Jan 21 – Aye luv tah heah ya tock.

Last Accent Study class, we started working on a scene from a play, A School for Scandal, by Richard Brinsley Sheridan.  It is a comedy of manners written in 1777.  The language is very pompous and lends itself naturally to the British Received Pronunciation’s stuffiness.

I got to read the part of Lady Sneerwell as she plots with her friend Snake to break up a relationship so she can get the man.  We did some of our usual warm up exercises, but then spent the majority of class reading the play out loud.  After three hours of attempting to speak RP I found it hard to turn off when I got home, much to the amusement/annoyance of my roommates.

I have been finding that working on learning the RP accent has affected my everyday speech a little.  I find I am easily slipping in at least the cadence of RP, if not the whole accent.  I find my mouth moves a little differently.  RP is spoken in a different part of the mouth than General American.  To me it feels a bit like talking with a small piece of had candy in my mouth.  It sort of rolls around in the front of the mouth.

I spend my time in the car saying my practice phrases.

Barbara was very barbaric, very very barbaric indeed.
Bah-beh-ra woz veddy bahr-bear-ick, veddy veddy bahr-bear-ick in-deed.

The other day I was going to say something amusing.
Thee uth-er day aye woz goh-ing tuh say sum-thin a-myoo-zing.

The Secretary of the Home Department
Thee Seck-ruh-tree ov thuh Hoh-im De-pah-t-ment.

I know I don’t know how to get over to the road.
Aye kna-oh aye don-ta kna-oh ha-ow tuh get oah-vah tuh tha row-a-da.

I try to spend a lot of time going over my pronunciations, and also just practicing everyday speech with an accent.  I’ve been telling everyone I work with, go to Aikido with that I am taking this class, so don’t think I am going crazy when I start speaking like a rich upper-class English lady.  I often don’t get the accent right, but the more practice the more naturally it comes.  I am sure an English person would be able to tell much better when I am on and when I am off.  Sometimes I can tell too.  What I need is some Brit to follow me around all day correcting me.

On a side note, when I was doing some research on Received Pronunciation and British dialects, I came across a few websites where people discussed whether they preferred an American or Standard British accent.  These were people who were learning English as non-native speakers.  I was actually surprised at how many people said they preferred the American accent, some because it was easier to learn, others because it sounded less stuffy, others gave no reason.  It was probably split 50/50 overall, but that it was so even surprised me.

I guess I assumed that people would naturally prefer the British. Of course I am a native American speaker, so I find it rather mundane.  I don’t know about other cultures, but Americans find non-American accents intriguing, and many of them outright sexy.

I haven’t run into anyone who thinks American accents are sexy.  A lot of Brits look down on American accents, at least to the point of commenting that we pronounce and spell English wrong, which I guess is true from their point of view.  Even Americans don’t seem to find American accents sexy, outside of a few of the Southern drawls, though I must admit I have a fondness for Boston accents.

I remember being in the fourth grade in school and we had a substitute teacher for a while who was from Boston.  At the time we were reading 101 Dalmations.  So there were a lot of dawgz bahking (dogs barking), and Cruella Deville’s cah (car).  I had never heard anyone talk like that before, and I thought it was so cool.


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