Elizabeth Jane Corbett

writing her way home

Language – some thoughts on accent, context and comprehension

This week I have been thinking about accent, context and comprehension. Why? Because on Tuesday, in the lead up to Dysgwr y Flwyddyn we did a mock interview at our Melbourne Welsh class. The beginners class prepared questions to ask our special Welsh visitor and the more advanced learners prepared questions to ask me. Happily, my mouth opened and a few appropriate sounds came out. Although, one question, in an unfamiliar North Wales accent, went straight through to the keeper. I tried answering on the basis of what I thought had been said. The result: some comically blank looks and a lesson learned: It's best to ask for clarification.

Wednesday night, an impromptu dinner with friends coincided with my scheduled Skype chat. The necessary explanations lead to a request to say something in Welsh. One of our Nicaraguan friends, herself an English language learner said, 'when you were speaking Welsh you looked like I feel when I am trying to find the English words.' This has been one of the unexpected side effects of learning Welsh. A strange affinity with others who are trying to break through language barriers.

During my Skype chat, my friend, Aran, said my first few weeks in Wales will be make or break in terms of my Welsh language development. He challenged me to arrive, guns blazing (my words not his) and make it plain that I want to speak Welsh from the outset. He also suggested I make contact with some local, Welsh speaking communities before I arrive. I have since written emails to Merched y Wawr and the Corris parish church. I may also have a small Welsh speaking job lined up.

Wednesday, the son of my Lebanese Australian hairdresser showed me a YouTube clip about the Australian accent. A timely reminder that accents and dialects make a huge difference to comprehension. I'm pleased to report, that I understood everything Simon Taylor said in this YouTube clip. I may not be so fortunate during my Dysgwr y Flwyddyn interview Saturday night.

I will wake Saturday morning to a self imposed cocoon of Cymraeg right here in the Melbourne suburb of Coburg. I have friends lined up to chat on Skype throughout the day. In between, I will listen to Radio Cymru. Write a long overdue letter to my Welsh cousin in Cwmafan and do multiple SSiW lessons. By 10.45 pm (interview time), I will be in the right frame of mind. Or simply punch drunk and exhausted. Either way, I intend to enjoy the experience.

Unfortunately, the blogger YouTube feature is malfunctioning at the moment . So, I am unable to embed the Aussie accent clip. But it's worth a watch, if you've ever had cause to reflect on accents, context and comprehension, just click on this link.



Dysgwr y Flwyddyn – Welsh learner of the year


A week of small things


  1. Sarah-Jane

    Blog diddorol dros ben. Pob lwc nos Sadwrn!!

    • ejcorbett@yahoo.com.au

      Diolch yn fawr am dy helpu dy nos Mawrth.

  2. Hope you had fun, Liz. And I love that Aussie language clip – very funny.

    • ejcorbett@yahoo.com.au

      Yep, it was fun. Kind of surreal an wierd. Bu worthwhile.

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