Early grammar questions

I was wondering, if ever the Welsh material (or any other language down the line) were to be increased, SSi might consider recording grammar lessons starting with the kinds of questions learners have from the earliest challenges?
I know reading is strongly discouraged at first, but some people (like me) have a lot of technical questions - just look at the forum! So for us, resisting the grammar books is hard, even when the books are too full of unfamiliar words to be much use to us. And if we ask in the forum… well, now we need to at least check how to spell all the words in the sentences we’re asking about… so I kinda try to resist the questions… or I ask Google so no-one catches me cheating. :rofl:
I really do see the value in the speaking and listening approach and want to stick to it and give it a fair chance. So, here’s what got me thinking: I remember how I learned very young some things that I’m aware confuse a lot of adults: my grandmother explained verbally, without whipping out a textbook or table of conjugations, and provided a few sentence examples of proper usage. Maybe I’m brilliant and would have done well with grammar anyway… but maybe, just maybe, my grandmother and her casual, bite-size conversational lessons made the difference. :slightly_smiling_face:
It could be built around some of the “Tiny questions with quick answers,” discussions and expand from there? Something to think about when (if ever) you have a lot of time on your hands? It might keep the nerds away from the written word a while longer, at least!

This comes from a feeling of frustration at times because the whole “Learn like a child, you don’t need to know the grammar,” is just… so not the whole story of how I learned as a child. “Why?” was my constant refrain from the age of 2, and I had an ex-teacher’s answers to those questions! (These days Google is my friend, but it’s rather less reliable.) My mother loves to remind me of the time I - aged five - pointed out to her that what she’d just said was a transferred epithet. :woman_shrugging: I was right. My grandmother had told me about them.
My grandmother taught me to recognise patterns, and extrapolate from what I knew… but she also laid out lots of basic rules that helped me know where to start with something less familiar.
I might be a bit weird (you can say so; I’m used to it), but I’m also pretty sure I’m not the only one who’d love some audio grammar lessons.
Am I?


Yes, I’m also a grammar nerd and would appreciate a few tips. I find myself spending time trying to figure out sentence structure, formation of tenses, etc. And - :shushing_face:- I use Google, too!

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If you have a paid subscription, i.e. not free access through Dysgu Cymraeg, then remember that you always have access to the SSiW Community Chat Slack group.

You can join the online Q&A session on Wednesday mornings and ask any grammar questions you wish, or if you can’t get to the sessions, you can leave your questions in the #q-and-a-questions channel and they’ll be answered there.


Apart from our support channels, as Deborah suggests, I’d also warmly recommend Gareth King’s ‘Modern Welsh: a Comprehensive Grammar’ for this kind of interest :slight_smile:


That is something I’d like to get to. Just need to convince my circadian “rhythm” to co-operate…

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Gareth King is ffantastig but I don’t think it is easily accesible for beginners. I’ve got a PDF copy that is searchable and even then it can be a really hard to find the relevant section.

I was not going to address this but a rant has been building in me this last year as I’ve been helping my 70 year old Mum, and watching her struggle with SSiW as she trys to reconnect to her Welsh roots.

To be honest, I much prefered the way that the old course gently introduced rules e.g. not using yn with isio. This laid a great foundation for me 13 years ago, it actually makes me a bit angry at the blind faith given to “listen and it will all become natural” - it’s a great starting point but it could be helped so much with additional guidance.

Not all people work well within the SSiW methodology. The way people’s minds differ is immense - and our understanding of neurodiversity has improved massively in the time that SSiW has been around.

The one size fits all approach taken by SSiW and the seemingly blind belief in the SSiW methodology could (should?) be updated to fit with the new understanding of how the brains of a significant portion of the population actually learn. I would like to see a change and acknowledgement that total adherence to this SSiW orthodoxy is not helping many people even to the extend of causing some mental anguish.

IMO, language as taught in school did a disservice to (millions of) people who can’t/don’t do rules and grammar, but who more easily pick up up things intutitively without necessarily understandinmg the how and why, and this is one of the reasons why SSi has been such a godsend and success for so many people but there is a now pendulum swing and people whose brain don’t fit the current ‘repitition to intutive’ model are not being served well and in cases that I know of, are being made to feel wrong, abnormal and bad about the fact that they don’t/can’t relate to, or fit in with the model that is (heavily) pushed to the extent that there doesn’t seem to be any nuance. The message seems to be “our way is right and if you don’t like it it is is because YOU are wrong to want rules” - and it isn’t entirely so especially for the neurodiverent.

