Complete beginner (and English too!)


Having never done any Welsh whatsoever I first discovered SSiW a few years ago when my daughter went to university in Bangor and as she was having basic Welsh lessons as part of her course in Primary Education I thought it would be fun to have a go myself. I started out on the old course but have to say I didn’t get too far along in the lessons, perhaps only to the first 3 or 4 before I got really out of my depth and gave up. I’ve just come back to the site, however, and want to give it another go. I’ve only done the first 2 challenges so far of the new course but already I’m finding it difficult. My problem mostly is with the longer sentences when extra bits are added on with the conjunctions though it’s not necessarily with the Welsh but in forgetting the end of the sentence in English by the time I’ve spoken the Welsh for the first part. I wonder if anyone has any advice for me on this, for example, is there a written transcript somewhere of the sentences as they appear? The vocabulary list is great as is the pause button facility but I often find I am completing the sentence with something other than what was initially said by Aran.

Could I also ask, am I better to be starting on the new course or going back to the old version which I notice is still online as I have read elsewhere that someone said they thought the challenges on the new course were harder than the lessons on the old version?

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Firstly, Croeso nol, Welcome back! Wanting to find out about this strange country and language to which your daughter is exposed is very natural and it is great that we can welcome you among us, although in my case that is only to the language as I am in exile in Scotland! I do hope you will manage to visit Wales and maybe meet up with other learners!
The Challenges (new) are Aran’s latest course and so designed as an improvement on the original course of lessons. You are not expected to be successful from the ‘off’ so to speak. @aran himself can explain better than me the method of learning which builds on practice and uses mistakes to help improvement. I do know that saying a full sentence with the second half different from Aran’s is not at all a bad thing! Your memory for English is not what matters. If you say something in Welsh, you have learned it!!! Triumph! Success! With time you will say the right thing in Welsh more often! I will leave it to others to advise you further!

Hi Karen - it might help you to have a look at this overview of the key parts of the approach:

and it also might be worth seeing if this seems to be similar to your experience so far:

The single most common question on the 6 month course is how to deal with the longer sentences - and the answer is not to worry about them - just give them your best shot, and then listen to the models - over time, some of them will stop being too long, but that might take a while, and you don’t need to worry about it.

There isn’t a transcript - we’re planning on releasing a video approach this year, but it’s not in the immediate future - and it’s very, very worthwhile to have your focus entirely on the sounds at this stage…:slight_smile:

No, don’t go back to the old material - some people feel it’s easier because it’s a little more obvious and predictable, but the results aren’t as good, the range of language isn’t as good, and it doesn’t bring you into the very, very important listening exercises… :slight_smile:

Hi Karen and welcome to the forum. I don’t know if this will be any help at all but from my experience the new levels are more effective than the older course but the most important thing is just to relax and trust the process-- don’t aim to get everything right straightaway – there’s built in repetition all along the way. :blush:


@karenthorley Welcome to the forum, Karen! Don’t worry about the longer sentences, as Aran says, everyone has trouble with them, and they get easier with time. Just say whatever you can, even if it doesn’t match what you were meant to say - I often say something else, having forgotten the English by the time I get to the end :slight_smile: It’s all practice!

Don’t worry about making mistakes and not getting everything right before you move to the next lesson. You’re meant to make mistakes, they help you learn, and everything gets revisited as you move along through the lessons. You’ll discover that things that you couldn’t say miraculously become easier later on :slight_smile:

Good luck,and be sure to come back and ask any questions you might have - everyone here is really helpful. :slight_smile:

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Thanks to everyone who has responded already. I’ve just been reading another post titled “Frustrated Beginner - please help”. Wow, that’s a long thread - I didn’t get to the end of it but take heart from the fact that Michael who started the post was feeling a bit like I am now. It’s some comfort to know there are, and have been, others in the same boat. I think that’s why I gave up last time as I felt I wasn’t getting anywhere and the constant repeating of the lessons in the old course got a bit boring. I’m interested to read the suggestion of powering through the first set of levels without too much repetition. I think I’ll try that although I think I probably need to do each challenge at least twice before moving on to the next. Challenge 2 of Level 1 was definitely better this afternoon than it went this morning! I’ll report back when I’ve done a bit more.

Others have probably said this already and better, but I think the best advice you get with the intro to SSi is to relax, stop trying to be perfect, and to keep moving forward. The faster you press on, the more your brain adapts and starts to make new connections. It’s counter-intuitive but it works!
Take heart and good luck!


Hi Karen. I’m a beginner like you. I’m on Level 1, Challenge 8 and I also find the longer sentences harder to remember the whole sentence. You mentioned that you are repeating the lessons only once. I find that for myself, I play the lessons while driving to and from work.

First I simply listen to the lesson, then I practice speaking and when I feel that I’m getting most of it correct, then I move on to the next one. This may take another 4 or 5 times of speaking practice. And I still forget the longer sentences. So sometimes I concentrate either on either the front part or the back part of the sentence to give me more practice with more parts of the sentence.

I also find that I have to do something in Welsh every day, either speaking practice or listening, otherwise I will forget some of the Welsh. So if I can do it, I know you can as well, so just give it some time.

I seem to remember that @aran recommends not repeating until you have done 5!

Hi hendraig. I’m just one of those people who seem to need more repetition of what I hear in order to retain it. I also listen ahead as well to start learning new words.

I’m starting to find that I can now sometimes get phrases and sentences when listening to Welsh shows when the conversation is slower. It’s not instant as I quickly loose the next bit of conversation as I’m recognizing the bits I know.

