspired to emulate: in speech, manner, lifestyle, and dress.

The King (or Queen, if there was no king) routinely addressed his/her subjects in public speeches. The general sentiment was that the sovereign was a revered being.

“Why, just listen to him speak! So refined, so smart…” they must have said.

The Queen’s English (or the King’s English, if there is a male ruler in place) is the epitome of education, polish and poise.

The Oxford Dictionary of Living English defines Queen’s English as:

The English language, as written and spoken by educated people in Britain.

They are not suggesting that people who speak Welsh, Scottish or Cockney are uneducated.

Rather, that statement is a reflection of the long-held tradition that the British ruler represents the ultimate in social refinement and therefore, the highest level education.

To speak English like the Queen, you must first slow your speech.

While many native English speakers tend to speak relatively fast and inject a lot of slang phrases, the queen’s English is thought to be free of colloquialisms and deliberately articulated.


Received Pronunciation is a cultivated accent BBC English is a cultivated accent (Source: Pixabay Credit: DesignFile)

The phrase Queen’s English does not refer to accent or regional variations of English in general. Her particular brand of English speaking mainly involves alterations of vowel sounds.

We note that analysis of her speeches over the years has demonstrated a shift toward the more popular Estuary English, a London accent from counties adjoining the river Thames.

Learn English: What is BBC English?

IELTS candidates and those learning English as a second language often find that listening to BBC Radio or watching popular British television programs helps in learning English pronunciation and honing English listening skills.

It is never a bad idea to improve your English by emulating native English speakers.

However, you should be aware of what exactly you are copying. Is BBC English a good model for Esl students to follow?

Let us delve again into the history books to see why this style of spoken English features so prominently in ESOL courses all over the world.

The BBC starting broadcasting radio programs in 1922, under a Royal Charter.

The trouble was, not everyone spoke or understood BBC presenters’ spoken English.

To this day, Britain has more than fifty-six acknowledged regional dialects, with the London accent and expressions having always been thought as the most popular.

Because the BBC was headquartered in London, radio hosts cultivated an exaggerated manner of speaking that regional banter, to better be understood over the tricky wireless airwaves.

In keeping with the demonstrated example of proper spoken English transmitted on the air and heard all over the world, the teaching of grammar and vocabulary in UK schools was revolutionized.

It is not uncommon for a country to formulate a standardized version of its native language, all while maintaining local dialects.

To standardize the English language in the UK, school curricula were modified to teach Received Pronunciation, sometimes to the detriment of the existing national language, such as Irish.

English Language Standardization

Global broadcasting of BBC English, or RP – as Received Pronunciation is often called was, in fact, the beginning of standardization of the English language.

Standardization of English involves:

  • Codification – how standard language is validated
    • dictionaries, grammar and vocabulary textbooks, style and usage guides.
  • Dialect leveling
  • Language ecology and planning
  • Usage

The English language is undergoing further standardization because of the popularity of English movies and music. This time, the shift is more toward a north American accent, or a neutral accent.

What does that mean for all of you, who are developing English language skills?

The Queen’s English vs BBC English: What Defines Them?

  1. The Queen’s English is not an accent. It is a slower speech pattern distinguished by elongated vowel sounds.
    1. The Queen’s (or King’s) English is considered Standard English that is not necessarily spoken in conjunction with RP.
  2. BBC English, or Received Pronunciation is considered a cultivated accent, not a natural speech pattern developed by a segment of society, as other dialects are.

Only about two percent of Britons speak RP in its purest form. – David William

How to Speak English Clearly and Effectively

Obviously, striving for the best English skills possible should be the goal of every English learner, whether native speaker or for speakers of other languages.

To learn English online in such a way that you are confident in your transactions with native English speakers, you need only to:

  • Amass a substantial English vocabulary
    • If you are beyond middle-intermediate English, learn phrases, not words.
    • You might also consider learning business English as an extra boost to your literacy
  • Develop your speaking skills by using English every day, even if you are not yet in the UK.
  • Develop your writing and spelling skills by keeping a journal in English.
  • Learn to conjugate verbs in all of their tenses
  • Participate in language learning through English courses, or by learning English online.
  • Practise your skills daily

To achieve fluency in English, you needn’t worry over which accent to adopt, which English is better or inspires more confidence when spoken.

You only need to study English with the end goal of becoming fluent.

Pronounce words correctly by following the rules Apply pronunciation rules to any new words you learn (Source: Pixabay Credit: Alexa Photos)

How to Learn New English Words

More important than adopting any particular accent is being able to speak English using the proper tone and stress.

Inflexion is defined as stress or pitch in the voice when speaking.

Like many other languages that use stress, tone or pitch to help define words, English words follow rules for inflexion.

For two (spoken) syllable nouns, the first syllable is stressed: TA-ble, DRES-ser, WIN-dow, etc.

PIC-ture and SYL-lable technically have three syllables but, because the last syllable is silent, it is pronounced as a two-syllable word.

For two-syllable verbs, the rule is reversed: ad-MIT, pro-TECT, in-SERT, re-LAX.

Two-syllable prepositions are spoken the same as two-syllable verbs.

You should adopt and follow these principles as you practice English vocabulary, so that any native English speaker will understand you, every time, without the benefit of any regional accent.

Find a private tutor to help you with your ESOL courses.

Is Speaking English with an Accent really Important?

Finding quality programs to learn English online is not difficult and, more and more, online English is moving toward a neutral accent – neither British, Australian or north American.

The British Council uses Standard English in its podcasts and lessons targeted at non native speakers who are learning English. The narrators use a variety of accents to teach English, edging ever more away from any affected speech.

BBC reporters and narrators will most likely continue to broadcast using a Received Pronunciation accent in spite of the mild ridicule that those who emulate that manner of speaking endure.

The Queen will most likely continue to speak Standard English slowly and clearly, with drawn-out vowel sounds.

How you cultivate your English language skills will depend on where you live, what your preference is and how your English teacher inflects.

The important thing is that you are learning the language that more and more people of the world know how to speak.

Learn how to perfect your English accent with our guide to pronunciation.


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