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16 October 2014
the Big Welsh Challenge

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Lowri Turner

Lowri Turner

TV presenter Lowri Turner admits she understands virtually no Welsh at all - although she's always felt it's part of her heritage. Lowri has presented programmes including Looking Good, Shopping City, Housecall, Would Like to Meet and DIY SOS.

6th February 2008

After completing her final challenge - presenting a TV feature on fashion

Lowri arrives
Lowri arrives at a boutique in Cowbridge to film her feature

This was a very difficult challenge. I can't remember lines anyway but when you put them into another language it makes it incredibly difficult to memorise them. It was delightful to have a camera there watching me while I was doing it - I really enjoyed that!

Lowri interviews the shop's owner
Lowri interviews the shop's owner Julie Beynon

I can do "trowsus" really well now and "sgertiau" so I'm fluent! Huw, the director from Wedi 3, was really helpful. There was desperation in his eyes sometimes like he was thinking, "We do have to leave here at some point!"

Discussing script
Wedi 3 director Huw looks through Lowri's script

It was only when I asked him to write it out phonetically that he got any real understanding of how difficult it is when you don't know what you're saying and you have to try to remember it.

Krystal modelling
Krystal Hancock models the outfits

This is the end of The Big Welsh Challenge for me. It's been a year during which I've been pregnant, had a baby and tried to learn Welsh. Perhaps trying to combine a new language with night feeds was overly optimistic. Still I have learnt some Welsh.

Lowri's crib sheet
Lowri has a little help to remember her lines!

Having heard so much Welsh as a child I now understand the sounds I heard. I know the next time I hear Welsh I'll be able to understand something. I've had a lot of help and I thank the Big Welsh Challenge team for that.

Piece to camera
Lowri delivers her lines to camera

For those thinking of learning Welsh, I would say, "Do it!" If you can put some time in it's very rewarding. It's a very beautiful language and I feel privileged to have been given the chance to learn it.

Video IconSee Lowri's feature on Wedi 3

20th December 2007

After receiving her final challenge - presenting a feature for the S4C magazine programme, Wedi 3

I'm really looking forward to the last challenge. I think it's been nice that I've been able to pick it in a way, so I've chosen fashion as the subject of my feature which is something that I find interesting and fun. Being able to do something on fashion means that I kind of know what I'm doing and it's fantastic that a lot of the Welsh words are actually the same as the English ones!

Lowri receives the challenge
Iolo comes to the Western Mail offices to present Lowri's final challenge

I don't want to be blasé or too confident but I do think this one could be slightly easier than the others because it's what I know about. I'm used to writing scripts so once I've written my script I can learn it for the piece to camera and I'll be OK for the commentary because I can learn that. The difficult bit will be the interview because I've got to ask the questions, understand the answers and then respond. That will be tricky and I need to do a lot of work in that area.

I have to say my Welsh is not going terribly well in general. I didn't realise how hard it would be. I thought I'd do a little bit here and there but I've got three children and I haven't got a little bit of time here and there. I would love to be doing more and I feel desperately guilty that I'm not. Every time I get a challenge I think, "Oh my goodness, I haven't done my homework!" I have to rush and do a whole lot of work and then I forget what I've learnt immediately afterwards.

On the phone
Lowri makes a phone call to get some advice on Welsh fashion

Iolo's been lovely and I wish I'd been able to do more because he wants me to be able to speak Welsh really well and I like to hear him speak Welsh to me. I think I've been very lucky. I definitely got the most handsome mentor although I'm devastated he's not wearing shorts today which is a real letdown frankly on my last challenge. He says it's too cold but here's the man who's meant to be hardy - to be up Welsh mountains looking at barn owls at all hours of the day and night!

I don't think I'll carry on with my Welsh in a formal sense after this challenge because I simply don't have the time but it does mean that when I'm in Wales I can understand more and I can speak a little bit of Welsh. I feel a bit more connected really to that part of me than I did before because there was always a big hole. I tell people I'm half Welsh but I don't sound Welsh. OK - my name's Welsh but I don't speak the language and I always felt a bit fake and this makes me feel more legitimate I suppose.

27th November 2007

After performing the third challenge - solving a murder mystery

The milkman speaks
Ernie, the milkman, speaks about the murder

It was really good fun. My helpers (two Welsh learners) were fantastically helpful. I certainly couldn't have survived without them.

Lowri questions suspects
Lowri questions PC Bert Side

There was a lot of detail I didn't get but it's amazing how much you can understand by the way people say things. When I questioned people I managed to understand most of their answers. The play itself was more difficult but I managed.

Lowri takes notes
Lowri notes down the evidence

I didn't get it right about who the murderer was though. My Welsh might be improving but I won't be joining CID yet!

Video IconSee Lowri questioning a suspect

Video IconWatch the BBC Newyddion report on the Murder Mystery

16th November 2007

After performing the first challenge - singing Sosban Fach at the Children in Need appeal

On the stage
Lowri and the others sing Sosban Fach at Children in Need

I'm so glad it's over. I've been worrying about this for weeks. When it came to my turn (to sing two lines as a solo) I had no idea what I was singing. Thank God I wrote it on my hand, although Rhod exposed my ruse. Without my glasses I couldn't see it anyway!

