Some things about Britain make sense only to the British. Of these, probably the strangest is social class. There are three main class divisions in Britain with some 'in between' variations (such as 'upper middle'): upper, middle and lower or working class. And people in Britain are very conscious of class differences.

The different classes in Britain tend to eat different food at different time of the day (and call the meals by different names), they like to talk about different topics, they enjoy different pastimes and sports and have different ideas about the correct way to behave.

The easiest way to guess the class to which the person belongs to is to listen to the way he or she speaks. A person's accent in Britain is an identity card. Other people will be able to say what social background you come from, where you were born or educated, and what kind of job you do.

Changing an accent is difficult, even for actors. To achieve the desired accent, a British person must speak it from childhood. This is one of the reasons why people still send their children to expensive private schools. It is not only that the education there is better, but because, as adults, they will have the right accent and manners, and equally importantly, they will make good social contacts that they can use later in life.

A person's vocabulary is also very important. Here is a good class-test you can try: when talking to an English person, say something too quietly for them to hear you properly. A lower-middle or middle-class person will say 'Pardon?'; an upper-middle class will say 'Sorry? (or perhaps 'Sorry what?'); but an upper-class and a working-class person will both say 'What?' The working person, however, will drop the 't' 'Wha'?'

'Toilet' is another word that makes the higher classes exchange knowing looks. The correct upper class word is 'lavatory' or 'loo'. The working classes all say 'toilet', as do most lower-middles and middle-middle classes, the only difference being the working-class dropping of the final 't' again.

An interesting thing about the class system in Britain is that very often it has nothing to do with money. A person with an upper-class accent, using upper-class words, will be recognized as upper class even if he or she is unemployed or homeless. And a person with working-class pronunciation, who calls a sofa a settee, and his midday meal 'dinner', will be identified as working class even if he is a multi-millionaire living in a grand country house.


Answer the questions:

1. How many major class divisions are there in Great Britain?

2. What are the differences between the social classes?



Choose the right answer to the question:

Is it difficult to achieve the desired accent?

a) no, if you speak it from childhood

b) yes, for everyone

c) what other features can be used to distinguish class background?


Text 5


  1. A survive the education system
  2. Act as a teacher in class, using the material from the lectures above.
  3. American classical music
  4. B) Argue the pros and cons of: 1. Tutorial system. 2. Students' uniform. 3. Residential colleges.
  5. B. Now try to go around a class, greet and start a conversation.
  8. Class osnova
  9. Class readership of British press
  10. Classes of Supply
  11. Classical pragmatics

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