Do you consider yourself a "Welsh Speaker" yet? If not, why not

  • Yes, I am a Welsh Speaker!
  • No, I’m not a Welsh Speaker yet!

0 voters

I was speaking to someone at one of our weekly chat sessions this week and I offered her one of the orange “Cymraeg” badges for her to show others that she can speak Welsh…

“But I can’t speak Welsh, I’m not good enough yet!” She shrieked.

You have to bear in mind, the previous 45 minutes of this discussion had been all in Welsh (with a bit of French. The lady in question is first language French, so when she asks me “How do you say this in Welsh” or “What does that mean?” it’s easier to reply back to her in French rather than piggy-backing off English.

Which got me thinking. Do you consider yourself a Welsh speaker? I’ve considered myself a Welsh speaker - with a growing ability since about two weeks into the learning experience, but then again - I’ve always been very confident. Whereas when I asked my wife (who has been learning the same length of time), she felt like she didn’t “become” one until months and months later.

For those who feel they aren’t a Welsh speaker yet what is it that you feel you still need to do before you feel you’ll be in a place where you can say “Yep, I’m now a Welsh speaker”? Is there some kind of target you need to hit? Get served in a shop? Have a face to face discussion? Speak to a stranger?

I’m interested in knowing what people who don’t feel as if they can speak Welsh yet, have as their “target”.

Are these people worried that even when they hit it, they’ll still want to know more? Or that their targets will move?

We always hear of people saying “S4C wanted me to do an interview, but I’m not good enough yet”

If we think of the infamous census question for example, I know of lots of people who have said they answered “No” to being a Welsh speaker, perhaps because they felt they weren’t skilled enough to be called one. Are the figures being under-massaged due to people like this?

If you do consider yourself a Welsh speaker when was the “click moment” for you? Was it like me, clumsily buying a copy of Lingo Newydd in a Welsh shop? Was it finishing a certain lesson or a certain level of SSIW? Was it going to bootcamp?

Feel free to vote above, and we’ll see whether the SSIW forum is confident or not!


Interesting question and I think there is confusion around these words. In my mind I have to grapple with a term, which when growing up referred to a first language Welsh speaker - where Welsh was the language of the hearth if you like.

Being able to speak Welsh was always something a bit different and because of that I have always felt compelled to answer “no”, particularly if asked by a Welsh speaker. I always say “no” when someone asks me actually or deflect answering, by using an awful cop out if I’m with my daughter, by saying, a now unfortunately well drilled: “wel, fi’n gwbod lot o bethe ond mae yn mherch yn siarad yn well na 'fi”, , but all of that has nothing to do with how much Welsh I can speak, just the fact that it will never be my first language - obviously that would be an unachievable target. I think I saw @siaron refer to herself as a Welsh Speaker - second language somewhere and I could go along with that one, but it might not come across as being totally confident I suppose, but then again I’m not totally confident, far from it.

I know it’s all nonsense, but I find it hard to drop the baggage.


I feel much like you @Toffidil. I do feel that the attitude to adult learners has changed over the past 40 years since we first came to live in Wales. Changed for the better, I’m glad to say! :slight_smile:

There used to be a type of first language Welsh speaker who believed that if you couldn’t speak Welsh perfectly, you shouldn’t speak it at all and I’m afraid that encounters with some of them seriously damaged my confidence for many years and it’s why I still don’t think of myself as a “Welsh speaker” though I will happily claim that I speak Welsh. I don’t think there are so many (if any) of these “if you can’t speak it perfectly, don’t speak it at all” people around nowadays, though they certainly existed and I knew a woman who married a Welsh man and though she learned Welsh and could speak it fluently, her mother-in-law resolutely spoke English to her, even when addressed in perfectly good Welsh.


I think in my case, I actually gave myself the tag of non-welsh speaker. I grew up in a family where my mother spoke Welsh, but not to me unfortunately (apart from the odd thing here and there) and her family did as well and my father’s side didn’t so I created that divide in my mind and decided which side of that divide that I sat on, because I didn’t know how to do it or understand much of it either to be honest.

