My mum’s been bugging me for years (ever since I left England and started losing my accent) to watch East Enders and listen to BBC news so that I’d start to sound English again.
I used to have a really posh British accent going on — the Queen’s English. Over the years, through exposure to Bajan accents (that would be from people in Barbados where I lived a few years), a bit of California valley girl, Canadian (my best friend), and then Southern U.S. my accent is… well.. confused. Most people think I’m from New Zealand or Australia. Even the English. Most of my family insist I sound American. This is said as an insult – “You sound just like an American.” A heinous crime -akin to drowning unwanted puppies.
So my accent’s slipped a little. Even the Queen doesn’t speak the Queen’s English anymore. (http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/estuary/queen2.htm)
Fortunately, however, there’s still the Queen’s English Society. Dedicated to promoting and upholding the use of good English, and to encourage the enjoyment of the language. The Society aims to defend the precision, subtlety and marvelous richness of our language against debasement, ambiguity and other forms of misuse.
I’ve been listening to the last rehearsal we recorded. I burned each set onto a CD – the whole thing, chatter, songs, banter, re-tuning the guitars – as one long track. Listening to myself make fun of my band mates between songs (while they made fun of my British teeth), it was painfully obvious what my non-American relatives had been pointing out for so long. What British accent? Who is this person saying words I know I said? Where the hell is she from? South America? Australia?
So I thought I’d do a little web surfing to find some tapes that teach Standard Southern British (so I can sound like a BBC broadcaster). Easy, I thought – we accent tapes in drama to learn Southern accents. They’ve got to have an abundance of them sitting around on the web. Nothing. Well, no tapes. Instead I unearthed a mass of information on Received Pronunciation, the fact the the Queen doesn’t speak “the Queen’s English” so much anymore, and that most Brits don’t speak Standard South British/ RP / the Queen’s English / Public School English / what have you anyway. Only 3% speak RP, apparently. My brother might be one of them. I’m not.
So now I know lots more about sounding English than I did before. Doesn’t much help me sound like my 10-year-old self, though.