BBC Radio Cymru

Just wondering about this…

Supposing someone was doing SSIW, and nothing else. At what point through the courses would one be able to understand enough of whatever is on Radio Cymru, such that they keep up with it, and not get hung up on unfamiliar words or phrases?

What I mean is, when I listen to it, I can understand some of what is said, and then they will say something unfamiliar, or just less familiar, and I find my thought process kind of freezes at that point, and I end up losing my way. Even if what follows after that is familiar, I’m already lost.

I hope this question makes sense. It confused me while writing it!

Shwmae Rob,

It’s a difficult one to say. I think the main factor in following discussions on Radio Cymru is vocab, and this is something that will vary enormously according to the individual. SSiW focuses more on grammar/pattern/structure as opposed to vocab (which I’m very happy about, by the way!), and obviously, the further you get through the courses, the more patterns you’ll understand. I’m currently around a third of the way through course 3 and am finding that this is opening up a lot more of what is said (although that’s not to say that I was unable to understand anything before). But vocab is more of an individually acquired thing. Personally, I try to read little bits here and there on a regular basis to slowly increase my vocab and look up any words that arouse my curiosity from S4C/Radio Cymru.

But, to answer your question, I think it totally depends on the conversation being held on the radio. There are some exchanges where I think ‘My God, I pretty much followed all of that!’, and others where I think ‘I have no idea what that was about!’. The important thing is not to get hung up on needing to understand everything that is being said. Listen in a relaxed way, feel chuffed when you understand a word/sentence, and just allow your brain to get familiar with the language. Don’t worry about understanding whole sections as I don’t think there’s any ‘specific point’ where it’ll all come together. It’s more fuzzy and fluid than that. But you’ll get there, so enjoy the journey! :slight_smile:


I agree with, Jon. It helps also - well for me - when I hear accents of areas where I spend time: The repetition of phrases and dialect register faster through time and constant hearing…

The more structure you learn with SSIW, the easier it will be to hear the words that you don’t know, or at least large-enough pieces of them that you can look them up in It’s a jigsaw puzzle: “oh, hey, that woman is being congratulated for something, and she said the words for cheese and win and shop . . . I wonder if she runs a dairy farm, or maybe owns a shop…?”

One thing that’s a big help is learning the Welsh names of towns, villages, etc. They get mentioned an awful lot on Radio Cymru, and so recognizing them will both give you that warm glow of accomplishment and clues to what else is being said.

Definitely a “how long is a piece of string” type question, which I myself asked not long after the start of my SSiW journey.

It’s making a lot more sense nowadays than it did, say 9 months ago, or even 3 months ago. As I don’t live in Wales, I can normally only listen to it via the internet on my laptop (although I could listen to the podcasts on my MP3 player), and I used to find I could only listen for relatively short periods before the long periods of simply not understanding started to get me down.

I think I’ve got past that now a bit, and can listen for long periods, understanding more (but very definitely not all), without losing the will to live.

And in the last 2 days I had the unusual opportunity for me of driving through Wales for long periods, and on my own so no one else to annoy, so (signal permitting) I had Radio Cymru on all the time and quite enjoyed it, even Tommo, which was a first! :slight_smile: Somehow, the context (e.g. actually being in Wales at the time) made a difference.

I’ve been listening to Radio Cymru pretty much everyday for about three months now, mainly during my 25 or so minute drive to and from work. I’m lucky that the signal is pretty strong up here in Blackpool. I am definitely starting to notice the difference in terms of my listening comprehension. A lot is still a blur, but fairly predictable content like the weather, travel news and even quite a lot of the basic news coverage is becoming accessible. I do find myself learning quite a bit of vocabulary and phrasing from it. It’s also fun spotting some of the structures and vocab from the SSiW. I sometimes set myself the challenge to listen out for a particular word or structure - a kind of Welsh word bingo - ideal for long waits at traffic lights. It’s also good for getting familiar with some of the different Welsh accents and dialects e.g. noticing who says “ruan” not “nawr”. And it’s all “am ddim” / free!

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I think listening comprehension is like trying to see through a window caked with thick dried mud, and listening practice is like trying to clean away the mud, and sometimes you come across a whole sliver of window you can see through and sometimes you don’t think you’re getting anywhere at all because you still can’t see anything but actually the mud is a lot thinner then it was so keep going!