But I’m sure I will improve the more I listen. I’m over here in the US and there are no local speakers of Welsh here, so my listening opportunities are all online. I’m glad this forum exists and find all the hints and tips people give very helpful.


There is no doubt that this is a very good course, and that the staff are endlessly supportive. There is also the uncomfortable fact ( if it IS a fact) that ti does not everyone. I have specific learning difficulties, easily got round on a day to day basis, and this course causes me much despair and distress in exactly the way you describe. being told to soldier on is all very well ( and who can blame anyone for saying that) but for some it is all pretty hopeless. I still try, but my main effort is the way it worksbest for me; reading ( with dictionary and on line dictionary) … I use "adult learner’s " welsh books, and gradually I am getting somewhere. Over a decade and a half, I must say. I still cannot understand anything that is spoken ( auditory discrimination diffs) but now I can read notices and posters!

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To be fair, we’ve worked very hard over the years to try and find more useful advice for people with learning difficulties than just ‘soldier on’.

So far, I haven’t found anyone I can honestly say is entirely uncapable of learning with this methodology - and by now I’ve worked (directly, face to face) with a lot of people who find it really, really tough (for a wide range of reasons).

It seems to me as though the emotional challenge of finding acquistion slow is the major problem - to date, everyone I know who finds it tough and keeps on pushing through has achieved clear improvement.

My biggest concern in dealing with people who have learning difficulties is that while it would be very easy for me to say ‘Sorry, this approach doesn’t work for you’ and point them at more traditional approaches, I don’t yet have any clear evidence that I would actually be helping them by doing that. And the fear, of course, is that I would effectively be telling them to learn to read and write and to forget about speaking and understanding, which I’m reluctant to do.

Kay, if you would like, I would be happy to work with you in detail - getting as much detailed input about your experiences to ways I suggest for you to try the material - to try and form a clearer understanding of what does and doesn’t work for you. It would, of course, be tough work - but if we can identify even a single regular pattern that leads to consistent improvement for you, it would be worthwhile, I think?

Personally I really like the encouragement Aran gives in the challenges and find it really comforting when he says that to have got this far you are definitely on the way to becoming a really confident Cymraeg speaker and very pleasing to be told I’m doing excellently. I’m not very far into the challenges yet having only done up to Challenge 4 but feel ready to move on the Challenge 5 even though I know I’m not perfect in the previous ones yet because I know there will be some revision in each challenge that solidifies what I have learned already. I have found I am doing a challenge twice before moving on and so far this approach isn’t boring/ My mistake last time with the old course was that I thought I had to be perfect in each session before moving which was not only boring but made me not want to do them very frequently hence I forgot what I had learned initially and then listening again to something I had heard umpteen times before which I recognised and thought I knew so moved on and was completely out of my depth! So thank you, Aran, for telling me how well I am doing and for making me feel like I’m not a complete numpty for not remembering everything straight off! And you’re definitely right that getting on with it quickly is the right approach rather than just doing a session a week or with long periods in between coming back to it.


Also I like that you can pop the vocabulary up so you can see the written word that you’re speaking. I find this really helpful in the speaking as I can visualise the written word in my head even if I haven’t got the vocabulary list up. I find this really helps my memory.


Probably not helped by us cheerfully telling people to aim for about 80% correct… which turned out to be very much the wrong approach for lots of people! :flushed:

It sounds as though you’ve really got it cracked this time… keep on pushing on through, and keep on letting us know how it’s going… :star2:

A typically committed, professional answer, Aran. I’ve taken a time to respond, as I don’t want to come over ( again) as a whinger. One thing you are quite right about is that after many years of " failure", added to some years of " failure" at primary school, simply sticking doggedly to the SSIW task is psychologically challenging to a degree that is usually overwhelming. This is not the fault of SSIW . I know of no solution to this problem, yet keep coming back to repeat the negative experience. A definition of insanity, they all say; to repeat what failed in exactly the same way, and expect a different result. :slight_smile:

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I find it hard to imagine that hammering away at something so painful will suddenly start to work - and yet it’s interesting that you keep coming back, because it suggests at some level you feel there are benefits to be had here…

I think it might open up more fruitful ways forward if I try to get a closer understanding of exactly what is happening for you - if you’re willing to talk me through it?

When you do a lesson, do you pause until you’re able to think of something to say? Or do you let the gap go past without speaking (on a more than ‘extremely occasional’ basis)?

I clam up after a short period of attempting to form a reply. The trigger to clamming up is often the extreme simplicity of the " correct" answer. As I have previously said, I have all the language needed somewhere in my head, but cannot access it ( when under stress? ) …No similar problems in English, which I find odd. The reason I come back and back is that that is what I am like… in many areas of life it pays off. I can see that the methodology is largely sound, and is well supported, so what else would I try? Logically it is too painful to go on, but I might… :frowning: Nothing more to add really. Best leave it. Thanks for your kind efforts.Its not a format that I can access, sadly. Good luck. K

What you say in this post suggests otherwise to me. If you want to carry on, I’m happy to drill down into more detail until we find a way forward for you…:slight_smile:

But if you don’t feel like carrying on at the moment, I don’t think it’s appropriate to tell you that you should. So I’ll just leave the offer on the table, and you can take it up any time you want.

But what you say in this post suggests to me that you are being held up by your perceptions of what is success and what is failure, more than your own specific learning difficulties (tough though they are).

And misperceptions are fixable… :slight_smile:

It works for woodpeckers!!! And beavers! Just don’t convince yourself that Cymraeg is made of titanium/steel alloy when it is actually more like oak!! :wink: oh, it works for baby chicks getting out of their eggs too!! :hatched_chick: