Mind Your Language! He's Been a Poet, a Rocker and Now He's Exploring the Country Seeking out Wales' Many Different Dialects - from the Familiar to the Little Heard and the Dying out. Here Ifor AP Glyn Shares His Love of Language with Nathan Bevan

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), June 4, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Mind Your Language! He's Been a Poet, a Rocker and Now He's Exploring the Country Seeking out Wales' Many Different Dialects - from the Familiar to the Little Heard and the Dying out. Here Ifor AP Glyn Shares His Love of Language with Nathan Bevan


As long as he can remember, the importance of words has always been one of Ifor ap Glyn's biggest fascinations. Raised in West London speaking Welsh as a first language, he grew up intrigued at hearing his North Walian mother and Ceredigion father use a variety of different ways to describe the same object.

What is more, this love of words went on to shape his long and varied career, from the role of Children's Poet Laureate for Wales he held from 2008-2009 to his unlikely stint as the singer in a New Wave band in the '80s.

"We were called Treiglad Pherffaith, which is a bit of a play on words in itself," says Ifor, pictured above.

"The literal meaning of it is 'perfect mutation' but, because there was a fashion at the time for band names to mean something in both Welsh and English, we thought it would be a good joke to have one that made no sense in either.

"So not only is ours grammatically incorrect in Welsh, but it translates as something ridiculous in English.

"See, I bet you're wishing you'd never asked me now," laughs the 49-year-old, who's now adding to the TV presenter section of his CV with a new show on S4C (Ar Lafar, or As Spoken Here) which celebrates the wealth of different dialects we have in this country.

And it's just how many which might come as a surprise.

"It just isn't as simplistic as drawing a dividing line somewhere between north and south, because some linguistic scholars argue that accents and dialects tend to change every 10 miles or so, and I think that's a very supportable thesis," he adds.

"Personally, I've always been interested in that array, so this show is intended as a celebration of that."

How many dialects are there though, roughly speaking? "Ballpark figure? Ooh, difficult to say," says Ifor, who'll be travelling from Gwynedd to Gwent, Pembrokeshire to Powys and Rhondda to Rhos exploring such vernacular variations.

"Experts have tried putting a figure on it, and there have been various groupings going from six to 16, but you can carry on sub-dividing that down until you get to what serious students of this subject refer to as the idiolect.

"That's where no two people talk exactly the same, so someone can be brought up next door to their neighbour in exactly the same circumstances and still have a alternate way of describing something."

His own unusual upbringing certainly gave plenty of credence to that.

"Well, I wouldn't really call my childhood unusual, it felt quite normal as far as I'm concerned," says Harrow-born Ifor.

"There was a strong Welsh community living in London at that time, albeit a scattered one, and I think the same is true now.

"I mean, we lived in a cul-de-sac of 36 houses in Pinner and three of those had Welsh-speaking families living in them.

"I remember a lady from Llanelli living nearby and a man from Glyncorrwg across the way.

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Mind Your Language! He's Been a Poet, a Rocker and Now He's Exploring the Country Seeking out Wales' Many Different Dialects - from the Familiar to the Little Heard and the Dying out. Here Ifor AP Glyn Shares His Love of Language with Nathan Bevan
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