But yes, vocab is important so anyway you can boost that will help.

By the by I came across a great Beti a’i Phobol interview with Dorothy Selleck and she used a LOT of ssiw vocab, plus spoke very clearly and slowly. Worth a hunt down :slight_smile:


I second what Amy J said about the Beti a’i Phobol interview…only my favorite for understanding is the interview with Lisa Hurt.

Somewhere on this forum is a post in which I’m attempting to transcribe that interview…may help you as well.

I’ve just been pottering about Beti’s archive today where there’s absolutely masses of interviews, accents.
and fascinating stories. Some people I understand masses of; others less so…

Beti is a great place to listen to spoken Welsh, imo, and interesting as well. Welsh is hard, and doesn’t come intuitively to the English listener the way a similar language like Swedish does. You can spend a few short hours studying Swedish and start to pick up the gist of radio conversations, but this doesn’t happen with Welsh until you have studied much more. The bottom line is the more you study/listen, the more you will understand.

There is a story about a Russian (I think) chess grandmaster who was on the way to Hungary for a game (again, Hungary, I think), and on the way learnt much of the language out of a simple phrase book. If you are really committed and work on your memory skills, you should be able to learn a massive portion of a language from a simple phrase book. I think it was Michel Thomas who said the average New York Times uses around 600 words per episode. So - just learn the vocab in context and make sure you understand how the grammar works and off you go.

Thanks everyone! :slight_smile:

The tip about Beti’s interviews was great, and a lot more accessible.

I think there is a large issue with the dialects on the radio too. As I’m doing the northern course I have a lot less exposure to southern words and phrases, which is what seems to be used a lot on there.

The more I listen to, the more moments of understanding occur, which feel great! :smiley:

I think a road-safety notice might be appropriate:

Please don’t listen to Radio Cymru while driving along with your windscreen caked in mud. Stop the car in a lay-by and just listen to Radio Cymru instead. :slight_smile:

But seriously folks…thanks for the tip about the clips Kim. Knew about the podcasts of course, but had never noticed the clipiau.

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It’s been on a few weeks now but this has been great for hearing northern (or are they southern? They’ve just used: “Sa i’n gwybod” :blush: ) accents: to my ear the voices of Caernarfon, Pen-y-Groes…It’s been great practice for ear training; and the characters seem like working class people I know .

For those of you who enjoy Pobl Y Cwm todays Cofio was an enjoyable affectionate look back at its first 40 years, this year.
Interesting to hear the stories about how they had difficulty in creating scripts which people in different parts of the country could understand. Many of the first actors were amateurs who battled sets that wobbled - a bit like, Crossroads then… :smile:

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The latest RAJAR figures (July - September) see, Radio Cymru record its lowest listenership ever 105,000 people tuned in weekly. Seeing a drop of 42,000 people. Disappointing, when compared to the previous quarter which saw a rise. Though, those who do listen tune in longer.
I’ve been tuned in less myself - I’ve never been keen on Sîan Cothi (her voice grates me) and Tuder Owen’s show is o.k in small mouthfuls only; Tommo has lost lustre also: he needs to allow others to speak.
Mind you people have been on their holidays so that’ll play in a bit…Not good though - about a 31% drop.
Still, there’s still loads of great content. I love the radio plays - Becca Bingo - was brilliant and I’m enjoying Dylan in the morning; Taro Post is better without the musical interludes…


Taro’r Post are covering the latest figures on today’s show.

I’ve just noticed that one as well. They keep on slipping in interesting new (to me) programmes, although I notice series in general don’t last long.

Just listening to the latest show by, Hywel Gwynfryn who celebrates his 50th year in Welsh broadcasting.
For those of you who don’t know Hywel is involved in Ffrindaeth and came to a SSIW party as special guest. I realised a few days ago he also wrote the lyrics to the popular song, Anfonaf Angel/Guardian Angel, recorded by many Welsh artists. It’s a beautiful song!


@robrodrigues, I started with the southern course and, after I’d finished it and the level version, I started on the northern level course. Doing so dramatically increased how much I understood when listening to spoken Welsh; I wish I’d started sooner.

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I’ve only just started, but when I was streaming the radio last night, I did hear a song that used a few words that I’ve learned so far. It was a slow song though, and the words were repeated enough times to where I was able to catch them.