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When I was learning English at school in Russia, we were taught the pronunciation of "British English", remaining unaware that there are hundreds of accents in Britain. Now I know that there's the standard pronunciation called RP, but there also exists so called "modern RP", which seems to be spoken by more people, at least if we exclude the grandparents of the current youth.

So I'm confused a bit. What is the pronunciation that's taught these days in Britain at 1) public schools, 2) courses for foreigners? Is it MRP or the old RP?

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    Note that in the UK "public schools" doesn't mean schools run by the state, but expensive independent schools. You should say "State schools" or just "schools"
    – James K
    Jan 14 at 12:30
  • And what about Russia? Do they teach you a native speaker accent? I should think not. I don't know any country where the country's accent is taught in schools.
    – Lambie
    Jan 14 at 15:46
  • I’m voting to close this question because is not about English but about English teaching.
    – Lambie
    Jan 14 at 15:47
  • @Lambie I don't know how paid (elite?) schools in Russia work, nor about the courses for foreigners, so can't tell what they teach. As for the normal schools, there we're only taught higher-level details like which syllables should be stressed (e.g. краси́вее instead of красиве́е), which words should be substituted with others (e.g. ложить → класть) etc.
    – Ruslan
    Jan 14 at 18:02
  • @Lambie Questions about teaching English as a foreign language are on-topic here. English Language Learners Stack Exchange is for people who are learning or teaching English as a foreign language.. Is pedagogy off topic?
    – ColleenV
    Jan 14 at 21:35

2 Answers 2

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This answer assumes the question is about English as taught at British schools to naive speakers of English

Your misconception is to think that pronunciation is taught at schools in Britain to native speakers of English. It is not. Native speaker learn their accent from their parents and their peers, not from their teachers.

Students should be orally fluent. They should be able to use "Standard spoken English" but the accent is not assessed. It is possible to use standard grammar and vocabulary in any pronunciation. It is possible to use slang and non-standard English in RP. See the exam guidance for exactly what is expected by age 16.

Schools may teach pronunciation for students with speech disorders and dysphagia. Here the aim is to enable the child to communicate. The accent is irrelevant to this.

Similarly, in courses for foreigners, the teacher would normally teach in their own accent, a teacher from Scotland would not use a fake RP accent, for example.

Students would not be required to emulate the teacher, so a student that says /græs/ and a student that says /gra:s/ would be equally acceptable in both London and York. Details such as "RP" instead or "MRP" are utterly insignificant in the education of native speakers. Most native speakers would not be able identify the difference, except perhaps noting that RP sounds "a bit posh".

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  • Many English teachers are non-native speakers, their speech will be influenced by the time spent studying in Secondary and Higher education. If they were educated during the 70s and 80s their accents will lean towards British English. You are absolutely right that teachers will not fake accents that are weird for them but they should also bring students' attention to the fact that there are regional differences, and how someone pronounces “bath” in north England will differ as you travel further south.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 14 at 12:29
  • Are you talking about teachers in UK schools> Teaching English is naturally very different in Britain compared with the rest of Europe (of course!). Most English teachers in Britain are native speakers. But they could have any accent, including Scots, Yorkshire, and American. Nobody would tell any English teacher to change their accent. Nobody would tell a child that they have to use the same accent as their teacher.
    – James K
    Jan 14 at 12:34
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    Read the question again: "What is the pronunciation that's taught these days in Britain at 1) public schools," The OP is asking about the accent taught to native speakers.
    – James K
    Jan 14 at 12:44
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    Then the question is less interesting and useful than I thought. No one teaches British native speakers an "accent". The accents of native speakers is reliant on the families and the regions where they are brought up in, and I would imagine this to be true for any language.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 14 at 12:54
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    @Ruslan No. accent is not taught at expensive independent schools. There is no need. The people at those schools already have posh accents.
    – James K
    Jan 14 at 15:40
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N.B This answer refers to the variety of English that is taught as a second language. I am more than happy to delete the post if I completely misunderstood the OP.

Typically, the pronunciation taught in schools across Europe will be Standard British English–the same one that we read/hear in online dictionaries.

Nowadays, many class videos and audios will reflect British regional differences. Students will be exposed to accents from Yorkshire, Liverpool, Ireland and Scotland, to name but a few.

Some schools in Italy have adopted American English course-books, this especially makes sense if the class teacher is an American. In my experience, nearly all the speakers in the audio will be AmEng speakers speaking Standard American English.

Over the years Received Pronunciation has fallen out of favour, this extract does a good job of summarising its inevitable demise. [emphasis in bold mine]

"It was standard practice until the 1950s for university students to adjust their regional accents to be closer to RP. RP was traditionally used on stage, for public speaking, and by the well-educated. In the 1950s, RP was used by the BBC as a broadcast standard and was referred to as BBC English. Since the 1970s, the BBC label has been dropped and RP has slowly been more inclusive of regional influences throughout the United Kingdom. By the turn of the twenty-first century RP was spoken by only 3 percent of the population. Today BBC broadcasters do not use Received Pronunciation, which actually today now sounds out of place; they use a neutralized version of their own regional accents that is intelligible to all listeners." (Oxford University Press, 2007)
Author: Kathryn LaBouff

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  • It is a considerable over simplification to divide accents between RP, and regional, as some try to do. In many cases people who might be regarded as speaking RP will nonetheless have traces of a regional accent. If you listen to this interview with Richard Burton for example - he is clearly using RP, but one can identfy his origins as Welsh, from the way he speaks. The way a person speaks - in Britain - can tell you a great deal about them, their region, their social background, their education etc. But everyone is different.
    – WS2
    Jan 14 at 14:28
  • @WS2 Obviously I had to generalise, even within Liverpool and London you can hear several different accents that reflect how English is spoken at home whether by first generation immigrants or by families whose ancestors can be traced back to 15th century England. "The way a person speaks - in Britain - can tell you a great deal about them, their region, their social background, their education etc." That used to be very true up until the 1980s, I think RP/ upper-crust accent and its counterpart, cockney, are fast declining, they're barely heard on TV or on the radio.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 14 at 14:42
  • This question is not a valid question for this site. I'm surprised you two "super users" went along with it. It's about misunderstanding teaching practices.
    – Lambie
    Jan 14 at 15:51

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