Five Decades Sideways, Five Months Fast Forward, Diolch o Galon i SSiW

Time to come out of the shadows a little and give credit where it is due, celebrate success so far and reflect ruefully on many years spent in the linguistic wilderness.

Like quite a few other people I have met (I suspect this may include many on here, too) I have wanted to learn Welsh for almost longer than I can remember. When I was a small child I went on holidays to Pen Llŷn and was aware from an early age of a fair bit of Welsh ancestry on both parental sides of the family, but sadly far enough in the past that my parents were not in a position to teach me any Welsh beyond the odd word and phrase. I did, however, get introduced to (hopefully) fairly correct pronunciation, in particular LL and CH. I remember the dear old lady (quite probably a Great-Grandma) Mrs. Jones who owned the cottage where we stayed and I remember feeling frustrated that whilst I could count to ten yn Y Gymraeg from an early age, I could not understand what Mrs. Jones or anyone else were saying.

As an older child I made a couple of attempts at learning, using “Teach Yourself” books: The older “Teach Yourself Welsh” which was rather formal and the more modern “Teach Yourself Living Welsh”. Clearly they must have done me some good as I can remember patterns I learned back then and I became able to “get the gist” when reading from a book, magazine or newspaper. But I still got totally lost attempting to listen to real world conversations. Reading is, as I found out the hard way, no substitute for listening and speaking.

For a few intervening decades, I contented myself (living in England) with the odd fantasy about “eventually” going to Welsh classes, but never getting around to it. I had tried French classes (after doing French at school) and was frustrated about the process being too mechanical. I could translate in my head but not think in French. A similar feeling applied to my book-learned Welsh.

More recently (last decade or so) I started having dreams where I was talking to people (sometimes an Audience) in Welsh. Scary it was, but it also felt “so right”. I put the dreams “to bed” (sorry, weak pun) and thought not much more of them, until recently.

With the advent of the Internet I found some useful short-course materials here and there and “topped up” my still very limited Welsh a bit. I also started listening to Radio Cymru and watching S4C when I could, but did not understand much at all. One thing I did enjoy, but could not take much further at that stage, was going into Welsh cafes and Fish and Chip shops to order “Paned o De” or “Pysgodyn a Sglodion”. It felt good, but, being rehearsed, was really not going anywhere fast.

Just before Christmas (five-and-a-bit months back) I had been going to take a leap and move house to Cymru, I was looking for courses but was impatient about the long wait till Autumn. I was also still skeptical after my French experience. I did not want to just “talk Welsh” - I wanted to think in Welsh. Google was my friend here and after a short search for courses and materials, I stumbled on SSiW. I decided to “give it a go” and after about three weeks I had finished Course 1. Before I even finished Course 1 I realised this was actually working so I jumped in and subscribed. The house I wanted to rent fell through (I had too many cats!) but by then there was no stopping me. I found the new Level 1, did that in another 3 weeks or so (a lesson or sometimes two, occasionally three, each day) and then paused a while in February.

After a forced house move (landlord wanted his house back) but sadly not to Cymru at this point I took a brief break but then felt I “had to do more” before “daring to show my face” at the Manchester SSiW meeting in March. Hence I dived into Course 2 and completed it in a few weeks.

The March meeting in Manchester was both (initially) scary (for a few minutes) and inspiring. People were talking in Welsh and I felt worried I would be tongue-tied, which I realise of course is completely natural. But I could also understand quite a lot of what they were saying. By the end of the meeting I was sad that it was over and sadder that I would have to wait a month until the next one.

Aran is, of course, quite right about using Welsh in the Wild being the way to go. People can go to Bootcamp after Course 1, so I did not strictly need Course 2 to start chatting. I had found myself in the middle of the ability range at my first meeting, quite a postive feeling,

But I could not wait. When I read about Saith Seren in Wrecsam I felt I just had to check the place out with a weekly chat session in a friendly pub atmosphere. I went there just after Easter and was gutted shortly after to find it was to close. Of course it didn’t close, thanks to lots of you on this Forum and some other supporters, too. I have continued to go almost every week (from Wigan, 50 miles away, but well worth it).

I have also continued with SSiW, doing the Vocab units for Courses 1 and 2 and I am working through Course 3 (though I intend to “jump backward” to the new Level 2 also). But now I feel I have grown wings (cue Red Bull advert …) and can communicate most of what I want to say yn Y Gymraeg, five short months after discovering SSiW, even if I do still feel my Welsh is a bit clumsy (again, probably normal).

