Advice wanted on BBC Cymru listening practice

I have realised for a while that I need to greatly improve my listening skills. I have recently stared to listen to the downloads from BBC Radio Cymru Pigion - the selections of short Welsh discussion chats for learners.
On the one hand, the large number of Welsh words that I don’t know makes each chat rather incomprehensible to me.
On the other hand, each time I listen I find it easier to recognise, and immediately understand, those words that I do know.
There is no doubt that the Pigion helps my listening skills significantly. Highly significantly, I could say. I listen while I’m doing work around the house and I let it flow through me naturally. But, for me, it is not really a way to increase my vocabulary.
Should I continue to use this to increase my listening skills, even though it really doesn’t help my vocab? Or is there some way to do both? And yes, I use the rather limited word list given with each podcast, but it doesn’t really help unless I learn it parrot fashion, which I find a bit of a drag.


I gave up on Pigion a long time ago as I found so much of it hard to understand (accent, speed, vocab). There may be some benefit in just listening and hoping something sinks in but it hasn’t worked for me. I am feeling a bit stuck at the moment (some of this is laziness) but my main stay for a couple of years now is watching Pobol y Cwm using their Welsh sub-titles as well as the sain disgriffio (the latter is brilliantly easy to understand). When I am feeling keen I will look up a word I don’t know on Pobol y Cwm knowing it will regularly repeat so the learning comes easier. Tonight I watched it without sub-titles but realised how little I do understand (but then remember at the beginning that I never understood a word).


I take a slightly different approach to listening to Radio Cymru. I tend not to listen to it while doing something else, but just sit down and listen to it (with headphones), with a notebook and pen at the ready.

I write down words that I can clearly hear, but do not know, or am not sure about. Sometimes complete phrases, or just part phrases.

And then later, as a separate exercise, look them up, or maybe just some of them, in one (or more) of the online dictionaries. I do not attempt to memorise them, and actually, don’t often look back at my notes. I just think the effort of writing them down (and looking them up and writing down the meaning, and also saying them out loud) helps, and gradually, the same words will come up over and over again, and repetition does its work. At first, I could only do this for maybe 5 minutes at a time, but gradually I could extend this to 30 minutes or more.

BTW, I hope you have discovered the vocabulary pages for Pigeon:

(They don’t make it all that easy to find, to be honest, but from the RC Podcasts page:

Select “Pigeon” which should take you to:

And then select the “Geirfa’r Podlediad” tab, which takes you here:


I don’t do it as often as I should, but my approach is more like @mikeellwood’s. I sit down and focus on Pigion rather than just having it on in the background. The first day I listen to the whole thing all the way through. The next day I choose just one of the sections which are usually about 3 minutes long. I listen to it 3 times. I do that for a couple more days, noting down and looking up words I don’t know and haven’t yet managed to understand from context.


Diolch yn fawr, @mikeellwood, for those great links! I didn’t know about Pigion at all and have been trying to listen to the regular BBC Radio Cymru programs as I work. I pick up on the odd word here and there, but I’m still nowhere near where I want to be with my listening. Hopefully, this will help. :slight_smile:

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Diolch yn fawr iawn (thanks very much) to all the replies here to my posting, and Nadolig Llawen hefyd.


I keep coming back to Pigion and having another go but like many of the others here I don’t find it a very efficient way of learning new vocabulary. The parts I understand on the first hearing tend to become even clearer on repetition (as you would expect) but the bits I cant initially decipher at all do not seem to become any more comprehensible after repeated listening. The vocabulary is useful (you’re right, @mikeellwood, it isn’t easy to find; I stumbled on it by chance) but often seems to include words I already know while not explaining those I don’t. What I feel would really help would be a complete transcript; this would make it easier to understand connected speech, where individual words tend to get swallowed.

Other factors which often make Pigion less than ideal for me personally are the frequent use of telephone interviews (poor sound quality) or non-standard accents. Naturally these are completely normal things any learner will have to deal with eventually but I find them a bit frustrating at my own current level.

Having said that, Pigion is still a step towards better listening skills as at least some of the vocabulary is explained and the sentences actually preceding each section are reproduced in full so you can prepare for the change of topic. So my feeling is we should perhaps grit our teeth and keep going, @baruch!


Thanks so much, mikeellwood, for posting those links. I also didn’t know about Pigion and was starting to look for some Welsh listening practice, so those links will come in handy. :slight_smile:


Yes, that would be good indeed.

Agreed. I occasionally listen to “Taro’r Post” which is mostly phone interviews, and also the main presenter is a very rapid speaker. Very challenging.

I would not disagree. In fact Radio Cymru in general isn’t a very “efficient” way of learning new vocabulary. I think its value is slightly different.

What’s the most efficient way of learning new vocabulary? Well, for those who like that kind of thing, perhaps those flashcard-emulation programs (or nowadays probably mobile apps) like ANKI. Personally, I’d rather have teeth pulled than use them, but I believe they are actually quite popular.

The next most “efficient” way of learning new vocabulary is (I believe) reading, and ideally, reading material that is pitched at about one’s own level of the language. There are various series of books that are specifically aimed at Welsh adult learners, like the Nofelau Nawr series or Stori Sydyn, and probably a few others.

Where Radio Cymru can fit in is in getting lots and lots of listening practice in with fluent speakers, and if you can avoid phone-in voices (i.e. mostly listen to in-studio speakers (who are probably professional broadcasters) then you are probably making it as easy as that kind of thing can possibly be. It may not prepare you for Welsh in the wild (where people don’t speak clearly all the time), but it will enable you to hear lots of words spoken authentically in (probably) a range of accents. Hopefully one will gradually be able to pick out more and more words over time, which one has “learned” (or at least encountered) in other ways (e.g. SSiW lessons, or reading), and the brain will “click” and go “yes, that’s that word, and that’s how to say it properly, and in a phrase or sentence, maybe a bit differently to the way I first encountered it…”.


