When it comes to teaching English globally, and in particular spoken English, there are two main standards: Received Pronunciation and General American. Received Pronunciation consists of British English pronunciation as used by James Bond and many BBC newsreaders and documentary narrators. General American is a fairly neutral form of Mid West American English and is used by many ABC and CNN newsreaders.
However what are the differences and which form is best used for students of spoken English?
Firstly, Received Pronunciation (RP) does have more sounds with some 50 identified phonemes. Correspondingly, General American pronunciation has less with 44 to 48 (depending on the analysis done). Secondly, different vowel phonemes are used in different words – for example in the word chance (or dance) – a long vowel is used in RP whereas a short one is used in American.
SpeechSchool.TV, a leader in online speech training initially offered both English pronunciation courses, the American Accent (based on General American) and the English Accent (based on Received Pronunciation).
According to the School, the majority of students signing up worldwide – even in some of their most popular markets like the USA and Canada, preferred to subscribe to the English Accent course in order to gain what they perceived as the most pure basis possible for their spoken English.
Moreover, practice demonstrated that when learning the principles of Standard English pronunciation it is relatively easy to adapt that to any English speaking environment, whereas the American accent tends to be more regionally based.
In 2010 the School made the decision to close the American Accent course in order to concentrate on a sole Master Speaker Standard English program for all learners wanting clear speech and a neutral accent regardless of their language background.
“The result of this learning process from offering both English and American courses,” reports the Course Director, “is that we now have a Standard English Accent course based on International Received Pronunciation. This teaches the 50 phonemes along the lines of Received Pronunciation but shows students how they can adapt their sound to maintain their cultural identity whilst speaking the clearest form of English possible. In our view this also represents the best possible process for those seeking accent softening and accent reduction when English is not their first language.”
Research has also suggested that a more pure English accent is preferred in the United States and Canada than any of the home grown American accents as it is perceived to be more sophisticated. According to SpeechSchool, international students are best to learn Standard English pronunciation and adapt it accordingly in the US.
Further research in the call center industry shows that Standard English has the lowest rate of errors and highest level of customer preference worldwide. This would further cement the view that the best option for English pronunciation training is to begin with the pure Standard English accent.