Hello it’s Jon, your pronunciation and accents coach and right here you can get a better British accent. Today we are looking at the BBC accent and RP and wondering how they are different. I’ll also show you how to read like a classic BBC newsreader.
Plus, at the end of the video I’ll show you what might be the high point of the BBC accent. Here’s a clue - still not sure? Watch till the end.
BBC and RP
So, The BBC, also called the Beeb, goes way back to the 1920s. Now, the director general of the Beeb wanted to find an accent that, firstly, wouldn’t be laughed at (yes that’s true) and that it would be understandable by the majority of the population.
Anyway, the boffins at the Beeb decided that RP or Received Pronunciation would be the perfect accent for their broadcasters. There was even an advisory committee set up to create a slightly modified RP that would be specific to the BBC, so that they could decide the pronunciation of specific words, especially non-English words. Hence the term BBC English.
So, pre-war you could also say that by today’s standards the accent is a version of RP called Conservative or Traditional RP, an accent that is so unique that it is spoken by about 2-3% of the British population. I’ve already made a video on that so just click on the link in the description or right here to go to how to speak posh & RP - Conservative RP.
But here’s the thing - the BBC created a handbook of pronunciation. So I thought, what a better way than to look at some of these BBC words and then try and read them as a BBC newsreader.
Let’s look at these words that the BBC highlighted because of their pronunciation (bear in my that this is from 1929):
Feature 1 - Let’s get stressed!
The BBC have written specific instructions on syllable stress for certain words. Nowadays, when you look up words in online dictionaries, it may give you two different syllable stress patterns for some words in British English. Maybe this is the influence of the BBC!
I’ll give you an example. Let’s look up the word garage:
You see there are two different ways of saying it in British English. Garage and Garaz.
So here is a list of BBC words with instructions on syllable stress:
Controversy has the stress on the first syllable.
Dispute - second syllable stress on both noun and verb.
Finance - stress is on the second syllable.
Formidable - stress on first syllable (we say it on the second syllable these days)
Gondola - stress on first syllable
Garage this changed from garaz to garage and then back to garaz) (both are accepted nowadays)
Kilometre Has the stress on the first syllable so we don’t say kilOmetre we say Kilometre and that’s the same as nowadays.
So a newsreader could read the headline:
DisPUTE erupts over the FORmidable CONtroversy surrounding the FInances of a gaRAGE in Dover.
Feature 2 pronounce your h’s
So, some words have been specifically highlighted with an instruction to sound the ‘h’ in words like ‘hotel’ and ‘humour’. So, don’t read them like ‘umour or ‘otel. Sounds too Cockney, that!
So you could read the headline:
In Venice, gondola crashes into hotel, making the gondolier lose sense of humour.
Feature 3 - hard or soft ‘g’
The guide recommends that gynecology is with a hard ‘g' like ‘go’ on the first ‘g’, and hydrogen is with a soft ‘g’ like gentle.
Feature 4 - Focus on vowel sounds
Haunt - is said with the vowel sound of paw.
Gouge is sounded like ‘how’ and not ‘who’.
Hovel is pronounced like ‘novel’ not ‘shovel’.
So a BBC newsreader might read the headline:
Workmen find hydrogen bomb in haunted hovel.
Now here’s a fact -
The first regional (non-RP accent) was used at the BBC in 1941!
Part 2 Post WW2
Nowadays, BBC presenters either speak in Contemporary RP or have a regional accent. In fact, pretty much any accent goes now. These days there is something called the BBC pronunciation unit which still monitors pronunciation. For example they have decided that BBC broadcasters say Hyundai. They also have an interesting way of transcribing the words too, so, for example, the word ‘pronunciation’ would be written as pruh-nun-si-AY-shuhn. They have written out this text spelling for all vowel and consonant sounds to make it easier for newsreaders and presenters.
Words whose recommended pronunciation has stood the test of time include Auld Lang Syne (‘sign’, not ‘zine’), centenary (‘sentéenări’, not ‘-tenn-’)
The BBC accent reached its high point in a short film called the Spaghetti Harvest. Yes, that’s right - the BBC made a film about spaghetti growing on trees. It was actually made for April Fool’s Day and is now cemented in BBC history. The narrator has a typical BBC English accent so I have left a link in the description for you to watch. Enjoy!
So, it seems like RP was chosen by the BBC as the standard language to be used by broadcasters and they adapted it at will to create a unique version of RP we can call BBC English.
So there you go, give a thumbs up and like the video or comment on what you find most interesting about BBC English.
All I have to do now is say Stay connected and goodbye!
