Bootcamps for "newer learners"

I went to the second ever boot camp back in 2010 and felt I was the stupidest person there. I don’t think I cried but I’m pretty sure I sulked a bit and someone went home early. Kim was back for his second camp. I’m going to Tresaith next week for my 5th bootcamp and I think it might be my last, not because I’m perfect, by any means, but because I know I can and I know I do speak real Welsh to real Welsh people. My excuse is that I have a Welsh exam in June with 45% of the marks based on an oral exam and I want to remind myself of the complexity of things I can say.

So, at the beginning I felt stupid, and aspired to be like those who ‘appeared’ to be ‘better’ than me, and now I know that some people aspire to be like me. I certainly hope I don’t intimidate anybody, but I know that is sometimes the case even though I don’t mean to.

I’m all for a mix of abilities. Someone to help, someone to be helped by. We all need both sorts of people, in our lives and in our boot camps. At every boot camp I’ve asked the ‘leader/facilitator’ some question or other and they’ve said ‘I don’t know’ and that is all right.

There has been (at least one) bootcamp not led by Iestyn or Aran. In 2011 David and Christine led a camp. How they felt about it I don’t know, but perhaps the work could be shared out a bit more if needed.

After my last bootcamp, June 2014, I stoped calling myself a learner and usualy, unless caught on the hop, call myself a speaker. Sometimes I even say ‘I have learnt Welsh’.

So I’m not quite sure what I want to say in this post except that bootcamp is immensely useful and, for the first time, pretty stressful. That all sorts of people are needed there. That perhaps we get to graduate, eventually.


That’s where I see me so I wouldn’t even try to go to bootcamp …

I might not feel the stupidiest person regarding speaking regardless I can hardly say anything but rather in anything other the that.

However thank you for this thread. Now I at least have the whole idea what boot camp actually consists of…

I hope you don’t mean that your impression of bootcamp is that it makes people feel bad they don’t know as much Welsh as the next guy…

To be fair, this thread pretty accurately depicts some of the mixed emotions that are bound to come out of a stressful and challenging situation. It doesn’t do enough justice to the happy parts, though.

Keep posted for once the current bootcampers come home and start posting their reviews. :smile:


There was another camp ran by DafyddFelin and Kinetic one time as well. Both that one and the one led by, David and Christine, went, really well I feel: I had a lot of laughs. There was a guy who played the accordion who helped out as well I think…Didn’t Robert Bruce, lead one as well? So many Bootcamps that I get them totally muddled…If, Robert did run one that was equally brilliant!!!

Robert Bruce said in 2011:

Bootcamp…It’s a holiday. You don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to/can’t. The only things you will be expected to do out of politeness are speak Welsh and help out a bit in the kitchen.”


This is a fascinating thread - diolch yn fawr!

On the “intimidation” thing, which I think is the main point of David’s question - I would be concerned that, on a bootcamp where everyone had reached exactly the same point in the course, say end of course 1 and vocab, not started 2 yet - the “intimidation” might be worse. Imagine being in a situation where some (most?) of the other bootcampers who have done esactly the same material as you take to the experience really well, but you are a little bit less confortable. Suddenly, after a day or two, you feel that you are rubbish at this language, and that everyone is better than you, because you can;t een do what they are doing wth the same material.

I suspect that everyone’s first bootcamp is potentially intimidating, especially because different people do different things well, and depending on the starting activities, some people will see other people doing stuff “better”, nd can easily blame that on a language problem rather than s “everyone’s differnt” problem!

I’ve seen people half way through course 3 struggle while people who’ve just completed course 1 and a tiny bit have flown through, not so much because of the standard or breadth of their Welsh. but because they’ve decided that they don;t care that it’s wrong / right, just that they are (mostly) understood, and get enough of the gist of instructions to be able to give it a go.

I’ve seen usually confident people struggle, and usually shy people blossom and fly. There are some people I’ve wanted to shake and say “look - your Welsh is perfectly adequate for everything that we are doing! WHy can’t you see that?”, and there are people who have shocked me when I’ve found out how early they are in their learning career.

If I could find a common pattern in the people who enjoy vs the people who don’t, then I could let people know, but unfortunately, the difference seem to be action, not personality. The “action” is just throwing yourself in, using what Welsh you have, accepting that you’re going to get by by the skin of your teeth, taking all the positives when they come and just letting as many of the negatives as possible pass you by. It’s nothing to do with shy or confident, and certainly here’s little correlation with how far through the course you are. I guess it’s due in a large part to how positive you can be, but I can’t really add more than that!


Nope. I was understood wrong (as many times in my life before). What I wanted to say is that I finally know what you could expect to do in bootcamp regarding activities and didn’t even a bit think about feelings in this particular sentence you’ve quoted.