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I never thought about being one language speaker this way though. For me it was always the case that no matter how little amount of language do you really speak, if you can use that little amount you’re one language speaker. And said that, I never thought about myself what I actually really am. For some people I’m clumsy Welsh learner who says 90 % things wrong, for the others I’m (although not too skilled) Welsh speaker.

If I’m thinking back now, if I’ve ordered all my tickets for events and transport in Wales in Welsh and talked to several people in this language too, then I am a Welsh speaker no matter how clumsy one …


I don’t think I had one :smile:

I just sort of didn’t think about it until someone asked me. At that point I was sure I could easily survive with Welsh alone for the rest of my life so there wasn’t much point saying “no I’m still learning” :sweat_smile:

I’m sure that even before that I would have said I’m a Welsh speaker if asked, and I’m not really sure when that switch happened since I’m also sure that there has been a point where I would have said no. But yeah, there certainly wasn’t a “click moment”…


I think that is the thing. I have often been asked if I can speak French and I will say “un peu” etc, but no-one has ever asked me if I am a French Speaker - it isn’t normally a way of asking someone if they speak another language. I guess it might be different in other countries like Belgium or Spain, where there are different languages and what it is asking is not so much can you speak the language, but which group are you from?


I think you have put your finger on the difference, Toffidil. Speaking Welsh or not speaking Welsh has so much baggage, both cultural and political, that I had to keep telling myself, “It’s just a language,” in order to have the confidence to speak it in public. It’s why I’m still very reluctant to speak to strangers in Welsh unless I’ve heard them speak the language to someone else. I don’t want to embarrass someone and make them admit they don’t speak Welsh because I’ve seen aggressive first language speakers do it and it’s not nice.


I’m not sure there was a ‘click moment’ for me - more of a dawning realisation that I could say enough to consider myself a Welsh speaker, although it took a long time to start saying ‘speaker’ instead of ‘learner’.
I consider my Welsh to be far from as slick as a first language speaker’s, but I figure at the very basic level, and regardless of language, a speaker is someone who speaks (i.e. actually does speak - subtly different to ‘can speak but chooses not to’).

So yes, by now I can happily say I am a Welsh speaker although I still qualify that by adding ‘2nd language’ when I feel that omitting it might mislead others into thinking I know more than I do :wink:


This part is a bit different in Slovenia. You could often hear one asking “Ali govorite Slovensko?” (Do you speak Slovene?) and not “Ali znate govoriti Slovensko?” (Can you speak Slovene?) With this question there’s rearly a thought about amount of the language one speaks but just if they speak it. We actually don’t have the question to ask exactly if one is Slovene speaker. This exact question would be rather odd but “Ali govorite Slovensko?” equivalents to it though. For the knowledge: exact question to “Are you a Slovene Speaker?” would be “Ali ste govorec Slovenščine?” however “govorec” actually means something a bit different in real speach though.

Missleading happens many times in life to me, not just in languages but elswhere and it’s hard to keep a steady line inbetween actually being able to do one thing and making sure you don’t misslead people with abilities. People imagine all sorts of things just from one word said or one deed done. If you do it well or it happens you said things very properly and confidently, many will already considder you as a “geek” of particular area of knowledge/life. So, even if I know one thing well enough (speaking Welsh in this case) I always tend to add “Well, but I’m still learning.” We actually are learning our entire life, aren’t we? :slight_smile:


First time I went to France, i was ‘it’ in,our group in terms of speaking French. So muddled through with diversions like my famous use of halen instead of sel due to my brain searching for anything that wasn’t English! I got around, bought match tickets, chatted to French rugby fans, tranlating for fans of Wales! So, am I a Welsh speaker? Well, by those standards, yes I am, but there is the rub. Many of the people I met on rugby trips did not speak English, so it was my French or zilch. I would be very, very unlikely to meet anyone who spoke Welsh and no English, unless he/she spoke Spanish!

