Why Sean Kelly Has a French Accent

Article excerpt

Byline: David Derbyshire

SEAN Kelly could tell you all about it... if you can just work out what he's saying, thanks to his interesting accent that has a certain dash of je ne sais quoi about it.

The Co. Waterford-born cycling legend won international glory for Ireland, most notably in the 1980s, racking up 193 professional race victories along the way before retiring in 1994.

However, somewhere on the road to cycling success, Mr Kelly's accent appeared to fall in love with France, where he won the Paris-Nice race on seven consecutive occasions.

Today, as a TV pundit, he's almost as famous for his vowels and sounds that roll around as much as his wheels once did to such critical international acclaim.

He is perhaps one of the best-known examples of taking on the accents of those speaking around you, and he's not alone - now, scientists have shown just how powerful the drive to mimic other people really is.

An experiment with lip-reading has found that the brain subconsciously tries to copy the speech patterns of total strangers.

Researchers who made the discovery believe accent mimicry is part of the brain's in-built urge to 'empathise and affiliate' with other people - and we don't even need to hear them saying the words out loud. …