Letter: It's how you say it

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Sir: Hamish McRae ("Living on pop music and film", 27 October) attributes lack of British success relative to the USA in cultural exports to the lack of an attractive popular culture to which global youth can relate.

The reason is simpler than this: only a minority of English people speak English in a form and to a standard that is comprehensible to non-native speakers or most north Americans.

This is why English pop music, where the language is of secondary importance, is a huge success, but popular television series or films outside the costume/period genre are unmarketable abroad. Compare Friends, ER or Frazier, where the characters speak clear, standard north American English, with London's Burning, Emmerdale Farm or Coronation Street. Ken Loach's films are sub-titled in north America.

The English (although not, I think, the Scots) are socially handicapped by a culture that denigrates the use of good, standard British English as "posh" and "uncool". Many people are unable to distinguish between what is slang or a regional usage and standard English. RP is now the only socially unacceptable accent in England.

I can only hope that David Blunkett can inject sufficient common sense into the teaching of English in our schools to raise the use of English above the kind of social stereotyping and class labels that result in Damon Albarn of Blur dumbing down his English to appear "cool".


London SW5