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I felt that I had become a burgeoning Welsh speaker before my first bootcamp but the last day when we met the clonc group in Aberteifi I really felt I’d managed it.

Then my confidence dipped a bit, then grew again and I started using it with patients and their parents when I worked in paeds. That was another click I guess.

Then I had another bit of a roller coaster with my confidence but I still felt like a Welsh speaker just a nervous one.

Then people in my new job started referring to me as the Welsh speaker in the group. So that was another click.

I still notice my “lack” of fluency in certain situations (I still consider myself fluent). Actually, I still notice my lack of fluency in English in certain situations. Conversations about music in particular.


A very interesting question. I think it’s different for everyone. Yet I’ve been kind of reluctant to accept it, but I have for a while now.

It’s probably a bit of a cliche in SSi, though I’ve purposefully not read the above responses yet, but i would say during bwtcamp. The realisation that if the English language suddenly didn’t exist, that I would be ok staying in Welsh. So that was perhaps when I was no longer really just a learner.

Having said that it was after bwtcamp that it really happened. Bwtcamp seemed a kind of unreal world. At the beginning of the week i still felt that my Welsh was hopeless. It was things like when you have your first conversation in Welsh because it seemed the natural language choice, that you are speaking Welsh not merely to practice speaking it. I’ve often compared language learning to learning a musical instrument, you practice and practice until one day you use your instrument to make music. so, it’s it’s the same thing in Welsh, when you speak Welsh to speak Welsh, rather than practice speaking Welsh.

It’s also those occasionas where you don’t feel you have to apologise for not being good enough yet, that your Welsh is good enough to communicate what you want to communicate at the time. When you stop thinking about it and can just do it.

If there is one weakness in the SSi method is that the next challenge is always tough, so as you progress through the course you never get the satisfaction of it coming out naturally, that happens outside of the course.


As a defence mechanism I generally say that I don’t really but then add that there are some people I meet regularly who I have only every spoken Welsh to (which is true), the listener then has to decide. My worry around the question though is what do Welsh people state when they are asked officially if they speak Welsh. I would probably say ‘no’ as I don’t want to be part of the statistic of Welsh speakers until I am more fluent - I’d hate to think that any increase in the number of Welsh speakers consists of people of my current standard. I don’t live in Wales but I think the census broke the question down into degree of understanding?!?


Hello @Nicky, I think the key point here is that, as you admit yourself, you are very confident and considered yourself a Welsh speaker about two weeks into the learning experience. I remember watching your first couple of videos about a year ago and thinking, blimey! there’s no way I can compete with that. As @Iestyn I think has said on another thread, one day when a lot more ordinary folks are using SSIW to learn Welsh, some of the more outstanding current learners will be regarded as early trailblazers (I paraphrase from memory).

Our experiences of life are all very different and affect whether we feel confident or not about a whole range of different things, not just about speaking Welsh. Though from Caerdydd originally (in the days when if a kid spoke Welsh in school the other kids would laugh at them), I have lived most of my life in a part of Lloegr with no Welsh-speaking contacts whatsoever, and now well into retirement never expecting to learn any Welsh at all until SSIW came along. A lifetime’s non-expectation of speaking any Welsh does make it tough to easily acknowledge that I am now a ‘Welsh speaker’. As @Toffidil says, it’s “hard to drop the baggage”. Though I can now speak some Welsh and maybe one day will feel confident enough to ‘upgrade’: I doubt that it will be a ‘click moment’ for me but part of an ongoing process.

For some of us of more mature years (and possibly some others as well), even coming on a friendly forum such as this is not something all of us can do easily because we’ve not been used to doing it. On the other hand, I recently gave a 2-hour lecture on Norse Mythology to an audience of 65 without any qualms, and have done others on King Arthur and suchlike topics. The confidence to do so built up cumulatively over many years, and I suspect that will continue to be the case with Welsh also.


