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So why is our Steve's Welsh accent acceptable but not Geordie Cheryl's? BUT EVEN HE MAY HAVE TO SOUND 'LESS WELSH' IN STATES.

Byline: GRAHAM HENRY

X FACTOR star Steve Jones may need to change his accent to be more palatable to American audiences, a speech expert has warned.

The Rhondda presenter is due to hit screens Stateside as host of the US version of Simon Cowell's creation - his first break into the lucrative American market.

But news of the apparent ditching of fellow Brit Cheryl Cole from the show this week may set alarm bells ringing with Tylorstown-born Jones, 34, and his loyal fans.

Cole has reportedly been taken off the judging panel, which she was due to share with Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and record label supremo LA Reid, because the audience and contestants couldn't decipher her strong Geordie tones.

Jones was due to share presenting duties with ex-Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger, but she is reportedly being drafted in to replace Cole, leaving Jones to possibly field the show alone.

Jones insisted earlier this year that his accent wouldn't torpedo an American career.

He said: "I've been working in America on and off for almost eight years and no one's ever said 'What the hell are you talking about?' There would not be a problem with the accent, "To be honest I've been offered a couple of other shows in the States in the last six months which I've turned down and I know there's been no issue with my accent there, because I'm a professional presenter and there's an element of TV voice - when you're on you speak clearly, you enunciate."

But a linguistics expert warned that Jones might have to tone down his accent if he's to make a success of the role, following in the footsteps of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Tom Jones in adopting a pseudo-American twang.

Helen Love, from the Cardiff Academy of Speech and Drama said that while Jones' naturally "bubbly and bouncy" personality might sit well with American audiences, the unknown quality of his Welsh lilt may prove a barrier.

She said: "It's like any accent - it's what you are used to.

"When Rab C Nesbitt came on screens here with a very strong Glaswegian accent, nobody knew what on earth he was saying, it needed to be translated, and the same problems might be experienced by a Welshman in America.

"It may be a problem if they have not heard it before. He has quite a bubbly personality to go on, which might aid him.

"With Cheryl Cole, as I understood it, she traded a lot on what she looks like - and as long as she kept her mouth shut, she was OK. She didn't really have to communicate.

"I think he [Jones] will have difficulties, not because it is harder to understand than others, it's just very different to what they're used to."

Ms Love pointed to the fact that American access to British accents is limited, while American TRUSTWORTHY ACCENTS * 1 Yorkshire * 2 Geordie * 3 Welsh * 4 Scottish * 5 West Country * 6 Irish * 7 Cockney * 8 Brummie * 9 Mancunian * 10 Scouse accents are common on British television - meaning an accent a long way from Dick Van Dyke's Cockney brogue or one in a period drama may be rejected by the US public.

She said that Jones might consider changing his Welsh accent for his new audience. "If you look at Catherine Zeta-Jones, that is what she has done," she said.

"You can hear a heavy American influence when she is over there, but a bit more Swansea when she is in Wales. I think his best chance is to be 'less Welsh' and be more American."

But linguistics expert Dr Rod Walters said Jones would find it difficult to lose his accent.

"Once we pass our teens we are less able to modify our accents, try as we may - and research has found that women are better able to do it than men," he said.

Dr Walters said that the stresses on certain words in a Welsh accent might be less alien to Americans than with a Geordie accent.

"I would be surprised if there was an understandability problem with a Welsh accent - so I would tell him to keep it."

Publicist Max Clifford said that it was a simple question of if people understand you - and whether you're "any good".

He said: "With Cheryl Cole, I don't know if it was her accent, it might have been a question of four judges and it was not working.

"But in Steve's case, this is the best chance he will ever get - and there are Welsh people, like Matthew Rhys and Ioan Gruffudd who have made it big there, so he can too.

"The Welsh accent seems to be one that Americans find quite easy and that might work for him."

Embattled Cole was thought to be in crisis talks with Simon Cowell yesterday over her future in the UK, after Fox executives reportedly insisted she was sacked from the US show.

Cowell's close friend Sinitta was quoted as saying that the pair were in talks to try to "work something out" - with the possibility of her returning to the UK X Factor still open.

> YOUR VOTE: PAGE 29

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* X Factor has given Steve Jones a major US TV break * Cheryl Cole's broad accent was reportedly a turn-off
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 28, 2011
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