RP Accent Course

Posted by Jim Johnson on November 19, 2012 0 Comments

It's not uncommon for me to get an inquiry about an RP accent course, whether online or in person.  Standard British and some form of General American are the two most commonly needed accents for actors.

RP Accent

RP stands for Received Pronunciation, which is also commonly known as Standard British.  The RP accent course offered on AccentHelp is our most-purchased download.  RP is commonly spoken in and around London, but it may be spoken all over the UK.  Similarly, the most (arguably) General American accent - the Central Plains Midwest accent - is often spoken in other parts of the US, such as in the larger cities of Texas.

The kind of RP accent course needed can vary greatly from one person to another.  Any course in RP has to start somewhere in order to lead you to Standard British.  (This is true of learning any accent, by the way.)  Our materials are based in a roughly General American accent, shifting to RP

RP Accent Course

There are relatively few sound changes, actually, in moving from GA to RP: dropping post-vowel Rs, the "ask-list" words, recognition of additional rounding on a few vowels, and the diphthongal change to the oh sound are the primary shifts, so why so much trouble?

Standard British Examples

One reason that it's a challenge to learn Received Pronunciation is that it is a commonly taught accent.  To chalk that up as a challenge may seem odd, but the very fact that this accent is taught means that it has been more defined than most other accents.  People are not lining up to learn a Pittsburgh accent, but RP draws crowds - and results in financial rewards!

There are all kinds of examples of RP available, whether it's the Standard British audio from various radio sources or the plethora of programs from the BBC that use Received Pronunciation.  Downton Abbey is sophisticated!  And it's a soap opera!!  Who could ask for anything more!  The popularity of the accent and the degree to which it has been precisely defined oftentimes means that you either have it - or you don't.  

Rarely have I heard a director suggest using a "light RP" accent, though it's extremely common for scripts and directors to request a light German or a light New York accent.  RP tends to be treated as less of a dimmer and more as a straight up on-off switch.

RP Accent Course

To expand on the basic training materials we have offered with each of our downloads, RP was the first to have bonus tracks added that teach a monologue in the accent.  We've received such positive feedback on it that we're expanding it to all of our downloads, but the demands of RP really called for it first.

Received Pronunciation

The bonus materials reinforce the sound changes, and they also delve into the significant issue of the intonation.  There's an opportunity to repeat phrases focusing on the strong linking flow of speech and also on the pitch and musicality that isn't as readily available to most Americans.

Even so, there are so many little elements that it's difficult to cover them all, including word pronunciations that go against many Americans' instincts.  We're familiar with many of the basics, such as café stressing the first syllable instead of the second - or dropping the second altogether.  But other oddities that don't occur as often may be more striking and harder to pick up on intuitively:  squirrel may sound like skwirrel instead of skwerrel and Mazda's first syllable sounds like the a of cap instead of the o of cop.

I tend to spend at least two semesters with my university students, re-exposing them to RP again and again over time as they slowly learn to... I was going to say "master it"  But I think "respect it" would be more appropriate.  At what point does an RP accent course move from helpful to overwhelming?

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