[S]tudents from Penrith’s Queen Elizabeth Grammar School visited Keswick this week to hear linguistic expert David Crystal as part of the Words by the Water festival.
The group of 16 and 17 year olds, all studying for English Language at A-level, enjoyed the renowned scholar’s talk, entitled “How We Speak”, which explores our feelings about pronunciation and class, and the way our Victorian predecessors handled the subject as revealed in the pages of the satirical magazine, Punch.
The talk revealed how Received Pronunciation, traditionally heard on BBC radio until the mid-twentieth century, no longer creates the same feelings of trust it once did, and how – as a nation – we have been conditioned to think that people who have a Birmingham accent are stupid.
Student Katie Turnbull said: “David Crystal came across as very charismatic and confident, you felt you believed what he said. Learning how the portrayal of people from Birmingham on the BBC as less educated has challenged my preconceptions, and I came out feeling very aware of how I sound!”
Student Abie Mair said: “It was really interesting and a very good experience – one of those things you really need to think about. It has inspired me to look more into our language and how it was has changed and been influenced since Shakespeare’s time.”
David Crystal’s academic career spans six decades and he is the author of over 100 books on the subject of the English language and the way it has developed.
Teacher Raina Parker, who joined QEGS’s English department last September, said: “David Crystal is a fascinating speaker and academic; today was a great opportunity for our English language students to hear from an expert in the field and I hope they have been as inspired by him as I was.”