Why Received Pronunciation for Business English recordings?

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the online version of the Dubrovnik BESIG conference. I started a text-chat discussion in one of the less informative talks, which I thought you might like to comment on.

The talk had a CD excerpt from a new Business English textbook of Native Speaker actors. Of course, these recordings being non-authentic were without stutters, false-starts, slips etc. As per usual, the accents were mostly Received Pronunciation.

The discussion point was that the majority of meeting transactions are between NNS, littered with errors and discourse problems, but actually successful pieces of communication. So, there was a suggestion to urge/encourage publishers to move towards authentic delivery….And NOT using RP actors! This was backed up by Anne Hodgson…hmmm yes, there were quite a few BE teachers there based in Germany, come to think of it! 🙂

But Nathan Keeves commented that the move towards authentic language in textbooks took a very long time and therefore we can expect to wait a long time for authentic delivery.

Re the possibility of authentic recordings, a commentor from India said that companies wouldn’t authorise recordings being used. However, the textbook being advertised was using genuine transcripts from business meetings and then re-recorded by actors, so essentially authorisation had been given.

It was also commented that many meetings take place by video conferencing so it would be technically (and easy) possible to record and use. Nathan also stated that despite companies SAYING that they didn’t want recordings being made, in practice (and his experience) nobody minds recordings being made.

So, Three Questions that I’d very much like to hear your opinions on, please…

  1. Don’t you agree that it would be much more useful for students to have the opportunity to hear non-RP accents in textbook listening exercises?
  2. Even better, wouldn’t it be preferable for CD listenings to consist of genuine business meeting recordings with mostly or entirely non-native speakers?
  3. Finally, how long do you think it will be before this happens?



Bren Brennan

About Bren Brennan

Bren initially trained here at SGI and then joined the staff in 2005. Since 2006, he has taught abroad in Budapest, Berlin and now at Mondragon University in Spain. He returns to teach at SGI London every summer and completed the SGI Trinity DipTESOL in 2011. He also regularly writes posts for students here.
This entry was posted in #eltchat, Business English and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Why Received Pronunciation for Business English recordings?

  1. Willy says:

    good questions.

    1. It depends. The counter argument could be that students need a model that is closer to the accepted norm, and the norm so far is native-speaking – not anymore in numbers of people using the language but still very strong in the mind of those who learn the language. Just see the job ads in Europe, all want native-speaker teachers, when perhaps in some places and for some students an ‘international’ or bilingual teachers would be better. So I’m taking the reason for RP in coursebooks is that it sells.

    The Business (coursebook) has a number of texts spoken in a French accent. When I use these texts I think the students don’t care what accent it is. And when I use them with French students, it is embarrassing. It sounds a bit like they’re mocking the French with those texts.

    2. Authentic texts, totally!

    3. I don’t know. I think that when there’s a book like this I won’t be teaching Business English anymore. Or if I still am, I hope I won’t need to use BE coursebook anymore.

  2. This is a good post on an issue that really makes me mad.

    There is absolutely no good reason at all why publishers still persist with using RP as the basis for their listenings. A variety of native speaker accents and non-natives would be more realistic and help prepare students better. It is a common complaint that students can do the listening tasks in class, but as soon as they get out into the real world they often fail miserably.

    The only reason I can come up with is that they want to make it easy for students to get right because that makes them like the teacher and the book more. If they are constantly being challenged the fear might be that students will be turned off the teacher, book or institution.

  3. Nathan says:

    Dear Bren,
    Thanks for keeping the discussion alive. I think that exposure to non-RP accents in textbook listening exercises is not just useful, it is necessary.
    My experience is that student motivation is also increased by using more realistic and achievable models in class. At the moment I am involved in a project that will hopefully be a useful resource for ESP teachers and students-watch this space!
    Many thanks,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.