Perhaps it is a case of expectations. When we were moving to Wales I was interested in learning more about the country, discovered S4C and was frustrated by not understanding some very interesting programs on Wales and its history. We had always said it would be good to be able to speaki another language and we both thought here is the opportunity. Then we were recommended SSIW and I was hooked. So the intention was never to speak Welsh as I’m far too shy, but understand TV.

However, SSIW doesn’t work like that, so I timed my last conversation with my kind neighbour who puts up with my painfully slow attempts and we spoke in Welsh for about 20-25 minutes. Going back to children’s TV programs and I can suddenly understand pretty much everything said on Peppa Pig. What’s that about age three, but to me a breakthrough.

Have a feeling I’ll never say “I’m a Welsh speaker”, my opening gambit in conversation is “I’m trying to speak Welsh” and I’m still hoping to understand those archaeology programs. I think I’d rather surprise people with how much I can speak than by how little I understand if they speak to me.


I do call myself a Welsh speaker, although someone who has learned Welsh. Dw i wedi dysgu Cymraeg, I have learned Welsh. This doesn’t mean I’m perfect, or that there is nothing more for me to learn, just that I can say what I want to say. Probably not perfectly, certainly not very prettily. But good enough. I’ve long subscribed to the Good Enough version of life. A Good Enough nurse, a Good Enough wife, a Good Enough mother. And a Good Enough Siaradwr Cymraeg.

I think, looking back, I turned from a Learner to a Speaker about 4 years ago when I went to my 4th Bootcamp in 2014. (I’ve been to one more, in 2015.) I think I began to be aware, even before then, of the many learners who live in the very comfortable, very nice, very friendly world of Welsh Learners, but with little intent to move beyond. I think I have feet in both camps. I will stay here, because there are all sorts of abilities here and I feel I can help. But I will also move on, beyond the world of learners. I’ve decided not to restart traditional classes after being abroad for nearly a year. I’ve decided not to go back to Bootcamp. There must come a time when we graduate, have no need for such things, wonderful as they are. A bit like going to marriage preparation classes after being married, happily enough, for 10 years.

But there are other ways of improving my Welsh. I’m humming and haaing about writing about my time abroad, in Welsh. I’m humming and haaing about joining Merched y Wawr. I’m doing a Bible reading yn y Gymraeg in church once a month. I have Welsh friends I only speak to in Welsh. I go to a Welsh conversation group once a fortnight because I have friends there.

And I certainly called myself a Welsh speaker in the last census.


Not you call yourself a Welsh speaker! You ARE a Welsh speaker and your visit to my country was one of those things happened which made me (kind of) Welsh speaker too! :slight_smile: To the Welsh writter now! :slight_smile:

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Hyfryd! :relaxed:

As soon as I saw this poll, I put Welsh Speaker with no hesitation. The realisation that this only came when I discovered the wonderful world of SSIW, the forum, and the real live people (now friends) who love to meet and chat, only has just hit me.
Before, I was hovering about outside the door labeled ‘Welsh Speakers’, trying to peek in at the window, never brave enough to go in.
No matter how hard I studied, I was pretty sure the door was locked.
Turns out it’s not.
Now that I’m in the door, I see that I’m in a huge ‘other world’ full of language, and people and other ways to look at the world. It leads to so much other stuff! I can’t know it all - I’m glad not to - I like the inquisitive me that SSIW has brought out, and I never want to stop finding things out. I can ask about the things I don’t know about Welsh in Welsh! That means I never need to step back outside the door again (apart from the fact that most of my life/family/work is in Saesneg - but hey).
Thank you @Nicky for asking the question!


I measured myself by the kids’ URDD swimming lessons. That was where I first took the plunge of saying to the guy at the pool, “Dw i ddim wedi talu…”, and had my first euphoria of understanding the answer! (“Go and look for Gareth in the cafe, the one wearing an URDD t-shirt”). That was closely followed by the first humiliation, of trotting out my sentence again and not understanding a single word of what came back! A couple of years later, I was chatting to Gareth after paying the fees and he suddenly stopped and looked at me and said “Mae dy Gymraeg di wedi gwella!” That’s when I thought, woohoo, I can do this!