Guest Blogger : Gareth Potter! A true story…

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[Gwelais y diweddariad isod ar dudalen Gareth gynne, gyda mae e wedi cytuno gallaf rannu’r testun fan hyn at eich sylw]

You may have seen this “status update” [below] earlier on Gareth Potter’s facebook page, here it is again in its full glory with the permission of the author.

Diolch Gareth!

>>>

As you may know, I’ve been lecturing at Trinity College in Carmarthen recently. I’ve been traveling back and forth from Cardiff on the Ariva Trains Cymru service. It is a lovely journey, taking in some stunning scenery but takes two hours either way. This gives me plenty of time to think. Now I love traveling by rail and I love the bustle of the stations. I also love the announcements, especially hearing the names of all the places that the trains will be passing through in both Welsh and English.

But the in-carriage announcements bear little of the charm or poetry of the platform broadcasts. Flatly, almost robotically spoken with none of the promise or allure of their out door relations.

For my journey home from university, I join the Haverford West – Manchester Piccadilly train. This passes through the historic town of Llanelli, famous for it’s coal and tin industries and boasting a rugby club that once beat the All Blacks.

But every day, before we arrive the announcement says “The next stop will be Thlanethlee…” And each day this announcement bugs me a little bit more. What is it with people that prevents them from pronouncing the Welsh ‘Ll’ correctly? Granted, the person making the (recorded) announcement does sound like she was brought up in the South of England, but I’d be willing to wager that she doesn’t have a strange shaped mouth that prevents her from (as Eiry Palfrey pointed out right here a week or so ago) forming an ‘L’ in her mouth and then just blowing. The more I hear it, the more I am irritated by its impertinence.

Now, yesterday as we approached said historical town the announcement piped up its daily insult to the glorious Scarlets, a group of foreign exchange students started to marvel at the name and how difficult it was to pronounce. Inevitably they began to imitate the recorded English lady and her mouthful of ‘Th’s. So calmly, I turned to the Norwegian, Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese teenagers and gave them a lesson in Welsh pronunciation. Within 30 seconds they were all gleefully articulating the name like Max Boyce in 1972 on the day the pubs ran dry. Then something wonderful happened. A young woman, of English extraction, joined the conversation with a (correctly pronounced), “and don’t get me started on the ‘Ch’ sound…”.

For the next hour and a half, the carriage was alive with young conversation on the nuances of spoken language. Using English as a lingua franca, we discussed our native tongues with passion and abandon. A Chinese boy boarded at Swansea and straight away we started discussing dialects -European, Pan Asian, Scandinavian and British.

An hour later, as we bid each other farewell on the platform at Cardiff, I felt as though some small magic had been achieved and the world and its languages had come a little closer by recognizing our wonderful differences.

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