Are you thinking about visiting Wales? That is a great idea! It is a fascinating land, full of history, with imposing castles and breathtaking natural landscapes. Wales is also a welcoming nation and very close to its roots. Its people fought energetically in the past to defend their identity, first against the Romans and then against the British.
Wales is a bilingual nation, since English and Welsh, a language of a Celtic origin, are spoken fluently. When looking around, you will notice that traffic signs and store signs are written in both languages. Welsh, however, has had a strong impact on the English that is spoken in the region, giving it a very particular accent, some special grammatical characteristics, and some linguistic loanwords.
Nevertheless, it is fairly easy to understand this variant of English since it is very well articulated and the resulting intonation is quite musical. Giving a single description of this is quite reductive since the accent changes in different regions due to the influence surrounding areas have had on the English. The southern accents and dialects are influenced by the English spoken in Bristol; the accent in the western part of Wales is similar to the English of Midlands; and the accent of the north was influenced by the English spoken in Merseyside.
To give a practical example, as you move towards the west, the emphasis is placed on sibilant sounds and consonant links such as ss and th. In addition, while the north has guttural and nasal sounds, the pronunciation in southern Wales has more rounded sounds. While there are several variations and exceptions, we will try to isolate some of the main aspects of Welsh English.
Phonetics and Pronunciation
Some phonetic aspects of Welsh English are:
- Opening and lengthening of vowels
The vowels are generally more open and elongated than in other variants of English.
- The –i is pronounced like the schwa in words like kit, pit, and going.
For example, going is pronounced /go-ǝn/.
- Most consonants, such as “h” and “f”, are dragged out while others are dropped.
For example, Can I have some of that? becomes Can I ave some ov that?
- The “y” sound is sometimes eliminated and not pronounced.
For example, in the sentence Did you hear the news?, the pronunciation would be Did you hear the ooz?
The question Do you want to use this? becomes Do you want to ooz this?
- The use of the alveolar “r”, /ɾ/
The sound of the Welsh “r” is quite long when compared to standard British English. It is enough to simply lengthen the pronunciation of the consonant a little.
Some grammatical features of Welsh have become part of English.
- The use of the rhetorical question innit? (isn’t it) at the end of sentences that do not require it such as in a sentence like I love running, innit? (I love running, don’t I?)
- The positioning of the subject and the verb at the end of the sentence for emphasis. For example: Always tired on Saturday morning, I am. (I am always tired on Saturday morning.)
- The position of the auxiliary verb do in sentences like “I do like that“, becomes “I like that, I do“.
- In South Wales, the adverb where often becomes where to in questions. For example: Where to is your sister?
Many Welsh words and expressions have become part of the English vocabulary of Wales. Some words also have a different pronunciation or a change in meaning.
Cwtch :/cutch/ (hug)
Give me a cwtch.
(Give me a hug.)
Butty :/byti/ (friend, mate)
This is my butty.
(This is my friend.)
Now in a minute (One moment!)
This expression is a request for someone to leave you alone. It is used to respond to someone who asks you to do something that you have decided to postpone but will do.
Can you go cook dinner?
I am working. Now in a minute.
(Can you go cook dinner?
I am working. Wait a minute.)
The word tidy is widely used in Wales with different meanings. It can mean beautiful, splendid, great, in great quantity or decent.
Other Welsh words that are commonly used in English include:
Now that you know some of the characteristics of Welsh English, you are ready (or almost ready) for your adventure in Wales. The best way to get acquainted with different English accents is to take a course that offers you specific audiovisual material that can expose you to its different variations. Have you ever tried the online course from ABA English? In addition to the 144 free grammar video lessons, you will be able to familiarize yourself with the English that is spoken in various parts of the world. This is thanks to the ABA Films, the short films that were made for the course using actors from different countries.