What are some of the best tools available for mastering the Received Pronunciation accent?
November 20, 2007 4:31 PM   Subscribe

What books/courses/web tutorials would you recommend to help me learn the Received Pronunciation (BBC) English accent?

I am an American, and I grew up in and around Los Angeles, so I have a slight 'valley' Californian accent. I'm interested in mastering an RP accent, just as a hobby. (Though when I lived in England, I sometimes fantasized about using a British accent to avoid the instant judgment I received in shops and pubs....)

I'm willing to put the time and practice into this that I know it requires. Are there any very good tutorials out there? I'd love to find something that both represented the phonemes visually and offered audio accompaniment.

posted by scarylarry to Education (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If avoiding judgement is the goal then pick another accent is my advice.
posted by fire&wings at 4:58 PM on November 20, 2007

Response by poster: Yeah, you're right. Frankly, I'm just interested in working on really *nailing* any accent other than my own, as a way to spend some free time. I picked RP because I figured I'd be able to find a whole lot of examples of it online and in movies, etc., to compare to my own accent.

I'm aware that describing RP as the 'BBC accent' is no longer at all accurate, and I think that's great. I hope that it doesn't sound from my question that I think RP is in any way preferable to any other accent from Britain or anywhere. I'm just trying to amuse myself in a way that doesn't involve TV or video games
posted by scarylarry at 5:11 PM on November 20, 2007

Response by poster: Also, I mean, this is all pretty much arbitrary. I just want to find really good materials on learning another accent. I'm open to suggestions for accents other than RP--just so long as you can point me to some tutorial materials! Thanks again.
posted by scarylarry at 5:13 PM on November 20, 2007

This book comes with a CD to listen to and describes how to learn accents. It's pretty good, and has a very wide variety of English accents. One of the things he suggests doing is coming up with a phrase that you can consistently say in your target accent, and using that to slip into the accent. For example, if every time you say "I say, old chap!" it sounds right in your target accent, then when you're trying to put on the accent, you start by saying "I say, old chap!" and then continue with whatever you're trying to say.
(I have the previous edition. Looks like the new one has 2 CDs. Dammit.)
posted by katemonster at 6:21 PM on November 20, 2007

If you don't get any good responses here, there's sure to be a friendly professor at your local university. Most have a theater department, and accents are part of regular actor instruction.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 6:41 PM on November 20, 2007

Why not just choose some audio books which you think employ the accent you're after, and listen to them until you can speak that way?
posted by Miko at 7:44 PM on November 20, 2007

If you're really after learning an accent for fun, why on earth RP? It's boring. Learn something more colourful, like a Geordie accent. See if you can get hold of some YouTube clips of Ant & Dec, Jimmy Nail, and so on ;)
posted by randomination at 2:20 AM on November 21, 2007

Yikes, RP? Why? You won't blend in, far from it. My accent is unfortunately converging on my partner's, and recent slips pronouncing tooth as "tuth" and house as "haise" have brought nothing but trouble. (I still say tom-ay-to though.)

The best tutor for a posh English accent will be someone who went to boarding school, preferably abroad. Kids raised elsewhere in the Commonwealth can sound more English than the English. O, and date them for a few years. Alternatively get your hands on past episodes of Faking It, where almost all of the participants have had to learn different accents. As well as the accent you'll have to understand how their grammar and lexicon differ from US English and this blog by am American linguist living in the UK is a good tool.
posted by methylsalicylate at 2:32 AM on November 21, 2007

Good luck with this, sounds like an interesting project!

I need to interject, however, with some comments. RP is becoming increasingly less common on the BBC nowadays, with a major emphasis on bringing in reporters and news readers with regional accents. Furthermore, RP is extremely rare in the general British populace and is typically seen as comically posh (or out of date - it was a lot more common before the 80s!) by all except those with a hankering to climb the class ladder.

If you want to learn a "standard" sounding English accent, then you'd probably rather be looking for one of the Home Counties' accents instead.

Just thought I should bring this up in case you were under the impression learning RP would make you sound normal and fit in in the United Kingdom. It wouldn't work like that (although if you lived in England long enough to get a close feel for the accents - say a year or two - you might already know this).
posted by wackybrit at 7:08 AM on November 21, 2007

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