That sounds like the best approach, and I think that listening three times to Ffion Emlyn (the presenter) herself would be a good place to start because she speaks fairly slowly and very clearly. Only then would I dare tackle the interviews (which are more colloquial and faster) in any great depth.

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Thanks to all for the interesting output to my question. Seems like I’m not the only one at my level who finds the Pigion rather unhelpful for learning vocabulary, but very good for listening practice. And 9 days or so after starting this thread, I already find that my listening skills have improved.
Blywddyn Newydd Dda a chi pawb.


I listen to Pigion and sometimes Bore Cothi on the way to work, but as others have said it’s more to let it wash over me than to deliberately learn vocabulary. Now after 8 months or so I can usually pick up what they are talking about - sometimes there’s an item where I can follow practically all of it, sometimes my attention wanders and I don’t get much at all.

I think in general for vocab I have to notice and hear a word in several different contexts before it sticks. Lots of exposure is probably the only way for me as I am determined never to sit down with a word list. I like having Heno on in the background when I’m cooking, and getting used to the different presenters and the the things they say regularly helps.

I also think learning song lyrics might be a good way, because then you can just listen to the song again for reinforcement - I looked up the words and translation to Cate Le Bon ‘Oh Am Gariad’ (because they are lovely) before Christmas and lo and behold “cymhleth” and “atsain” popped up on the very next episode of Pobol y Cwm (watching with the subtitles in Welsh helped me spot them).

I also looked up the words to Sebona Fi and was part relieved part disappointed to find out the title means “humour me” and not “soap me”.


I think this is broadly true for everyone - and lots of exposure is pretty much unavoidable for anyone wanting to reach a relaxed level of fluency - but it’s not an arithmetic progression - you can and will hit a tipping point, so hang on in there… :slight_smile:


My favourite radio programme for language listening practice was Garry Owen’s Taro’r post but unfortuntately it looks like it’s not on any more (or at least at the moment). :slightly_frowning_face:

Does anyone know other programmes with basically just people speaking (no music) and a host with a Southern accent?

Radio is still really tough, and a familiar accent helps me understanding a bit more! :grin:


There’s the morning news programme, Post Cyntaf, usually with one host from the south and the other from the north and of course a mix of accents from other people as well, like Taro’r Post:
and at the end of the afternoon there’s the similar programme, Post Prynhawn:


It doesn’t technically not have music, but Beti a’i Phobl is about 90% chat and mostly quite clear and easy to understand (and southern).


Reading is the best way to increase vocabulary. Everyday languages use a limited vocabulary. Even when you get to be conversationally fluent there will be many words that you need to express yourself that you will not know. Given that most Welsh learners probably don t have opportunity for daily Welsh conversations. Golwg360 is accessible daily news bites and useful with the facility to use the vocaf/show meaning button for highlighted words. I use Radio Cymru with ipad at the ready so when someone comes out with an English word - for which there should be a Welsh word I look it up then and there. I think there are some childrens books with audio available.

Hi @gisella-albertini

On both Post Prynhawn and Post Cyntaf that @johnwilliams_6 mentions you will find that they use news reports which are available as articles on the Cymru Fyw site and they are pretty much word for word.

This gives you a transcript which you can read before or after listening…like the Advanced Listening content.

There is also a VOCAB button which puts a url under the Welsh words to give you translations. There is a screenshot below showing an example.

When I started on this trail I found reading the reports hard - I guess reflecting the bits I didn’t understand when listening - but there is a common, ‘current affairs’, vocab which crops up every day…!

So…it takes a couple of weeks to get into it…but then it gives you a huge boost!

Rich :slight_smile:


Hi @rich!

I’ve checked the websites today but haven’t completely figured out how the radio programmes and the articles on cymru fyw match yet, but I’ll try again tomorrow. :thinking:

The transcriptions are definitely a big advantage (also considering I’m trying to improve my reading).
The negative side for me, compared to Taro’r post (or the only Beti a’i Phobl I’ve heard) is that these news are not about one or two topics more in depth, which I found that quite helpful, because they tend to repeat the same words more often.
And by the end of the programme, I always notice I understand a bit more than at the beginning.

While here, I’m almost constantly lost! :laughing:
And to be completely honest, even though I understand it’s a good exercise, with these kind of news I often can’t help but thinking of one of the first sentences I’ve learnt in Welsh, that goes:

cymeryd diddordeb yn ei ffeithiau, fel torri’r lawnt efo raser, ar eich penliniau :roll_eyes: :grimacing: :face_with_hand_over_mouth:

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Usually there are four or five newyddion items on the website for that day…and these will be the main news items, except for perhaps one or two which are UK-wide stories (which sometimes don’t appear / sometimes do on the site)…and then other magazine stories are included sometimes too.

The basic stories are often ‘read out’ as the story in the morning by the presenters (they seem to be their script)…and then often there is an interview eg on Post Cyntaf - and you will see the interview captured via quotes and the article is updated …and these then often appear again on Post Prynhawn.

Yes, I know what you mean…going for the news as a whole is widening the net slightly and there is an investment involved in learning the ‘news vocab’ BUT the same thing applies across the program because the same words and the same style crops up everyday…so, similarly you feel you are learning (bit of work to start) a little bit more everyday.

There is probably a judgment call on the right time to do this…but it does seem to be a staircase to another level.

Rich :slight_smile:

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