Lowri tries to read off her hand
Rhod sees that Lowri's trying to read off her hand

It was good fun in the end and the group bits were enjoyable. I'm used to live TV so that wasn't the problem but I normally do it in English rather than Welsh.

Video IconSee Lowri in rehearsals

Video Icon See Lowri face the challenge

17th September 2007

After preparing with Iolo for her third challenge, which involves solving a mystery.

This challenge sounds the most fun of all the challenges so far and I quite fancy being Jane Tennyson for a day! I think I'll be ok at asking the questions but it does require a good knowledge of Welsh to understand answers, and I won't know when people are lying because the inflections will be different. I'll be quite sad if we don't do it in costume - I fancied a 1920s Agatha Christie "Death on the Nile" outfit!

Lowri arrives
Lowri arrives to prepare for her challenge

My Welsh isn't as good as it should be. Having a baby really knocked me sideways with unrelenting nappy changing, bottle sterilising and so on, so unless I have a Welsh speaker move in with me right now it's going to be tough. It's nice working with Iolo though. It's very pleasant looking at a handsome man in shorts and I like hearing him speak Welsh. He's very encouraging and kind, especially as he has to repeat the same words again and again.

Playing a game
Lowri plays a game to learn useful phrases

I did try to practise my Welsh on holiday in Carmarthenshire. The scenery was very beautiful and I had to read menus in Welsh - things like "smoked eel". I was in a very Welsh speaking area and it was great to hear the language.

1st August 2007

I'm preparing to put some of my Welsh to good use next week. I am visiting Carmarthenshire with my baby for a mini break. I plan to visit the Tywi Valley and Carmarthen to take in the lovely scenery and am told there is a great market in Carmarthen so I'll be shopping too. I'd better brush up on "how much is...?" But at least I can use "da iawn" a lot if I get into trouble. That and "diolch" are my saviours. Also it will give me the chance to use a bit of food Welsh as we'll be staying in a hotel and I'll need to order food, although I'm on a health kick and I'm not sure what the Welsh for "pumpkin seeds" is!

22nd June 2007 - Challenge 2: Calling a dance at the Gŵyl Ifan

Lowri's comments on calling the steps of the dance Cylch y Cymry:

I'm very glad it's over. It wasn't as bad as I thought, because once I got through having to explain the whole dance - the long version of the Welsh, which was tricky - the short version wasn't too bad. Having said that of course, I got about two thirds of the way through and kind of got lost and thought, 'Oh where are they and they're clapping and which word is that?' and that threw me slightly.

Last minute practice
Last minute practice

And also they did spot my ruse of actually not knowing the numbers other than one to four, so when it comes to doing something sixteen times, I just keep saying one to four! But it was actually good fun and they're really nice people.

Lowri calls the wrong steps
Lowri calls the wrong steps

Video Icon See the learners face their second challenge

15th June 2007

Lowri and Iolo open 2nd challenge
Lowri and Iolo open 2nd challenge

The bad news is that I now learn that North Wales pronunciation is more difficult than South Wales. But I can't go the easy route because my North Wales relatives would never forgive me. The "u" sound is particularly tricky.

Lowri practises her pronunciation
Lowri practises her pronunciation

My new challenge - to call a Welsh folk dance - is a bit scary. I have to say the words correctly and not fall behind. My worry is that I will trip over my words and get left behind and the dancers will end up in a confused heap. I have had a practice dance with Iolo but his legs are so long, I thought I was going to take off. Thank goodness I'm just calling it out!

Lowri and Iolo dance through the steps
Lowri and Iolo dance through the steps

Video Icon Hear Lowri and Iolo speaking on BBC Radio Wales from the Pineapple Dance Studio

March 2007


On her partner, Iolo:
I've got a very handsome mentor. I think I've done rather well! There'd be lots of women who'd be happy to spend one-to-one time with Iolo. Having said that, both his parents are teachers and I get the impression he could be quite strict. He's good at explaining stuff but I don't think he'll stand any nonsense. I'll have to behave myself!

Lowri and Iolo receive the first challenge
Lowri and Iolo receive the first challenge

On the first challenge (to sing Sosban Fach in front of an audience):

I don't think I've ever heard the song - but I must have done. Fortunately I was taught to say "ll" and "dd" as a child so that isn't worrying me. The "y" is quite scary and the "u". But I'm not too concerned about the pronunciation. I am very concerned about the performance though. I'm nervous about the singing because I'm a huge perfectionist and I want to get it right. I don't want to embarrass my Welsh relatives.

Iolo helps Lowri with those Welsh vowel sounds
Iolo helps Lowri with those Welsh vowel sounds

If I have to sing in a huge venue that won't be my greatest worry because it's anonymous. If I have to sing somewhere small and I can actually see people's faces close up, that is my worst nightmare. I'm hoping it's not going to be that.

The pair take a break from their practice
The pair take a break from their practice

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