Do you get frustrated when you can't remember a Welsh word?

[Just posted this on Facebook - the first in what I’m thinking will be a series of posts about the emotions in language learning - based largely on what I’ve seen on intensive courses and other learning environments over the years. Thought it would be nice to have it on the forum as well - and I’ve love to know if you find it helpful at all… :slight_smile: ]

Do you get frustrated when you can’t remember a Welsh word you’ve been trying to learn?

It’s an incredibly common feeling…

You’re trying to remember it, you know it’s not far off (you might even say 'It’s on the tip of my tongue!) - and then someone else says it, and you feel like kicking yourself - you were SO close!

Here’s the thing…

Some people get so tired of feeling that frustration, they end up losing momentum - and their journey towards Welsh gets interrupted (or even, sometimes, just stops).

But that frustration is based on a misunderstanding.

It starts at school.

You’re told that you’ve either learnt something, or you haven’t.

If you haven’t, you’re meant to revise it over and over until you ‘learn’ it.

Here’s the problem with that…

Memories aren’t formed all in one go. [Apart from memories of particularly emotional events, which don’t usually include Welsh vocabulary - unless you get ‘rhiw’ or ‘rhew’ and ‘rhyw’ mixed up!].

Each time you meet a Welsh word, you encode more information about it.

You might start by recognising how many syllables it has.

Then you might remember some of the vowel sounds - then some of the consonant sounds.

Eventually, after you’ve been exposed to it often enough, you can recognise it when you hear it - and some time after that, you can say it when you want to.


It’s only when you can say it whenever you want that you feel as though you’ve LEARNT it.

All the other stuff - recognising syllables, adding vowels, adding consonants - happens under the level of your conscious mind.

You can’t tell that you’re getting closer to a long-term successful memory for that word - so you either feel bad about yourself, or you believe you need to do lots of extra practice.

But there’s ONE clue that you’re learning…

ONE clue that you’re getting closer and closer to success…

What is that ONE clue?

It’s the FRUSTRATION you feel when you can’t quite remember the word - when it’s on ‘the tip of your tongue’!

If I ask you the Welsh for a word you’ve never heard, you don’t feel any frustration - you just say ‘Nope, sorry, don’t know that’.

If I ask you the Welsh for a word you’ve ALMOST finished learning, you can’t quite get it, and you feel that sense of frustration - of PAIN! - which looks a bit as though someone is sticking a needle in you.



It means you’ve almost succeeded.

It’s the ONE sign that you’re nearly there.


The next time you feel the pain - the next time you want to kick yourself - pause for a moment.

Read the sign.

Understand that it means you’re ALMOST there.

And your frustration should turn into pride.

You should be PROUD of yourself for being so close to forming a successful long term memory.

Does this ring a bell for you?

Have you had this sense of frustration?

What impact does it have on you?

Do you think you’ll be able to switch off the frustration and switch on the pride now you’ve read this?


This is very familiar. And it’s hard to undo all those messages learned in youth (due to curriculum rather than teachers) I really believe we should teach a second language, any second language, when kids are starting school. It did get added to the curriculum briefly whilst I was teaching , and with the little ones it was all speaking and listening!


Wow, I can relate to this today. I’m just finishing old Course 2 and I’m doing Vocab Level 10 which is a revision of all the vocab in Courses 1 and 2. I’m not using the pause button. I’ve been over it 3 times already. I “KNOW” just about every sentence and word in the entire exercise, but half the time it just doesn’t come out until Cat comes in. Each time it’s been easier though. Every time I’ve wanted to throw my mobile device out the window, a little voice keeps saying “Hey, you know this! A little bit more and you’ll speed up!” It all goes back to the “Don’t Worry” mantra.

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Really like this post! :star: Keep putting things like this on the forum for those of us who don’t do Facebook! :slight_smile:

Oh, yes![quote=“aran, post:1, topic:9177”]
What impact does it have on you?

