The Queen and her birthdays
When blogging about UK culture, it’s impossible to avoid a topic which always generates a lot of interest all over the world: the Royal Family. This is particularly apt as this weekend was the celebration of the Queen’s second birthday this year. That’s right, the Queen being the queen, has two birthdays. 21 April is her actual birthday while her official birthday is always a Saturday in June. Why? Weather of course! On this official birthday other Royals join her Majesty for a televised outdoors spectacular in central London called, ‘Trooping the Colour’.
Royals + events = media frenzy
It seems that this Spring and Summer the Royals have been creating even more of a media frenzy than normal. Firstly, the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to her second child on 2 May, which by the way, means the latest arrival shares a birthday with another UK icon, David Beckham. Then Kensington Palace released adorable pictures of Prince George and his little Princess sister taken by their mother. Then on Saturday Prince George again stole the spotlight by joining members of the Royal family on the famous balcony at Buckingham Palace for a flypast by the Red Arrows.
Each Royal ‘event’ photo seems to lead to non-stop facebook posts, extensive media coverage, and lots of dinner table discussions.
The Right Royal RP?
As with any baby (not just a Royal one) there were many questions asked and bets placed. Would it be a boy or a girl? What would they call it? Who would it look like? And what would it sound like?
Some of these answers are already known. It’s a girl, named Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. However, we won’t know the last one for some time. After all, we haven’t even heard Prince George speak, let alone his baby sister. This brings me onto another subject that students in my British Council classes often ask about: accents and ‘how to sound British’.
We have a saying in Britain that someone who speaks with what is generally considered to be a good standard and can’t be regionally identified by how they speak, “speaks the Queen’s English”. But what does that actually mean? Most learners of English as a foreign language associate “correct” English, at least when it comes to pronunciation, with Received Pronunciation (RP), which is also what is seen in the phonemic chart. It’s not just learners of English who are attracted to RP, most surveys on the topic show that people who speak RP are considered to be more intelligent and more trustworthy than those who spoke with a regional accent. This RP bias might be further evidence that the class system is alive and well in modern Britain, as RP is by and large spoken by the middle classes and those in the southern belt, whereas strong regional accents are usually synonymous with northern, working-class cities such as Liverpool and Newcastle.
I want or I want my child to sound ‘British’
Does this suggest that learners of English should concentrate on listening to, and speaking, RP? Not at all! My personal view is that exposure to a range of accents is extremely beneficial in the long run, both for examinations and in the real world. Most native speakers I know certainly don’t ‘speak like the Queen’.
Long live the Queen and long live all the different UK accents!
Did you know?
- Trooping the colour A televised annual spectacle to celebrate Her Majesty’s official birthday held on Horse Guards Parade in London.
- Kensington Palace is one of the royal residences of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (and their two children). It is set in Kensington Gardens, in the Royal Borough of, you guessed it, Kensington and Chelsea.
- The Red Arrows the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team. The Red Arrows put on aerobatic displays and often have the honour of leading a flypast of Buckingham Palace on royal occasions.
- The royal baby will be known as Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, and will be 4th in line to the throne, behind her grandfather Charles, father William and older brother George. The royals have their own YouTube channel. It’s great for samples of their Received Pronunciation