I don’t feel that it would require a massive change but I do think it is a change that would help many people and stop making some types of people feel like that are stupid and wrong.

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Perhaps I should be listening to the old course! I like rules. :slightly_smiling_face: I also like breaking them for a laugh, but I first want to know what they are so I can judge whether breaking them is okay in a particular context.
I don’t know what the new app interface is going to be like, but if they could make space for an occasional “Click here to hear a little about why we’re saying this, and how the rule might apply to some things we teach later as well… but if you’d rather steer clear of grammar rules, that’s okay!” I think I’d really like that. Not a whole reference book to page through to get to the one bit that’s understandable and relevant to what you’ve just learned, but a short chatty explanation tailored to the level you’re at, with maybe just a tiny bit that you will only fully understand later, but that will help you see what’s happening and why when you get there.
There’s a teeny tiny bit of that in the challenges, but only teeny tiny and very rare. Mostly it’s more, “Yes, you noticed that happen. We won’t say why, but you’ll hear it again.”
I always want to know why.
I’ve seen that on the forum the old course gets recommended a lot for consolidation between level 2 and 3, and I’m just over halfway through level 2 now. Maybe at the end of it I will do the old course before or alongside level 3, and that might help soothe my grammar cravings. :slightly_smiling_face:
@aran I’ve seen Gareth King mentioned a lot here and I will definitely be buying some of his books soon… but you do realise this whole thread is about getting at the grammar early on, when you advise us not to read… and your suggested solution is a book? … :rofl:


I’m sorry to hear people sounding unhappy in here, and I would like to emphasise that we certainly don’t believe (and have never said) that SSi is the only approach that works (because it’s not).

Nobody should feel bad because they don’t find the SSi approach helpful - I’d always strongly advise anyone who doesn’t find our approach helpful NOT to force themselves to keep going with it. Nothing that makes you feel bad is ever going to be a very good learning experience.

I recommended Gareth’s books because this kind of interest doesn’t fit very well with a ‘no reading’ approach.

Peter, I’m really sorry that your mother isn’t enjoying her time with SSi - it certainly sounds as though she would benefit from evening classes instead (or possibly in parallel, if she found that the mix worked) - but do please emphasise to her that she should never feel that it’s her fault that the method isn’t a good fit for her.


Thank you Aran for you comments.

I sorry that I’ve given the impression that Mum has not enjoyed the course, that isn’t the case. She has benefited immensely. Some of what I wrote actually reflects my experience, My Mum is one of the millions who don’t get on well with Grammar (and would hate an evening class!).

SSi has massive plus sides. When you do intuitively get a rule, it’s there and from then on it’s quick and easy rather than having to think “Was that a subject? Should I be mutating?” and finding the person you were trying to talk to has sunk into a boredom induced coma.

Having said that, I think that, just a few more pointers would’ve helped her to be watching for things and and would have helped her slide into attaining the intuitive grasp of what is going on quicker.

For those whose brain appreciates (even needs) rules and structure, the not understanding can cause a great deal of anxiety. When you know in the back of your brain that there is a rule; that things are not quite as random and chaotic as they appear, even if you don’t remember the rule, then the anxiety can be reduced (and, I think, the speed of getting to that important intuitive state is improved).

There is also the comforting feeling of mastery; that you have acheived when you do know that you have reached a level that you understand and that your intutive language isn’t so far off the mark.

Learning to relax and accept that you don’t ALWAYS have to understand why something is the case is a really important skill when it comes to learning language but getting to that place isn’t easy for many people and whilst it is good to encourage people not to worry about it; that it will come, it would be nice to have something else that helped reduce the anxiety and speed up the learning procoss for people who do experience such difficulties - this is not a dig at SSi in particular - SSi is fantastic, it really helped me lay a stable foundation when I first started to learn - I’d still recommend SSiW to any learner. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t be better. I’ve used lots of different ways of learning Welsh and they each have their pros and cons but none are perfect.


Oh, I’m delighted to hear that your mother has done well, that’s wonderful news.

Yes, I agree with you - the emotional journey is central to success, and anxiety never helps - this is one of the main messages I keep returning to when I’m working 1-1 with people.