Sometimes disappointment in/annoyance with myself, usually motivation to work harder so I’ll get it next time[quote=“aran, post:1, topic:9177”]
Do you think you’ll be able to switch off the frustration and switch on the pride now you’ve read this?

Mostly :smile:

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Ooh! This is SO timely! I’m plagued by this all the time, and I hadn’t thought of it like this.
In the spirit of SSIW and it’s positive rollercoaster feel, I HAVE begun to tell myself that if I’m going to try and explain complicated stuff to myself (or my imaginary Welsh speaking friend who is interested in anything I have to say, no matter how badly) then I’m going to hit words I can’t remember. The frustration is lessened by the habit of just trying to find a way of explaining it anyway, working round it with the stuff I know.
But the awareness of the vast swathe of words I DON’T KNOW in Welsh, is immense. I know that I know so much more than before - I’ve just moved the goal-posts, but the feeling is the same!


I only got that far.
I have news for you all. I have that feeling when reaching for an English word or a fact which has suddenly departed just as I needed it! I attribute it to age and these things pop back eventually. Is it Altzheimer’s or just senility? I don;t know, but I just hope I’ll hang on to as many marbles as possible for as long as possible! As I know I forget all sorts of long known information, I can hardly expect to recall all my Welsh, so I just live with the situation and mutter! :wink: :imp:


I’m sure Aran with his learning theory head on has already heard of the window model for “stuff you know”

As you learn stuff, different ‘bits’ of ‘stuff’ will be in different boxes. But our brains are rubbish at making an overall assessment and we have these spots where it feels frustrating not just sinspite of the fact we actually know more, but because of it…

Here’s what I wrote about it on a flying forum. interesting how similar the process and emotions are…

People forget the “learning curve” doesn’t always feel like a curve. It feels like fits and starts. And one reason it feels like fits and starts and it feels like there’s times you’re making no progress is simple.

It’s because the rate at which you become able to recognise your errors is not the same as the rate at which you get better at correcting them.

Thinkabout take-off. You probably did it really early in the training more or less without help. Huge progress right? Zero to being able to Take Off! Wowee! I can take off!

Then a few lessons later you notice you were maybe too fast on the ground by the time you took off, or didn’t keep the centre line or the best climb speed was all over the shop and you think “Oh no, I’m getting worse! I could take off before why can’t I get it right now?”

And of course it’s not that at all that you’re getting worse - it’s that you’re getting better and part of getting better involves noticing the things you need to improve.

That self awareness stage is often when people quit learning a new skill because they conclude that they’re simply not good at it or are disappointed that the learning rate seemed to have slowed (even though it hasn’t when looked at objectively).


Ermm, in all of which waffle is to say that yes - that feeling is utterly there - it’s the boundary between those “know you don’t know” and "know you know"s and yes it’s a good sign not a bad one even though it doesn’t feel it!


Oh @henddraig, That is exactly what I feel.

Learning a language is supposed to be good for the memory though, so we can live in hope.


Yes, very reassuring and helpful, thank you. And it’s good to have it here for those of us who don’t use facebook.

I sometimes find myself thinking “I have met that word. It begins with c or g and there is something double in the middle, possibly dd or ff.” It’s a bit frustrating, but much less frustrating than forgetting a word that I have known for a long time. (I am not just thinking about Welsh here.)

@cat-1 mentioned moving goal posts. That is so true. The more you know, the more you can see how much you still don’t know.

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[quote="Betterlatethan, post:10, topic:9177, full:true

@cat-1 mentioned moving goal posts. That is so true. The more you know, the more you can see how much you still don’t know.

I try to remind myself of how it felt just getting past the first half dozen lessons. I was really pleased with myself.
I’m a slow learner, but even soI know I’ve learned a lot. It is just that there is such a lot more to know.

Does there come a point when the only way to progress is total immersion?