How You Can Apply the Modern BBC accent to YOUR Speaking
Good morning, good afternoon or good evening - today I’m going to let you into some secrets on what the modern BBC accent is and how you can apply it to your speaking to sound perfectly powerful. Because, let’s face it, the modern BBC accent is one of the most desired accents out there, and today I’ll show you why.
Plus, at the end of the video I’ll give you a fantastic top tip on where you can check out some BBC accents. Are you ready? Then let’s go.
Hello, It’s Jon your pronunciation and accents coach and right here you can get a better British accent.
So firstly ‘modern’ or ‘classic’ BBC accent - what’s the difference?
Well, . The BBC accent has had a long and proud history. We can divide the accent into two categories: what I call the ‘classic’ BBC accent and the ‘modern’ BBC accent. The classic you could say is much more connected with conservative RP (received pronunciation) and it was most popular in the early to mid 20th century right up to the 1970s. If you watch news reports from this time you will get the idea - I’ll show you where a bit later. Or you can watch my video on the classic BBC accent, the link is in the description. The moral is that the classic BBC accent is a bit old-fashioned.
Now as RP has evolved over the years, so has the modern BBC accent. The modern BBC accent is much more like mainstream RP (in other words fairly neutral) and this is what I am speaking right now. Not only that but there are now BBC presenters and newsreaders with non-RP or near RP accents. Today though, we will try to be as neutral as possible. So, throughout the video, I’ll be speaking just like this, although I might have to change it a little in order to speak in ‘modern newsreader speak’ shall we say.
I want to show you that by taking the principles of the modern BBC accent you can apply them to your accent and improve your speaking in general. Whether you are giving a presentation or maybe even a speech, you are free to use the following tips and tricks. Now I don’t want to get too technical today so here are some dos and don’ts for speaking in a modern BBC accent:
Let's start with the dos:
Number one is DO speak clearly. This is very important as reporting on the news is all about getting the message across as clearly as possible. This was why RP or received pronunciation was chosen by the BBC many years ago, so that most people could understand the accent as much as possible. So, not too fast and not too slow, and it also means don’t drop key sounds. Bottle and not ‘bo’’le water and not ‘wa’er alright? Clarity is king.
Number two is DO check your pronunciation of difficult or problematic words or names of people or places. Now in my other BBC video I did point out that there used to be a pronunciation handbook for newsreaders at the BBC. Well now there is a pronunciation unit at the BBC and they monitor difficult and problematic words and tell the news readers how to say these words. If you are giving a presentation, you need to do your research on things like names of people and places, brand names and other words that could be problematic. Here are some words that have more than one way of saying them:
British English /lɛfˈtɛnənt/ or lef-TEN-uhnt
US: /luːˈtɛnənt/ loo-TEN-uhnt
So here we have ‘lieutenant’ in British English and ‘lieutenant’ in American English.
I imagine the BBC go along with the British version but of course both are accepted in English as a whole.
2.Kilometre: UK /ˈkɪl.əˌmiː.tər/ /kɪˈlɒm.ɪ.tər KIL-uh-mee-tuhr or kil-OM-uh-tuhr?
So is it kilometre or kilometre? Hmm, tricky one this one. Traditionally, the stress was on the first syllable (like the first one) but it has started becoming more common to say the second version. I would say the first one but as I say, both now are acceptable. In fact I was just watching a documentary where the female British narrator with a modern RP accent said kiLOMetres (the second one)!
If you have any words that you want to know the proper British pronunciation of then put them in the comments below. Be sure to hit the like button as well.
Alright Tip Number 3 is do use some dramatic effect in your tone of voice but don’t get too emotional when reading the news!
Now the don’ts.
Number 1 So obviously don’t mumble, or speak unclearly as you are reading the news.
Number 2 on a similar note, don’t use these now pretentious features that BBC newsreaders and reporters used to use. I would say the biggest one is don’t roll your r’s with modern BBC English. Keep it simple. OK?
Today’s top tip:
The brilliant BBC archive is a treasure trove of classic and modern BBC accents. If you join their Facebook page then you will get frequent postings of videos in their archives on all different subjects so it’s a really great way of listening to how the BBC accent has developed from the classic to the modern.
And finally, here is a list of current newsreaders and presenters to look out for:Tim Wilcox, Dan Walker, Sophie Raworth, Charlie Stayt and Ros Atkins. They all speak with very pleasant RP or near-RP accents so check them out to watch or listen to them.
So, I hope you enjoyed today’s video and remember to check out the links in the description and also I hope it helps you to get a better British accent.
I’m Jon signing off and all I have to do now is to say see you later and stay connected. Bye, bye!
hi! it's jon.
Welcome to my blog of free tutorials explaining different British accents and areas of pronunciation. It's a complement to my video channel with video scripts, lessons and sometimes extra info not included in some videos. Click on the image to go to the video.