The Royal Couple Stays Where?!?

Published on Sunday, May 01, 2011 in , , , , ,

Chris McKenna's photo of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch signMany of you watched the royal wedding at Buckingham Palace on Friday. Now that the wedding is over, the royal couple will be living in Wales while Prince William finishes his tour in the Royal Air Force.

Their Welsh home provides several excellent opportunities to challenge and improve your memory!

First, where is it? It's just off the western coast of England. Here in the US, most people only recognize the name from Prince Charles' title as Prince of Wales. Many may be surprised that, despite its proximity to England, they speak primarily Welsh.

Here's a video that shows the location of Wales, in the course of explaining the difference between Great Britain, the United Kingdom, England, and more:

While there are 22 Welsh unity authority areas (counties, boroughs, cities, etc.), thanks to the preserved counties of Wales, used largely for positions of sheriff and lord, you can get away with knowing only 8 areas.

These 8 major areas can be remembered with this poem by Peter Hobbs:

Gwent, Powys and Clwyd
(south to north) are borders 3,
next to South/Mid/West Glamorgan,
Dyfed, Gwynedd (with Anglesey).
Peter Hobbs also created another poem that helps you draw a simplified map of the Welsh preserved counties.

If you've practiced the poems and the map, it's the island of Anglesey where the royal couple is staying. As you can see from this story, the island features some beautiful scenery blended well with modern architecture.

While security cannot detail the exact location of their residence for obvious reasons, the royal couple are frequently seen in and around Llanfair PG. That's actually a shortened form of the name of the town.

It's full name is Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, which is Welsh for “Saint Mary's Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio of the red cave”.

Locals learn to say the full name to impress tourists, but don't you think they'd be more impressed by a tourist who can properly say it?

Besides the length, there are two letter combinations that make the pronunciation of this town a little tricky. The “ch” sound isn't pronounced as in “cheese”, but rather as in “Bach” or the Scottish word “loch”. For Jeff Dunham and Achmed fans, this would be the famous “C-Phlegm” sound.

The other one is that “ll” sound, which doesn't sound at all like you'd expect. The closest thing in English is the “thl” sound, like in “athlete”. More accurately, it's a “th” sound at the end of a word or syllable (so, the Welsh word “Castell” would be pronounced “kass-teth”), and “thl” when it's starting a world (making the pronunciation of “Llan” as “thlan”).

To get the “th” inflection right, try saying the word “all”, and at the end of the word, note the position of your tongue in relation to your teeth, as well as the position of your lips. Now, keeping your tongue and lips in that same position, try and force an “sh” sound through your mouth!

The first few times you do it, you'll overemphasize it and sound like an annoyed cat. Tone down the emphasis so you can use it in a word, and you've got it. Here's more help on the Welsh “ll” sound.

So, how do you pronounce the full name? The train station sign below seems to help, but still doesn't take into account the difference between the Welsh “ll” sound and the English “ll” sound:

Fortunately, www.llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.co.uk offers an excellent guide to pronouncing, and even understanding, each part of the name correctly. There's even a helpful sound file (.wav) consisting solely of the pronunciation of the town's name. I recommend using the Link System to help memorize the order of the sounds once you pronounce them.

Probably the most enjoyable way to learn the town's name is via Don Woods' song on iTunes, or via the following music video:

Amusingly, the actual sign used in the video had to be replaced in 2010 because it was misspelled! It was only one letter, but it's funny to think that a town that prides itself on such a long name wouldn't let something like that slip by for so long.

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