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Briefly on learning the Queen's English (I)

By Chunyu Jinzhang

File photo. Queen's English refers to standard British English, and it can be further defined as the standard pronunciation and intonation of British English. Its opposite is American English.

File photo. Queen's English refers to standard British English, and it can be further defined as the standard pronunciation and intonation of British English. Its opposite is American English.

Queen's English refers to standard British English, and it can be further defined as the standard pronunciation and intonation of British English. Its opposite is American English.


Mandarin as the standard Chinese pronunciation has already been accepted widely and advocated throughout China. However, as its counterpart, Queen's English is still little known and never promoted in China, where English has been designated as the first foreign language and a compulsory subject for all students in primary and secondary schools and even universities. In fact, students learning English nowadays in China basically have no concept of what Queen's English is and how it differs from the American version.


As is known to us all, mandarin originates from the dialect spoken in northern China and is based on the Beijing accent. In analogy, Queen's English originates from England and is based on the educated London accent. American English is derived from Queen's English. In China, only mandarin is accepted as the standard Chinese pronunciation. But as to the standard English pronunciation, some students would think it must be the American version.


The Chinese government has been trying to popularize mandarin across the country in the past five decades, because there are 56 ethnic groups in China who speak different languages, and Chinese language alone is spoken in seven main dialects, each of which, in turn, has several local varieties. This has caused great misunderstandings and difficulties for people to communicate in their daily life. The same situation exists in the English-speaking world, where native speakers of English from different parts of the world speak different forms of the language. Even in London, people from the western part sometimes find it difficult to understand the people from the eastern part. Therefore, for a better understanding among the people who speak different forms of English, it is highly necessary to uphold Queen's English as the standard pronunciation in not only the English-speaking countries but the other parts of the world as well.


The English pronunciation varies mainly in the sound of vowels, while the consonants are pronounced in very much the same way wherever English is spoken. A language is first of all to be spoken. Good pronunciation comes from a good command of phonetics. In order to standardize pronunciation of vowels, phoneticians invented a diagram illustrating the side view of oral cavity and showing clearly the pronouncing positions of different vowels. Queen's English also serves as the foundation of the International Phonetic Alphabet promulgated by the International Pronunciation Association (IPA) established in 1886.


For about 50 years, until the end of last century, teachers and students of English in China regarded Queen's English as the sole standard, and the IPA was a compulsory course in schools and an independent item for the annual national university entrance English examinations. In the 1970s, China imported the "Linguaphone English Course" with sound effect, and in the 1980s followed this with the introduction of the "Follow Me" TV English teaching program and the "New Concept English Course" with tape-recordings. The oral standard and elegant Queen's English courses have helped at least two generations of Chinese learners of English develop the basic skills of English pronunciation.


However, along with introduction of the US TOEFL course into China in the late 1980s, Queen's English gradually lost its dominant position. Consequently, more and more students nowadays never stop complaining that English has no unified standard and different teachers teach different forms of English, which dampens students’ interest in learning the language and in a certain sense damages the teachers’ image in the hearts of their students.


Although different Chinese teachers may pronounce Chinese differently, few students complain that there is no standard pronunciation. That is because most Chinese people know very well what the standard is and they can easily consult dictionaries whenever they are uncertain about the pronunciation of a particular word. Within a Chinese dictionary every word is marked with the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet, which is the only standard for Chinese people to follow.


To be continued…

更多信息请访问中国网专家博客 http://blog.china.com.cn/queenglish

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