The tricky thing for us is that different people have different emotional needs at different stages of the journey, so plugging those into a fixed learning journey is complex. The other problem with ‘rules’ is that they’re never really rules, they’re much more like guidelines to help for a while - and people usually need to get used to hearing them shift and blur in conversational speech.

Broadly, we think that the emphasis in most environments is on rulesets, so we provide a balance by going firmly in the other direction.

Having said that, I strongly agree that everything can always be made better. Our focus at the moment is on using data from learners to personalise the content - in the next year or so, that’s likely to be mostly about the learner’s response, but the tech already exists for us to start to pay attention to emotional states and respond to them - we could conceivably reach a point where the app would be able to notice that someone was feeling anxious, and ask some questions about that, one of which might be ‘would you like us to explain more about the grammar?’ - we’d have to build those explanations on a language by language basis, so we’re very unlikely ever to have the resources to make them available for all languages, but we might be able to do it for a limited number :slight_smile:


Oh dear, I really didn’t mean to start anything negative! It sounds like the old course has a bit more of what I was thinking anyway, so I shall probably enjoy that. I love SSi and how well it works, it was really only a little frustration that I felt could possibly have a solution without “cheating” and picking up a book.
But I’m a good way through the course now, so reading probably won’t do any harm to pronunciation etcetera, will it?
There’s a few bits of SSi where I think, well, that’s definitely not aimed at me! But I know I’m not “normal” and that’s fine, because what is normal anyway? Everyone’s “different” in some way! In fact, not being normal is very… normal. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:
I can be a little too good at pointing out flaws or things that could use improvement, while neglecting to mention the positives. I really need to work on that!
SSi has hands-down the most intuitive teaching method I ever encountered, and gets learners confident with usable sentences right from the start which is hugely valuable for confidence. The chipmunks are a brilliant idea and after listening to them for 10 mins, new phrases in lessons seem (almost) slow for a bit! The extra little tasks on the course also have been so helpful, and I’ve loved finding new music through the emails. If I hadn’t already known of Y Gwyll I would have found that through the course too, and who doesn’t like discovering fantastic new tv series? SSi has built what may well be the friendliest and most encouraging corner of the internet, and that sure can’t have been easy!
I love it, truly!!!


Don’t worry, nothing negative here! I think it’s good when people feel snow to express their emotions, and we can talk about things and see what we can and can’t do to help :slightly_smiling_face:

Really delighted that you’ve found so much value here - it’s people like you who have always made the forum such a valuable place :slightly_smiling_face:

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I just wanted to add that I jumped the gun a teeny bit, and with two lessons of Level 2 still to go, I tried out the old Course 1. Obviously the first couple are very easy, so I (impatient) used my media player to speed them up, slowing down a bit as they got trickier until normal speed again around lesson 5. I got to halfway through lesson 6.2 before my brain felt the strain too much to continue.
I love it!!! There have already been a few things I’ve wondered how to say for quite a while, and it’s good to have a kind of repetitive “drill” format without it being too repetitive as that would be dull. A few laughs too, of course. Bydda i’n / Fydda i ddim yn makes sense, and I really appreciated how clear it was made. :smiley: (It kinda messed with my brain a bit that Iestyn identified the phonetic sound as Victor, because I’m a little too in the habit of using the phonetic alphabet for spelling - it really helps over the phone etc - and Victor is V! Whereas in Welsh, the sound is obviously represented by F, whose name to me is Foxtrot. My visualised spelling did not need this confusion! :woman_shrugging: C’est la vie.) The little ei … e thing I’d noticed here and there on a few challenges was briefly mentioned, and if not exactly explained in depth, at least I have a clear idea of when and how to use it. :smiley:
I still could wish for a slightly more detailed explanation of what’s happening and why at some points, but I reckon this is a pretty excellent balance between what a detail-oriented obsessive may want and what everyone else can tolerate. :smiley:
I’m also officially giving up on the “listen and speak only” thing. I stuck to it as well as I could for as long as I could, but I am a bookworm and I’m nearly at the end of level 2, so. I caved. I borrowed Gangsters yn y Glaw in ebook and audiobook format so I can listen and read at the same time, and that’s been great! (In case anyone missed it, you can join a Caerdydd library from anywhere - at least, anywhere in the UK, I don’t know about beyond our borders. And then you can borrow any Welsh ebook or audiobook they have, on whatever device you use.)
Sadly, they do not have Gareth King’s grammar books available to borrow, which my bank balance would have greatly appreciated. Ah well.