I just wondered so many times what looks like to be in a bootcamp, what activities are in store for atendees etc but this thread makes clear picutre of it what I really like.

In answer above I’ve writen what I did because I already normally am not too practical person in any case and can very easily appear stupid and (most of all clumsy) what makes me really nervous and angry upon myself which could result into going home early. No one wants to be with such person as I can become when irritated with myself, believe me. No one prooved me wrong so far and if they did this was pure polite reaction and not honest opinion. :slight_smile:

Was I ever at bootcamp and I don’t know that? - :slight_smile:

I am quite positive person in my life BUT NOT WHEN THERE’S ME in the subject. (It might be I expect too much of my self but that’s how I was taught and practically “trained” in my childhood. (not that it matters here though).

It is an interesting discussion and one I wondered about on my Bootcamp. We had people that I would call pretty fluent. But although I struggled to understand them the first day, I could by the second. This helped my comprehension enormously. We had others who had not completed the three courses. Some struggled mightily - but that may not have been entirely due to language. For some people, just being thrown into a very laid back dormitory situation is quite overwhelming. One boot camper had only just finished course two. I drove down from Aber with him and, like all of us, he was pretty nervous. I made the fly away comment that he had the potential to gain the most from the week. I don’t think believed me. But he grew amazingly from being surrounded by more experienced speakers.

Maybe there is room to balance the things out so that new people can get a place. But I don’t think you’d want people at all the same level. Because listening to people talk fast is beneficial - even if you don’t catch all of it. I do think anyone who is going to attend should face it with a I’m-just-going-to-get through this attitude. It’s hard work, it’s challenging, it’s exhausting, it’s an extreme challenge. The first day I felt on top of the world because I had managed to get some replies out. By the end the week I felt both elated and also aware of how far I had to go. But SSiW people are kind and supportive and if you have been doing the course and getting the words out before Cat most of the time, then you can trust the process. It works. And in the end the only one you are measuring against is yourself. If you go through the week your Welsh WILL be better than it was at the beginning. You don’t have to worry that it isn’t as good as anyone else’s.


And this should be tattooed on your retina on bootcamp. If you look at bootcamp as a race, with the “best” Welsh speaker winning at the end of the week, then 9 of the 10 of you will go home disappointed, and the chances are, the winner will be the one who started the bootcamp sith the “best” Welsh, and has made the least progress.

That is not the point of Bootcamp.

The idea of bootcamp is for everyone to start where they are, and to experiment with what they know, what they half know, and what they think they might have just learnt from fellow bootcampers / bootcamp leaders / man on the street. Some of your Welsh will be text book, grammatical stuff (or text book dialectical stuff), much of it will be, shall we say, experimental, cutting edge Welsh - the point is, the more mistakes (or cutting edge innovations) that you make, the better your Welsh will become, because you will be able to enjoy communicating, which is the only point of learning to speak Welsh.

So, to go back to enjoying bootcamp, acepting that everyone has different skills - both narrow “speaking Welsh” skills, and wider social, work, leisure skills - is key, and remembering that while you are struggling to improve your language skills, and having problems communicating, so is everyone else to one degree or another.

I guess I can summarise all of this and my last post into two words.

Don’t worry!


I agree with David. As a ‘newer learner’ I go to a couple of different social things and often feel intimidated.
I am always the one with the least welsh and although everyone else has always been supportive (very supportive and kind!) I still feel like a burden etc.

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I think that it’s important to remember that Bootcamp isn’t a compulsory part of learning Welsh with SSiW. There is no points or credits system and no certification or accreditation. There’s no threshold to pass.

It’s merely an opportunity offered to learners of SSiW, to come and spend a week’s Welsh only holiday in mid or north Wales, sightseeing, playing games and having fun.

Hopefully, doing so will improve your spoken Welsh, give you added confidence and some great memories to take with you.

If you honesty don’t feel that you could cope with a week’s Bootcamp, for whatever reason, then please, please don’t put yourself under pressure to book a place.

Only you know what’s right for you.

Otherwise, go for it! Throw caution to the wind and book yourself a place. What’s the
worst that could happen?

Bootcamp is fun, friendly, interesting, unique and will definitely alter your perspective.

Oh, and no matter what, you will be looked after.


That’s actually the feeling I’m afraid of …

Part of me wants to be there and (maybe larger) part of me is afraid of just quited feeling from @jenny_white_378 's post. It so often happens to me especially when i don’t want it to be so. Ability to speak might be the least problem what concerns me though. :slight_smile:

Hello Catrin - can I ask about the ‘‘Welsh only rule’’. I am in the very early stages of transition from hugely enjoying the SSiW courses to venturing into speaking Welsh independently. I’m fortunate in that my partner in this is Eirwen whose first language is Welsh. Sometimes I find myself in the middle of a short conversation in Welsh with Eirwen and I will say "Sut wyt ty’n daid …(some English words)…’’ . This happens when I’m lacking some vocabulary and need some help. In order to avoid speaking English as much as possible I only do this when I can’t point or mime for Eirwen to help me by hinting at or supplying me with the Welsh word or phrase that I’m missing.

