Do you feel nervous about talking Welsh to other people?

Do you feel nervous about talking Welsh to other people?

It’s not just you, of course…

and you probably already know that…

but it doesn’t help much that other people go through the same pain, does it?

There’s just something particularly nerve-wracking about using a new language - especially with people you don’t know.

I remember the first time I dreamed in Welsh.

Well, I say ‘dreamed in Welsh’ - it would be a bit more honest to say ‘heard Welsh in a dream’.

Embarrassingly enough, the dream went:

  • Someone spoke Welsh to me
  • I ran away.

And sadly, that was a fairly good summary of how I felt about using my Welsh when I was awake, too.

I spent my first visit to the National Eisteddfod (in Llanelli, 17 years ago) trying to avoid Getting Too Close to any Welsh speakers.

Yes, tricky.

No, it didn’t help me feel calm and relaxed.

But in the 8 years now that I’ve been doing stuff with SaySomethinginWelsh, I’ve seen how people deal with this much better than I did.

I used to think it was just about self-confidence, but over the years it’s become more and more clear that there are simple tactics which make a huge difference.

So if the thought of using your Welsh makes your hands sweaty, here’s how to follow in the footsteps of people who find it much less worrying:

1 - Make sure you spend time every week, On Your Own, practising speaking. Obviously, SSiW lessons are designed for this - but you can do it without our material, just by choosing a set of 10 or 20 phrases you use often, and actually practising saying them. [You could even go the full Robert de Niro and say them to yourself in a mirror - ‘You speaking Welsh to ME??’…;-)]

2 - Don’t start at the deep end! Traditionally, it’s meant to be very hard to get learners to use their Welsh outside of the classroom, but with a lot of SSiW learners, it seems the other way round - you want to start using it straight away, which is fantastic. But… in a shop or garage with a complete stranger is the DEEP END, so if it makes you feel nervous, that’s sensible.

3 - Here’s the SHALLOW end: find someone you like who speaks Welsh, and persuade or bribe them (gin and coffee can both help) to spend 5 minutes a week talking Welsh with you. Yes, just 5 minutes a week - we’re trying to reduce the fear and horror here, remember.

4 - Add gin or coffee until that 5 minutes a week grows into 30… then aim for a full hour (which might need added biscuits or even cake). It doesn’t matter how long this process takes - if you’re still right at the start, it’s going to take you a while to build the extra patterns you’ll need - if you’re further along already, it might be quite quick, once you’re over the initial ‘jumping into cold water’ feeling…

5 - By the time you’ve done an hour a week for a couple of months, you will have an entirely new level of confidence. Test-drive this confidence in controlled situations - in other words, situations where you can predict a lot of what you need to say. Keep it simple, and give yourself a gold star/pat on the back/extra gin for EVERY SINGLE INTERACTION you have in Welsh.

6 - That’s it. Nothing can take all the nerves away, of course - but these 5 steps should make it all seem much more normal and achievable.

When do nerves usually kick in for you?

What other tactics have you tried to help deal with them?

And if you work through the 5 steps above, I’d love to hear what sort of difference it made for you…:slight_smile:


I find the hard bit is understanding what is said in reply. When speaking to a learner the vocabulary of both persons is likely to be limited in similar ways. However, when speaking to a Welsh person there’s no restriction on the vocabulary they may use. I prefer to play a game in Welsh which then limits what is likely to be said.



I totally agree! When I would speak Welsh last year on my last trip to Wales, it was the sudden stream of incredibly fast and incomprehensible Welsh following my attempts at speaking that scared me! Then my mind would go blank as I tried to remember how to ask them to repeat or slow down, and sometimes they would switch to English.

Thank you for the advice, Aran–I do remember that some of my most successful interactions in Welsh were those in coffeeshops or pubs where I knew basically what to expect in terms of vocabulary.


I don’t feel nervous about talking in Welsh to other people, as when they reply in perfect Welsh, there is always a word or two that I can actually understand and answer to in one way or another. I’m much more concerned that I could bore them to death, that they sigh inwardly and wish themselves far, far away on the Moon. I feel embarrassed about my tiny little treasury of words…and sorry for the person having to listen to my stammering :sweat:


Ah, yes, that’s a big part of the journey - game playing is a good idea, as well as listening exercises… :slight_smile:

Be aware that is the ENTIRELY normal experience for almost everyone who jumps in at the deep end - you should still be proud of yourself for having the courage to do it! And more controlled conversational practice will make it all easier for next time… :slight_smile:

Ah, that’s interesting - I know other people who feel like that - I’ll have to do a piece about it at some point… :slight_smile:


I do step 1 all the time - talk to myself. It’s easy to have a conversation with my “imaginary friends” because I know what direction the conversation is going, and I control the speed :smile: But the rest of those steps are hard when there’s NO ONE here who speaks Welsh. I can’t go to a learner’s group, or panad a sgwrs, or hit up a friend or neighbor up for a 5-minute coffee break, or any of that. When you are shy like me, and you wouldn’t even be comfortable posting to say “Hey, who wants to Skype with me?” for an ENGLISH conversation, then imagine how difficult it is to do for a Welsh conversation :anguished:

The frustrating thing is that when I’m nervous, so much of what I know seems to evaporate from my brain. SO counterproductive, but obviously if I could shut off the nerves, I would! And I have felt like @Claudia_Beryan regarding feeling like you are boring someone or making them wish they were doing something else.

