5 Steps to Mastering the Melodic Welsh Accent

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A great Welsh accent, such as David Tennant’s in “United,” can feel nothing short of cwtch-y. A less than stellar one, however, such as Tom Hardy’s in “Locke,” can have the people of Wales questioning the acting choice. If you’re asked to perform a Welsh accent, these steps will have you sounding like you’re from Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch in no time!

Welsh accent history and types

Wales is a country in the United Kingdom, located just West of England. Although they may sound similar, differences between the Welsh and English accents include Welsh’s more elongated vowel sounds and lilting intonation, as well as varying stress patterns between the two accents. The national languages of Wales are Welsh and English, though English is spoken far more often. According to data from 2021, only 17.8% of the population of Wales actually speaks Welsh. That said, many Welsh words have become standard in the country, even among English speakers, giving Welsh English (sometimes affectionately called Wenglish) its own flavor and vocabulary. 

While several regionalisms exist, the standard Welsh accent used onstage and onscreen hails from the South of Wales. Unless you have information about your character’s origin that makes this seem impossible or unlikely, a Southern Wales accent should do just fine. (For the curious, the Northern Wales accent is heavily influenced by the English spoken in Merseyside, so it has some similarities to a Liverpool accent.)

Welsh accent pronunciation and inflection

Pronunciation

What does a Welsh accent sound like? Here’s how to change your pronunciation to create the accent’s trademark melodiousness:  

  • Switch the long “aah” with “uh”: “Trap” and “path” become “trup” and “puth.”
  • Elongate your “ay”: The “ay” sound used in “face” and “day” aren’t just elongated on one note or tone. Listen to a Welsh person speak and you’ll notice that these vowels sort of scoop down and then back up again, in a very singsong way.
  • Switch “ih” with “eh”: “Sit” and “pit” become “set” and “pet.”
  • Replace the liquid “u” with a pure “oo”: Instead of the diphthong called the “liquid u” in words such as “news” or “Tuesday,” the Welsh accent uses a pure “oo” sound like in “zoo.” So “news” becomes “noos” and “Tuesday” becomes “Toosday.”
  • Drop ther” at the end and middle of a word: Similar to a standard British accent, any “r” (or “r” in combination with another consonant) that isn’t at the beginning of a word will have the hard “r” sound dropped (this is called non-rhotic and is a feature of many accents in the United Kingdom). So “hear” is pronounced “heahhh” and “heart” like “heahht.”    
  • Flip/tap the “r” at the beginning of a word: This can be a tricky sound to master as it’s not fully a rolled “r,” just a tap. This sound is also common in Scottish accents and very old-school British accents (think Maggie Smith in “Downton Abbey”). This applies to any “r” that appears at the beginning of a word, even if it is in combination with another consonant—so the “r” will be flipped both in the word “right” and “fright.”
  • Drop the “h” at the beginning of a word: Similar to what might come to mind in a Cockney accent, “h” sounds become slurred or simply disappear.  “Happen” becomes more like “appen,” “however” like “owever,” and so on.
  • For verbs, switch “ing” with “in”: “Running” becomes “runnin.” Keep in mind that this only applies to verbs, so “singing” becomes “singin,” but sing would not become “sin.”

If you are familiar with the International Phonetic Alphabet and want to take your Welsh accent to the next level, you can find more of this information concisely summarized here by dialect coach Paul Meier, with a couple of additional, more minor sound changes.

Inflection

Now that you understand the sound changes, you have to master the tone. The Welsh accent is famously slow-paced and melodic, which you can create by doing the following:

  • Stress the penultimate syllable: Most Welsh words place stress on the second-to-last syllable, giving the language its singsong quality.
  • Hold your long vowels: Add duration to longer vowels by holding onto the sound.
  • Use the glottal stop: Insert a glottal stop—a short pause created by a catch in the throat—just before vowel sounds.
  • Emphasize intonation: Lean into the highs and lows of your natural pitch to create a lilting sound.

How to practice a Welsh accent for an audition

Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Matthew Rhys

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1. Immerse yourself. Immerse yourself in real Welsh accent examples. See performances by Welsh actors such as Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Matthew Rhys. Watch movies showcasing the accent and/or language such as “The Edge of Love,” “You Should Have Left,” and “The Feast.” Listen to recordings of the accent as it sounds in different regions at the International Dialects of English Archive. Once you’ve become familiarized with the sound, try mimicking it at home or take things a step further (when you’re ready) and spend some time speaking in the accent with friends to get yourself comfortable.

2. Mark your sound changes. If you have a specific monologue/side/set of lines you need to perform, it may be helpful to sit down and physically mark down every sound change you need to make to be sure that you’re not missing anything. Work slowly and methodically through the material, as it will be easier to learn it correctly in the first place than it will be to relearn it if you’ve missed something.

3. Practice strategically. If there’s a sound change you’re really trying to hammer home, come up with sentences that heavily feature those changes. For example, if you’re trying to really nail the “ih” to “eh” sound change, the sentence “hit that nimble, nifty Prince Billy out of England” would be useful to practice with.

4. Stick with it. The more time you spend working on the accent, the more comfortable you’ll become with it; and the more comfortable you are, the more quickly you’ll be able to forget about it and focus on the scene at hand. This matters since nothing makes an accent seem more unnatural than when you can tell the actor is focusing on it.

5. Strive for the vibe over perfection. Sometimes you receive a side and only have a few days to master an accent. That’s okay, too—nobody expects perfection on a first pass. If this is the case, pick a few key sound changes (as many as you feel you can handle) to really focus on, and then make sure you get the flavor or general musicality down.