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The Welsh Not

Jan 17 2005

By Carl Butler, Daily Post


THE Welsh accent was last night classed a turn-off by English speakers.

The rest of the UK would rather hear an Australian or even a French person using English than listen to someone from Wales.

Welsh accents might even harm career prospects, says a BBC survey of 5,000 people.

Last night TV celebrity Siān Lloyd, dismissing the findings, said it was an argument for the broadcaster to hire more Welsh speakers.

And Welsh language campaigners derided it as a remnant of English colonialism.

Although millions tune in every night to hear the Llangenech accent of BBC1 newsreader Huw Edwards, the survey puts a Welsh accent further down than Australian, Northern Irish and Cornish accents for "pleasantness and prestige".

Swansea, birthplace of Catherine Zeta Jones, came in the bottom ten in the UK, with the Cardiff accent only a few places higher.

While the voices of Sean Connery, Trevor McDonald, Terry Wogan and the plummy Hugh Grant thrill many, those of Tony Blair and David Beckham got the thumbs-down.

Welsh people put Richard Burton and Huw Edwards in their top three pleasant voices.

But those questioned in the online poll by researchers from Leeds and Cardiff universities said they would least like to talk like a Brummie.

It sampled 5,000 people across the UK on their attitude to accent and dialect.

Cilla Black and Janet Street-Porter are also amongst the most likely to have people reaching for the "off" switch.

More than half - 56% - of respondents from Wales said they were proud of their accents, and 24% claimed they never felt the need to change their accent no matter who they were talking to, compared with 19% in the rest of the UK.

ITV weather presenter and I'm A Celebrity... contestant Siān was "amazed" by the findings..

Siān, from Neath, said last night: "For someone who has been on TV for more than 10 years I have never found a Welsh accent has hampered my career.

"I find it difficult to believe this survey, I'm amazed.

"We have all kinds of accents in the newsroom I work in.

"I would argue one of the reason for these findings is that people are not used to hearing the Welsh accent.

"We are much more used to hearing an Irish accent or Scottish accent on TV, maybe we are just coming into our own.

"If people are not used to the accent then they are speaking out of ignorance.

"This survey should be a very good argument for the BBC putting on even more Welsh accents."

Ffred Ffransis of Cymdeithas Yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Society) said: "It's obviously an English speaking world, and this is a reflection of how Wales has been treated by the metropolitan classes of England.

"Welsh people have been poked fun at and treated as stupid people. Their accents, by association, simply reflect the way the English establishment view us.

"The Welsh accent is associated with something not intelligent. Our accent is something they do not understand and the people in Wales should not get upset by these findings."

Linguistics expert Dr Clive Upton from Leeds University said: "Scratch the surface and language can create huge debate.

"We are passionate about it because it's about our identity who we are and where we are from.

"What we want to unearth is real language and how it affects real people."

The poll kick-starts the BBC's Voices project, with the voices of 1,000 people. It is being launched in a Word For Word live special on BBC Radio 4 with Dermot Murnaghan on Wednesdayat 9am.

The audio-material collected by the BBC will be used to update Leeds University's Survey of English Dialects.

The first scientific attempt to map regional accents, it will create an online interactive dialect map of the British Isles.


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