That said, however, I have had some good Skype conversations with one lovely person, who has been very patient with my nerves, and lack of vocabulary when I first started, and I am looking forward to Skyping with a new person this week. I’ll definitely be nervous, but I’ll be sending virtual cake :slight_smile:


I wish you a wonderfully relaxed, educative and most of all cheerful Skype conversation! :relaxed:

About this feeling of boring someone…well, I don’t feel bored when a German learner speaks with me, but do my best to give support, reassurance and also praise. Why only do we fear other people wouldn’t feel exactly the same way about our attempts to speak Welsh? It’s probably our lack of trust in ourselves and others. I’ll try to be just cool in the future and use my intuition - if the conversation is going to be too “boring” for the other person, I’ll feel it, thank him or her for the time and patience and switch back to English or say goodbye. :wink: "Diolch yn fawr iawn! Dw i wedi mwynhau siarad Cymraeg efo chdi…ond dwi’n meddwl bod well i mi fynd rwan…:joy: :scream: :runner: :dash:


Dwi’n deall beth dach chi’n dweud. Mae’n problem mawr

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Yes, I am shy in English but at least as a learner you feel a simple sentence is acceptable and does give you something to say. However, I always feel they have to wait for hours while I speak. I think part of the problem is that the more nervous I am the quicker I gabble in English so speaking Welsh feels super slow-mo. Also my head is spinning at about three thousand miles an hour which results in total brain freeze and I come away thinking of all the things I could have said after one or two sentences.

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I have been trying to recall my experiences elsewhere and they all involved people with little or no English, so I was thinking, "Of course I had no choice in Paris or Vienna or Rome or Venice, I either pressed on with dreadful French, Italian - no German worth mentioning…and then I thought, what is needed is for all those lovely people who normally chat away in Welsh with friends, family, shops etc to be persuaded NOT to switch to English when someone has tried Welsh. Pretend you know hardly a word of Saesneg folks!! @siaronjames Could S4C publicise all these poor learners wanting to practice and being greeted with either a stream of fast Welsh or a switch to English! Tell these polite, welcoming folk that we do know you can speak English but we really, really want to speak Welsh!
for an example click here!

If only I had that much influence on S4C!

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That’s a lot of gin! :smiley:


Most Welsh speakers pigeon hole seem to people as “English (speaking)” or “Welsh (speaking)” and so it can be very hard for them to switch to the other language when they speak to you. But I’ve found that it can also work in your favour, in that many seem quite happy to let you fumble on in Welsh rather than switch to English, if they got to know you in Welsh.

When I feel brave, I start out in Welsh and then switch to English when it gets too complicated. When I’m not feeling brave, I usually say Diolch or something similar at the end of the conversation, which sometimes is useful for the next time you meet them.

My advice would be to go for it and just throw in English words or half a sentence when you’re not sure about the Welsh words or to clarify what you’re trying to say. Welsh speakers often do that themselves (with dates or numbers for instance) and don’t seem at all bothered by it.


Thank you so much for this timely advice, Aran. I’ve done all three old courses and new levels and STILL haven’t had a conversation in Welsh with a real, live, other person. Admittedly that’s not quite so easy when you live in Germany but it isn’t really an excuse in this day and age of Skype and other online possibilities.
I’ll be spending a week in Wales in October and have proudly announced to the family that I want to try out all this Welsh I have supposedly learned, but I know already that when it comes to it I’ll probably be too shy and embarrassed to say more than Bore da before switching to English for the many reasons given by all the others on this thread (fear of not understanding the reply, fear of boring the other person, fear of blackouts …). But I will now memorise Aran’s tips (also re-read his inspiring Some Sex and a Hill) and hope my stiff upper lip doesn’t interfere with my pronunciation!


Terrified - the 2 times ive tried on skype (even tho both ladies were lovely) . Im in England so not much chance to practice (but will try to do it when we go at Easter) .There is a group from here you meet in Coventry, which is about half an hour aay… but I’d find going to meet strangers in a pub scary in English , anyway, so in another language!!!


Aye, this is the perfect advice for me…“You…you’re good, you…!” :joy:

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I’m hopeless at skype. The thought of using that terrifies me far more than the thought of attempting any language with anyone in person! My theory is that the lack of ‘proper’ eye contact makes it unsettling.

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I thought I was the only one who feels Skype sounds terrifying!

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For me, it’s nothing to do with which language or even whether I know the person on the other end or not - I hated using it even with very close, long-term friends. I really should try harder to overcome that. Perhaps I need a 5-day intensive “Say Something on Skype” course! :laughing:


I think we can learn a lot from our children. My sons use Skype absolutely naturally; to them, it’s just another common form of communication (true, they are digital natives :wink:). Yes, there is no direct eye contact, but the voice is there - and I think that on Skype, the voice and its sound, tone, modulation, rhythm…does, in a way, replace the eye contact. So, we just have to slightly shift our perception, in order to adapt to Skype conversations…and get used to it :nerd:

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I find the Skype thing a problem too. We only Skype with relatives occasionally, but it can be really painful thinking of stuff to say. None of the usual icebreakers apply - how was your trip/how long did it take/oh yes we find the traffic on the A34 dreadful/do sit down/cup of tea?
Mind you, I suppose if your intention is to practise Welsh then it would be an idea to prepare some questions, or something you want to talk about. If you shared this with the other person, I think it could take out a lot of the awkwardness and give you common ground before you did that naturally. Shame I can’t do that with the relatives isn’t it? :scream:
I too, find natural speakers the hardest to understand. If I know two ways to say something, the betting is they know seven and start with one of the ones I don’t know (YET!). With another SSIWer you will have begun at least in the same place. And other learners are MUCH less put off about me waving and pointing when I can’t say something. :smile:

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