How many times have you heard that the British accent is “the real” accent? If we define ‘real’ as being first then, yes, the British accent is the real deal. However, let’s consider that the way American English is spoken today is actually much closer to the way it was pronounced long before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. That being the case, in strictly phonetic terms, the American accent may just be the ‘real’ English accent!
It all has to do with what we linguists call the “rhotic r”. American speakers of English pronounce the “r” at the end of a word, as in the word ‘doctor’. British speakers don’t. (It will sound more like ‘doctuh.’)
Until the early 1700′s, most English speakers referred to a person who practiced medicine as a doctor. Sometime thereafter, due to the changing socio-economic climate of southeastern England, the aristocracy made a concerted effort to change their speech pattern. They wanted to differentiate themselves from the lower classes. What did they do? They dropped their ‘r’s.
I’m not one to argue for right or wrong accents. In my book, an accent equals articulation which equals a speech pattern which equals an accent. So who has an accent? We all do!
At ARI, we provide American accent training not because it’s the real accent, but because it most closely corresponds to the way it’s most widely spoken today (in the US). The goal of American pronunciation training is not that we all include a ‘rhotic r’ each and every time, and certainly not that we all sound the same. Our goal is a simple one: eliminate language barriers by building bridges of communication.