2016 Book review - Beginners

Beginner - A short book review, up to a maximum of 500 words, written in English, about a book you have read in Welsh. This category is for those who are fairly new to reading in Welsh, and the review should aim to present a book useful to others who are just starting to have a go at reading.

Adolygiad llyfr gan Eirianwen

A Great Place to Start: e-ffrindiau by Lois Arnold

e-ffrindiau is the first book I read in Welsh, and I highly recommend it as a first venture into reading. It was written by Lois Arnold, who was a Welsh learner herself. She won the Dysgwr y Flwyddyn competition in 2004. Her own experience as a learner has enabled her to craft a book which helps someone reading Welsh for the first time to have an enjoyable and successful experience. The book is advertised as being appropriate for someone in the Cwrs Mynediad, the Entry Level course for learners.

This book is written in an interesting format, not in traditional chapters, but as a series of e-mails between two women who are Welsh learners. Ceri, who lives in Australia, and Sara, who lives in South Wales, become pen-pals. They are both taking entry-level classes, and they want to practice their Welsh. The story begins at a fairly basic level. As time passes in the story, and Ceri and Sara learn more in their classes, their vocabulary and ability grow, and thus the level of the language in the story becomes gradually more complex. I found this gradual increase in complexity to be very helpful as a first-time reader. Instead of being overwhelmed, I felt successful from the start, and as I continued reading, I gained more and more confidence, and my own ability grew as well.

Additionally, there is vocabulary provided at the bottom of each page, so that the reader needn’t stop to look up words in a separate dictionary. I’ll admit I still needed to use a dictionary occasionally, but I found the provided vocabulary very helpful. Not having to stop all the time to look up unfamiliar words made the experience feel like I was really reading a book instead of struggling through an exercise.

I would not describe the plot as gripping or compelling, but there is enough going on in the lives of the two women to make the story move along and keep it interesting. We learn about the women, their jobs and interests, their families, and their day-to-day lives. Ceri has family in Wales, and her search to find out more about them is an ongoing thread in the plot. The fact that the story is about ordinary life means that the reader encounters a lot of useful everyday vocabulary.

I started reading e-ffrindiau when I was near the end of SSiW Course 1. Near the end of the story, the “short forms” for the past tense are introduced, and although I hadn’t formally learned them yet, I was able to understand well enough to finish the story.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and I had a real sense of accomplishment when I finished. If you are thinking about trying to read for the first time, I highly recommend e-ffrindiau as a starting point. Pob lwc a mwynheuwch!


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Thank you for this recommendation,@dafyddyfelin. It is the first book I’ve read in another language! I am at the end of Level two, but even so did not find it easy to start with, but as you say, it develops as you get used to the vocabulary and style.

I do feel rather chuffed with myself.

One thing I would say - it totally vindicates the advice by @aran to not learn to read first, before speaking. I didn’t struggle with the pronunciation (well, not much) and wasn’t distracted by that, which was really useful.

I’d like to read something Northern next, though.
Any recommendations? `


I have Sgwp and Cysgod yn y Coed, both by Lois Arnold. Sgwp is a novel (~200 pages) and I’m really enjoying it. Cysgod yn y Coed was short stories and by its nature was a bit more hit and miss.

I couldn’t comment on how Northern it is, nor how well it compares to e-ffrindiau.


Go for Blodwen Jones:



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I can understand about one word in four of the blurb on the book, @aran. Does that mean I’m a lost cause?
Are the other Louis Arnold books South Wales?

No such thing!

It just means that there are lots of entertaining new things for you to meet with Blodwen (and lots that you’ll find familiar too). There really isn’t a better starter for learners interested in northern patterns than Blodwen…:slight_smile:

Don’t know much about Lois Arnold, I’m afraid.

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Yes I think the Lois Arnold books are all S Wales Welsh. I’m reading Ffenestri at the moment, which is a collection of short stories and poems separated into Mynediad (complete beginners), Sylfaen (foundation level) and Canolradd. I’m really enjoying it, much more than e-ffrindiau.


And then when you’ve finished with Blodwen you can read everything else by Bethan Gwanas. She has written books aimed at all ages and abilities so if you choose the correct order your reading skills will flourish.


I feel like I’ve moved up a gear, now I’m trying to read.


I’ve just finished level two southern and have begun Duolingo Welsh. I also bought both “Cwm Gwrachod” and “Coed y Brenin” by Colin Jones with the audible books so I can listen while reading…hey if it’s how I learnt to read English with bedtime stories it can’t be bad. Colin reads with a slight northern accent I think but I don’t find this a problem.
To start off with I found “Cwm Gwrachod” much more accessible. I don’t know if this is because I know more of the vocabulary or it’s easier. However, by being open to repeating chapters over and both listening (yes and falling asleep to Colin reading) I can now read quite fluently both books in parts. I also found an online dictionary much less intrusive for translation of certain words and even sentences to keep the story going. It certainly a more entertaining way to learn to read for me but I really needed to hear what I was reading to start with.
I found them both to be a good way to start reading without being totally frustrated by looking up too many words and now feel I want to read more.


I am not a believer but I struggled to find accessible beginners reading material for adults once I had read the brilliant Lois Arnold novels and short stories. However on a Tenby bookshop I found Beibl Bach stori duw- the Bible for youngsters. The level I found very accessible and it helped that I had at the very least a vague memory of the stories.