Aspects of British English

In class ( year 13 LK) we talked about what it means to be British and what our associations and – of course – stereotypes are about “Britishness”.

One aspect we saw was that language, showing not only education but also a person’s belonging to a certain class in society, plays at least a bigger role in England than in other countries. (Please write a comment if you don’t agree.) Special words for certain types of English, often related with a certain pronunciation, give some support to this thesis: “Upper Class English”, “the Queen’s English”, “Oxford English”, “BBC English” etc.

Please note that these are not regional varieties of language, which we find in the UK too. Also you should remember the example from the movie “East is East” when Mrs Khan, changing into upper class English from the usual working class English in order to impress their guests, showed the typical British awareness of the meaning of lanuage.

To have a few examples for the English language and its use, I have picked the following examples from YouTube for you. The first one is also a historical document, because it is the first speech by Queen Elizabeth II to be broadcast on tv of the year 1957. As usual one can get more information about this on Wikipedia.

The second example of a speech is rather new in comparison and its topic is globalization, so for us its worthwhile to listen what Gordon Brown has to say.

The last example is from almost totally different areas. Remember I said that British and American scientists try to be understandable and entertaining even when dealing with highly scientific matters. German scientists – it often seems – are too afraid to lose their scientific respectability so that their texts tend to be unnecessary difficult. Listen to neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky about how humans are (not) unique. (The first 4 minutes are an introduction which is quite nice but which you might want to skip…).

Leave a Reply