What, in your opinion, is the best English speaking accent?
I was having this discussion with my husband today. He told me he is fond of the way Dr Alice Roberts (Coast; Don't Die Young) speaks, and I told him, I am fond of the way Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion; The Root of all Evils) speaks.
As I understand it, Received Pronunication is standardised British accent sans regional and colloquial influences. So, is my husband and me correct in thinking Alice Roberts speaks RP English, and Richard Dawkins (he speaks with an Oxford accent, right?) doesn't?
If I'm to listen to someone, I judge more by the clarity of their diction and the timbre of their voice than the actual accent. My preferences seem to align with those of the people who cast actors for "voice-overs": John Hannah (distinctly Scottish, but crisp and sensitive) and Michael Gambon (slightly southwestern(?), but rich and confidently mysterious), for example. The "proper" accents of BBC announcers in the '30s, '40s and '50s are nowadays risible.
I miss a fair amount of Dr Alice Roberts's speech, because I'm concentrating too much on her accent and trying to work out where it originated; it's certainly not what I'd perceive as RP. Dawkins has a clear and precise accent, without sounding upper-crust-daft like the royals, and it's very easy to listen to him (unless you're annoyed by his views, of course).
Someone who's derided regularly for his manner of speech, but to whose accurate and delightful pronunciation I could listen for hours, is Brian Sewell.
(By the way, I couldn't quite get the hang of "So, is my husband and me correct in thinking ... .)
Twod: Thanks for the link to Brian Sewell. I had never heard of him (probably that Antipodean cultural deprivation again!), but was highly amused by some of the writings and voice recordings on his ste.
I particularly liked "The ladies of the harem cast lascivious eyes on whole cucumbers; they could only have them sliced" -- not all that funny in print, but hilarious when spoken by Sewell. ;D
"Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn." — Gore Vidal
Dr Alice Roberts doesn't speak RP. Like Twoddle, I've been puzzling over what regional accent she has - I know she's spent a lot of time in Wales, but I don't know whether she was born there. Michael Gambon, whose voice I also love, is Irish! You don't notice this much, though, as he leans towards RP. Juliet Stevenson has a lovely voice, and speaks RP naturally, although she does all sorts of accents in films. One of the most typical RP speakers I can think of is Joanna Lumley.
I tend to prefer northern accents (for personal reasons!). I like Bernard Hill's accent, although it's rather mild. I also like most Scottish accents and southern Irish, as well as southern Welsh.
As for what is the best accent, that is not a valid question! It's like asking "what is the best colour?"
I recommend my students to acquire a "mid-Atlantic" accent, as it is probably the most useful for foreigners! British (RP) consonants tend to be clearer, and American vowel sounds are fewer and therefore easier to say.
"He who dares not offend cannot be honest" Thomas Paine