The Standard English Accent

In this post, you will listen to examples of the Standard English accent, which is the accent of famous British actors. You will also learn the social class implications of speaking with this British accent.

Listen to Standard English accent examples: Daniel Craig, Keira Knightly, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy and Helen Mirren.Click the below video:

What is the Standard English accent?

When talking about British accents, people tend to use lots of different names to refer to what is essentially the same thing. The Standard English accent is sometimes called BBC English, the Queen’s English or Received Pronunciation. With so many different names for British accents, it’s not surprising that students get confused!

More examples of famous Britons who speak with a Standard English accent.
More examples of famous Britons who speak with a Standard English accent.

I use the term ‘Standard English accent’ because the name helps us to understand the appeal of this accent. A person who speaks with this accent:

  • speaks with an acceptable level of quality. → His accent is up to standard.
  • perhaps exceeds our expectations of quality. → People who speak with this accent have high standards.
  • has something in common with others . → It is a standardised accent, with regional influences removed.

Why I Don’t Use the Term Received Pronunciation….

I do not use the term ‘Received Pronunciation’ because it is old-fashioned and has snobbish connotations. The meaning of ‘received’ in the name refers to pronunciation that is considered the most socially acceptable or correct. From this point of view, the reason a person speaks with this accent because they want to get the social approval of others and be accepted “in the club”.

A Victorian caricature of a pair of snobs looking down on others and socially disapproving of them.
A Victorian caricature of a pair of snobs looking down on others and socially disapproving of them.

I prefer to switch the motivation for learning a standard British accent around. I think the standard English accent is the best accent to learn because to do so requires effort, skill and training. Increased self-esteem and increased opportunities follow as a result of improving the way you speak. Importantly, however, nobody is going to force you to change your accent if you don’t want to do it.

The name ‘Received Pronunciation’ is associated with times in which the class system in the United Kingdom was a lot more rigid, and people really did have to get rid of their accents in order to be socially accepted by the middle or upper classes. Things are different, now though.

Choose a Positive Motivation for Improving your Accent

When working to improve your accent, I advise choosing a positive motivation as your goal. This is because positive motivations place the reason for doing something firmly on ourselves. In other words, we do something because we want to and because we are aware of the personal reward it brings. (Not because we care about what others think, want or expect from us… Winning the approval or acceptance of others can never be guaranteed, no matter what we do in life).

Stay Motivated to Improve your Accent

  • “I want to learn the Standard English accent because I want to speak with clarity and the most technical skill” = an example of a positive motivation. ✔︎
  • “I must learn Received Pronunciation because people look down on my accent” = an example of a negative motivation for accent training. ✘

Extend your Learning

▶︎ Read my article on How to Get a British Accent

▶︎ Join my accent training course: Get a clear accent ✔︎