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I hope not! I’m in Scotland and my health is not conducive to travel!
To @Betterlatethan The promise of Cymraeg as anti-dementia medicine as well as anti-hiraeth is ever with me!!! :smile: :sunny:


Wow, that’s fascinating, and thinking about this frustration whenever I cannot quite reach a word in Welsh, yet, gives me hope that I may not be such a slow learner, after all. I’ve started to feel this painful frustration during the very first Challenge. I think stress and pressure is my main problem, as under stress (I put myself under) my brain does fail me regularly and profoundly. It feels as if stress blocks the memory…it is there, but I cannot for the life of me reach it. I do best when slightly tipsy or while working physically…


No, not really - although you will eventually reach a point where if you want to get any better, you’d need to live in a Welsh-speaking community, you’ll be functionally fluent a fairly long time before that…:slight_smile:

And while you’re building to conversational fluency, you’ll generally find that spending more time is the key - on either axis - an hour a week for more weeks, or more hours per week, etc… so whatever work pattern you have with it, keep on keeping on and you’ll be improving (even though the improvements get increasingly hard to notice)…:slight_smile:

This is an extraordinarily common experience, and has got nothing to do with your brain ‘failing’ you - in fact, I think you’d be doing yourself and your brain a favour if you spoke a bit more kindly to it! Everyone relaxes a little more when they soften their focus on the results a bit… if you find a couple of drinks helps, then have a couple of drinks every time! And consider thanking your brain for that, instead of blaming it…:wink:

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Yes, being nice to myself and my brain isn’t my strong suit. You know, I don’t care so much about the results, it’s more the learning itself. Learning immediately puts me on red alert, and I hear this voice telling me to concentrate like crazy, in order to be able to learn well. Holding this concentration drains all my energy and makes me wish to just avoid learning…:unamused: I should learn a lesson from children that are so curious and learn new things playfully and without inhibition, shouldn’t I.

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Yes, you definitely should…:slight_smile:

And stop blaming your brain - it’s your emotions that are the real challenge here.

When you look at a little girl - imaging seeing a little girl playing in a park - do you think she deserves kindness and encouragement - or to be told that she’s not good enough?

You were a little girl once - and that little girl will always be part of you - and she still deserves (and needs) kindness and encouragement.

Talk to your brain - and about your brain - as if it were that little girl…:slight_smile:


God, of course this little girl playing in the park deserves kindness and encouragement! I’ve been doing my very best to give my own sons a LOT of kindness, love and encouragement…all I have inside. You are spot on, my emotions are the challenge. My father hasn’t given a shit, he would have much preferred a son, anyway. I didn’t get encouragement as a little girl, nothing I’ve ever done was worth encouragement or even attention. My father was an alcoholic and often resorted to violence. It could have broken me or made me tough and untouchable - I chose the latter, and I’ve decided that as a little girl. It truly is a huge challenge for me to talk to my brain as if it were a little girl, since it never really was a little girl…


Thank you so much for your courage and openness, Claudia. I’m so sorry you went through such a tough time.

Yes, it was - it just didn’t get the loving support it (and you) deserved.

This is the key for you, Claudia. It is a HUGE achievement for you to have done this when your own father let you down so badly. You should be INCREDIBLY proud that you have chosen to be such a good mother.

And if you can provide that kindness, love and encouragement to your sons, you have what you need to provide it for yourself as well.

And you deserve it - as much as they do.


You’re being extremely kind, Aran, thank you so much! :rose::cherry_blossom:

Movies have saved me, you know. In movies, I’ve seen how loving, generous, warming and nurturing the love of a man and father can be…and I’ve decided to become such a “man”, too. I’m still working on providing kindness for myself and I still have a long way to go. The good thing is that through my childhood and youth, I’ve learned not to rely and depend on others, but to develop feelings that I longed to receive from others within myself…sort of create a father inside…and be such a “father” to my sons.

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I think we all still have a long way to go… but if you’re travelling in the right direction, that’s the most important thing of all. As long as you can forgive us for pulling you up whenever we see you being hard on yourself in here… :slight_smile:

And the choice you’ve made - to be that person for your sons - is the kind of choice that, I believe, can validate an entire life. :star: :star2: