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Which English-language accent is ‘best’?

English Accent
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Do you believe that speaking in a particular English-language accent will help you pass the OET? Often, English language learners have a belief that one accent is ‘better’ than another.

However, in Medical English, it’s far more important to speak clearly, and with the correct intonation. Whether you learn American or British English – or another type – makes no difference. It’s fluency and accuracy that matters, both for passing exams and for your professional life.

On the other hand, when you ask native speakers, you’ll get a different reply. British people themselves have general opinions on which accents from their country they like. Often, people base these opinions on prejudice and stereotype – for example, many think that speakers who use Received Pronunciation (or RP) are intelligent. In reality, accent has no direct bearing on this.

RP is sometimes taught as ‘standard’ British English, perhaps because it’s generally spoken in London and across the South of England. It has elongated vowels – for example ‘bath’ is pronounced /ba:Ɵ/ rather than /bæƟ/. (By the way, watch out for a future post where you can learn more about different British accents). You might think that RP is the accent you ought to learn.

Yet a recent poll of members of the British public showed that Yorkshire accents were seen as the most trustworthy. Yorkshire, in the north of England, uses a flat vowel (they say /bæƟ/). It’s the opposite of RP.

On the other hand, RP was still seen as the second most trustworthy accent. It’s a shame that stereotypes are so influential, but as a non-native speaker, at least you have a choice which one you learn. Maybe you’re studying American-accented English, Received Pronunciation or even Yorkshire vowels. The most important thing is not to judge others for the accent they have. We can’t help where we’re from, after all.

If you’re a medical professional, find out how SLC can help you improve your English skills.

Stephanie Lam
About the author

Stephanie Lam is a writer, journalist, and English teacher. She specialises in writing fabulous words for the wellbeing and health industries.

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