How do you handle these sort of situations in Bootcamp? Do you allow ''Sut wyt ty’n daid …? If not, what techniques do you use. I’m really keen to learn what to do when I’m stuck with a thought that I really want to express in Welsh and need a prompt.



You can say “sut wyt ti’n deud…” but you complete the question by

  • waving your hands wildly in the air, or galloping like a pony, or making a bizarre face, or otherwise acting out the thing / idea you want the word for, or
  • driving the loooong way around in Welsh (“how do you say when you want food but you do not have food?”)

I don’t recommend the first method out in the real world (although it’s quite amusing, both to do and to watch), but the second word works amazingly well. The great thing about sticking fully to the Welsh-only rule is that you realize that the trick is to use the language that you do know to convey things. I can’t tell you how often, in the early stages of learning, I had to think, “okay, I don’t know how to say X. What do I know how to say that will get the meaning close enough?”


@davidht : Although this doesn’t address your question directly, it sounds like the question comes out of a lack of confidence, which is perfectly understandable, as I have that too, and so do many others I believe.

I was wondering if you’d managed to have many G+ or Skype sessions with other Welsh learners. (I know you have spoken in the past about going to classes which presumably gives some speaking opportunities).

I say this because by now I’ve had quite a few G+ or Skype sessions (mostly the latter in recent months as it proved more reliable), and even though after most of them, I felt I was pretty rubbish, they have nevertheless encouraged me to get the words out in a spontaneous (even if inaccurate) way that even exceeds that of the courses, impressive though they are. I find , surprisingly, that even if you don’t speak all that much on them, they are still helpful.

And of course they are free (except the opportunity cost of your time) and don’t involve travelling. With luck and some research you might be able to choose your speaking partners to be of about the appropriate level for what you need, and if you can get enough of them under your belt, you might then feel a lot more confident about going to Bootcamp.

I just mention this possibility in case you haven’t already done much of it. If you have, then I’m preaching to the converted, and therefore apologise. :slight_smile:


I understand this approach very well. If I were stranded on a desert island with survivors from a shipwrecked Welsh cruiseship (who conveniently for this example cannot speak English) then I would have to find a way of communicating in Welsh one way or another. However, when I make it ashore I find miraculously that I have in my pocket a Welsh/English dictionary wrapped in an airtight plastic bag that has survived the waves intact.

When can I use it - or should I burn it, (after I discover how to make a fire from twigs and sparks from a stones being struck against each other).

I very much appreciate your thoughts,



It can be hard to convince yourself that you’re not a burden, but it’s true.

I’m somewhere in the middle - not yet fluent, but I’m able to survive spending an hour or two talking with someone who is.

But I am still happy to speak to people who know less Welsh than I do - I’m still getting to practice.

In the case of fluent speakers - helping other people is the reason they’ve come in the first place.

So long as you are trying to use as much Welsh as you can I am happy. The only time I get frustrated is when someone switches completely to English to tell a 5 minute story about their new kitchen.


I don’t know about your desert island (though I might recommend 8 gramophone records and a book, not including the Bible or Shakespeare:-) ), but from my Bootcamp experience last year, I didn’t take a dictionary, or even a notebook to write new words down. That was good in some ways, but before the end of the week, I was begging or borrowing scraps of paper to write new words down that I wasn’t confident of remembering (I am a compulsive note taker in real life).

This year, I’m taking a tiny pocket dictionary as insurance, and a notebook, but hope not to use them at all during the day, but maybe will just before going to bed for a bit of revision and mugging up. (I don’t currently have a device that will run Ap Geiriaduron. My phone is, I think, one of the originals by A.G.Bell).


Don’t worry about this unfortunate event at all. On Bootcamp, we’ll notice the dictionary, and burn it for you to save you the trouble :sunny:


If it helps, 451 Fahrenheit = 232.8 Celsius = 505.9 K :wink:


Thank God (in this matter) :slight_smile: I’m half blind so before I’d read something from those tinny characters in dictionaries the half of the day would be over. - LOL. So the dictionary surely wouldn’t be what I’d take on deserted island - hehe. And besieds … I believe there are many “alive” dictionaries in bootcamp :slight_smile:

Um, well, then if you have the desire to be frustrated with that, I’m the most right person to lean on just that my story wouldn’t be about new kitchen and migh tnot be (only) 5 minutes long. :slight_smile: