Aids for a visual learner

Hi, I’m still a beginner - got up to challenge 10 on Level 1 (North) - but it’s very slow going and far from satisfactory. One problem I have is that I’m a visual learner. So it’s difficult for me to retain Aran’s English sentences. One main clause is OK. But if there’s a conjunction (ac, ond, os, achos …), or a relative clause (be’, bo’, sy’ …) or combinations of both, then by the time Aran has finished his sentence I’ve forgotten the beginning. Or I’ve made a special effort to remember the beginning, but then can’t remember how it continued.
What would help me greatly would be a printed list of Aran’s English phrases. Something I can scan with my eyes while I’m listening to the speaking voice. There are numerous examples in the challenges where I know all the vocabulary and I understand the structures and the reasons for mutation etc. but I fail miserably simply because I can’t remember what I’m supposed to be translating. I hear the words as they come at me like water from a hosepipe, splashing off me in all directions. I stare but can’t see any meaning, and then the Welsh version cuts in. So I end up doing zero percent and using Aran’s slow, clear repeat as a comprehension exercise.
So my question is: Is there such a list available somewhere? Just the English original.

There isn’t a list as far as I know, however I had the same problem. The first two times I tried using SSiW I gave up because I couldn’t have repeated the sentences in English as I had forgotten the beginning by the time Aran reached the end.

Coming back a year or more later I finally got the method to work by starting to say the Welsh as soon as Aran has finished the first phrase or even the first few words. It sounds as though it wouldn’t work, but I find it does, but f I wait until Aran stops speaking, unless it’s just a short sentence, I’m lost.


Thanks for the tip, Margaret, I’ll give it a try.

I also believe that Aran has said (in the past) that if you get the first part out, and then can’t remember what came next, just make up something (that makes sense) to finish the sentence. Then, when you hear Catrin, you’ll find out what was actually said, and you will have two different ways to complete the sentence! The most commonly heard tip here is to try not to worry about it, and it actually helps.


I think this is more likely to be an issue with your working memory, rather than the ‘visual learner’ thing. What happens if you use the pause button? As Sionned says, if you’re getting a chunk (either the beginning or the end) of the longer sentences out, you’re almost certainly doing fine… :slight_smile:

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I don’t know whether there’s a causal link in all cases, but thinking back to my childhood, it was probably my poor working memory that meant that learning via the written word and illustrations or diagrams was more effective than just listening to something. Of course the more you do something, the better you get at it, so the preference for visual learning is reinforced.

I will also offer a word of encouragement to other visual learners new to SSiW, my working memory does seem to have improved while doing the challenges. So, as I just said ,the more you do something, the better you get at it.


There’s good evidence available that we all learn some things best visually - that’s why memory palaces are so powerful, for example - but other things we learn best aurally - like nursery rhymes, for example (and, I would suggest, languages!).

Very few of us are at our most effective forming memories just by listening to people lecture us - although again, there are elements (like interesting information about other people) that we’ll generally remember very well just from speech.

The whole concept of ‘learning styles’ has been largely debunked (it’s remarkably difficult to find ANY substantive material that looks at large scale adaptation of curriculum to individual preferences, perhaps partly because it’s just so difficult to do) - and I hope over the coming years we’ll see people move from considering themselves visual learners (it’s always ‘visual’, interestingly, never ‘kinaesthetic’ or even ‘written’ (which learning styles proponents suggest is different to ‘visual’) to a more solid understanding that we all form memories in a range of different ways.

I’m particularly interested to hear that you feel your working memory has improved on the challenges - there’s research that shows that working memory is trainable, but so far (to the best of my knowledge) no-one has shown that it can be transferred from task to task. Which is a pity, but for some time (particularly witnessing people on our intensive courses) I’ve been thinking that if we can improve people’s working memory just for the lessons themselves, that’s still potentially a very valuable thing…


I can’t really use the pause button as I do the challenges while I’m out jogging. I have tried reducing the speed by about 10% on my mp3 player, but that doesn’t really help much either.

OK, so I’m using old-fashioned terminology or an outdated conceptual model. Accepted. But it doesn’t change the phenomenon itself which I’ve observed in myself for many decades. It doesn’t alter the fact that if many of the longer challenge sentences were offered in two parts, as two items, I would be able to do them. But as it stands now, I’m beaten.

I know that I can learn languages. I have had a lot of experience with foreign languages and language learning. My second subject at university was Linguistics. I’m fluent in 3 European languages and have at different times been proficient enough to get by in French, Turkish, Bulgarian, Náhuatl and German Sign Language. I’ve taught languages and trained language teachers. So I don’t want to give up. But I could imagine that there are plenty more who do give up, who leave without comment, but with thoughts like “I’m just too old for this” or “This method is lousy, it doesn’t work” etc. And that would be a terrible shame.

I really would like to remain a part of this community especially as I don’t know a single Welsh person (let alone any Welsh speakers). I live in South Germany and have no contact with Wales or the Welsh. But I am fascinated by the Welsh language. And I also admire the pride of the Welsh in their culture, history, heritage, language … In Mexico I found just the opposite - so many speakers of indigenous languages were ashamed to admit the fact for fear of being ridiculed, insulted, badly treated.

So keep up the good work, and I shall persevere and do my best. As long as my family tolerates my strange whim! :wink:

Aha - in which case, my new #1 suspicion is that this is just about mistake aversion. If the longer sentences are all that’s tripping you up, let them go - say any bits you can, and then listen carefully to the model - and you’ll find that as you start to ‘chunk’, sentences that at first seemed to have too many moving parts will later on seem less impossible - until eventually they come into reach.

But don’t equate ‘making plenty of mistakes’ with ‘not succeeding’ - if anything, it’s close to the opposite. I’ve watched people go through these sessions at about 10% ‘correct’, and still end up capable of conversational exchanges. With your L2 acquisition experience, I think it’s very likely that if you shrug off the longer sentences as nothing more than a test of your patience, you’ll start to fly before too long.

Are you tending to repeat the lessons? That often happens more than it should when people are uncomfortable with mistakes…


I think the problem with discussion of learning styles is that people who knew nothing about the theory or applying it in practice seized on it and decided (without any evidence) that they were a particular kind of learner and have taken that to mean that they should only be taught in their preferred way. I also think the problem that the theory was addressing has largely been solved. Very few teachers these days would stand up in front of a class and recite their notes while the class wrote it down verbatim, but that’s how I was taught subjects like history and geography when I was at school. I failed the degree I attempted at the normal age of 18 because lecturers just stood at the front and lectured. If you were lucky, you got a diagram on the board or – the effective teachers – had slides and visual aids to reinforce the lecture. Studying with the OU as a mature student was much more successful because the materials were excellently produced and a number of teaching methods were used.

I was also taught (when I did my teacher training course many years ago) that the “ideal learner” would use all methods equally effectively and the aim was to try to teach in a way that embraced all ways of learning and also help students to develop the weaker aspects of the way they learned. You say that you only meet people who say their “visual learners”, but that’s probably because you’re teaching languages. I do have quite a few academic friends in the field of literature and history who have a horror of graphs, diagrams and charts and say they want everything explained aurally.

Re kinaesthetic learning, I actually feel that’s a very important part of language learning because your mouth has to work differently when speaking a new language. I also still remember the difference between “hynny” and “hyn” because of the mime we did on the Cwrs Llanllawen to distinguish them. Relying purely on sound or the look of the word was difficult, linking the word to an action made them easy to distinguish. It’s now something that I do naturally, but I still try to attach mimes to words that I confuse or find difficult to remember.


In my case it’s transferred as far as the Dosbarth Meistroli that I attend each Monday morning. :relaxed:

In fact that’s how I realised it had happened. I am finding the SSiW Challenges easier, but I had assumed that it was just that I’d got used to the learning method, but it was when I realised that when we’re practising new patterns in class, I can remember them much better than previously and don’t have my eyes glued to the book any more. So practising remembering long sentences in English has transferred to helping me remember sentences and phrases in Welsh.

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Yes - that’s the neatest summary I’ve heard of the issue… :slight_smile:

In a ‘shared pain’ kind of way, I’m glad to hear that it can happen the other way round… :slight_smile:

Yes - this is why we always recommend speaking aloud as much as possible with the lessons. I suspect it has something to do with a neurological network effect.

Fascinating to hear that you feel you’re experiencing crossover - really enormously interesting - diolch!

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That’s right. And for this reason:
The vast majority of my fellow learners are aiming to communicate with other speakers. Their focus is on the content of the message. Small inaccuracies, even several in one utterence, don’t usually endanger the communication (as you repeatedly stress). Now I realise that my focus is not on the “What” but on the “How”, the form of the message, preferably of course without any inaccuracies. So that my demands on myself are quite different from most SSi learners.

Yes, indeed. It has taken me several months to get to Challenge 10.
Thanks for your thoughts and tips. Things are gradually becoming clearer.
It’s hard to abandon the goal of Perfection because of the fear of practising and consolidating my own errors. If you’re right, the rough-and-ready approach will in time correct its own errors.
So I’ll give it a try. :slight_smile:

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Yes - I’ve seen this time and time again, and I have no doubt about it - I suspect that all our language usage is frequency driven, which would explain why this happens - but the more exposure you give yourself, the more easily you’ll be able to fine tune.

Having said that, if your goal isn’t to speak with other people - if you want to read texts rather than talk to people, for example - you might well find that working through a traditional grammar-based approach will feel more familiar (I’m not sure if it would actually be faster or more effective, but it’s not something with which we’ve done any real testing).

If you think there’s benefit to carrying on with SSiW, though, I’d strongly recommend that you start running through lessons in batches of 5, rather than getting bogged down in multiple repetitions of individual lessons - that will give the spaced repetition a chance to start having some impact, and will almost certainly reduce the amount of overall repetitions you feel that you need…

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A late contribution to this discussion as I’ve been on holiday…for me the key has been to treat the whole thing as a game, and not take any part of it too seriously. After all, I don’t HAVE to do this, I don’t NEED to do this, its just a bit of fun. Even if neither of those things are true for you, the ‘play’ attitude helps. Like you, I worked out quite early on that I needed to start speaking before Aran had finished. And like Margaret Hall, it took me a while just to get used to the method. But it’s like learning to ride a bike. After a while it just begins to click. Like you I tend to regard myself as a visual learner. I do like to see things written down, and I like to write them down. So I write them down! Doesn’t matter if the spelling is off. It’s only a game. Lightening up about the whole learning process (which you can do whilst still being thoroughly committed to it) means you’ll keep a positive attitude. And you’re the one in charge of it anyway.


Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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