Diolch o Galon to Aran and Catrin for making this possible and to those of you reading this for your patience reading such a long monologue.

The “icing on the cake” was when I decided this week that “once a week” at Wrecsam was no longer enough so I went to the Sesiwn Sgwrs at the Clywd Theatr Cymru at Yr Wyddgrug (Mold).

I amazed myself by introducing myself entirely yn Y Gymraeg and the teacher appeared suitably impressed. After a few words of what I felt was over-generous praise I got the ‘R’ word used about me. Yes, Rhugl !!! Of course (for anyone not already familiar) Rhugl means “Fluent” and Yn amlwg, dw i ddim yn rhugl hyd yn hyn (clearly, I am not fluent yet). But I am starting to feel that I can think in Welsh (without thinking about the English words at the same time). And that feels good :smile:

When I meet people who have done a few years of traditional classes but are less confident than I now feel, I have to tread carefully. I will talk up the very real benefits of the SSiW method whenever I can but I need also to avoid aggressively deflating the emotional investment balloons of those who have put a lot of effort into their class work.

Diolch o Galon unwaith eto, Aran a Catrin. Gobeithio eich cyfarfod chi yn fuan, efallai ar wythnos yr Eisteddfod.


What an absolutely fantastic story - thank you so much for sharing it with us - diolch o waelod calon!

It will, I’m entirely sure, be absolutely inspirational for many other learners here :star: :star2:

Edrych ymlaen at eich gweld chi yn y Steddfod! :sunny:


Llongyfarchiadau Bob! I agree with Aran - an inspirational story. Your dedication to yr hen iaith is impressive. Da iawn, a gobeithio bo’ ti’n joio’r Steddfod. : -) :sunny:


Llongyfarchiadau form me as well Bob, you have a truly fantastic story and you most definitely do speak very good Welsh. Hopefully I will see you at the Saith Seren on Monday.


What a brilliant story. I check the forum every morning and this was so inspiring to read first thing this morning. Thank you for recharging my enthusiasm battery and great to ‘meet’ you. Andy


Diolch i bawb am eich geiriau caredig. Thank you all for your kind words. The wonderful thing (and I feel sure Aran will agree here) is that it does not even feel particularly difficult when one is enjoying it so much.

If anyone is in two minds whether to go to a “sesiwn sgwrs”, just do it! You can, of course, use your Welsh in the total wild on the street, but an organised chat session provides a certain reassurance that people will make allowances for a bit of inital linguistic wobbling.

My difficulty used to be tripping up over my tongue in the lessons. We have all been there. It WILL pass. Now my chief challenge is spending an awful lot of time on the M56 on my way to and from chat sessions. If only the last trains from Chester were a little later. Roll on the Northern Hub rail developments, we need a good direct train service between Manchester and Wrecsam!


Your story is an inspiration Bob and I couldn’t agree more about this method being SO enjoyable that it doesn’t feel like hard work… well, maybe a little at times… but it always seems possible to move forward and BELIEVE that you will get there. I never thought I would be able to learn a language, even to the level I have reached so far, and when I read a story like yours it is so encouraging… diolch yn fawr iawn!


I think this is one of the most important learning points of all - crack this, and you’re straight into the winner’s circle… :sunny:


''Just before Christmas (five-and-a-bit months back) I had been going to take a leap …"

. I also started just before Christmas and I am not a spring chicken, so goodness knows what SSiW could do for youngsters. My objectives were somewhat more modest than yours - I wanted to surprise my wife (whose first language is Welsh) at Christmas with a few phrases in Welsh - sort of a super party-trick with a couple of toes dipped in the Welsh language.

Six months later and our days are transformed. I am not fluent but gradually I am displacing English as our language at home and replacing it with Welsh. My goal is one hour a day in Welsh and we are more than half-way there.

I would never have even dreamed that the goal posts could be shifted to such an extent. I really believe now that a practical goal for the future (maybe in 2016) will be to replace English with Welsh in our home for half of the day.

Thank you for your story - it has given me an extra spur forward.

Cymru am byth and SSiW am byth,



:star: :star2:


You’ll just be a family that lives through the medium of Cymraeg with the odd bit of Wenglish thrown in, the way it is with most such families!!

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I can’t wait for the day to arrive where we speak more Welsh at home in a day than English.
I probably have about 18 months more daily practice to go before realistically being in site of this goal.

Wish me luck,



Longyfarchiadau Bob. I really enjoyed reading your account. You are an inspiration and your Welsh is fantastic! I look forward to seeing you soon at the next Manchester Meet Up

Hwyl am y tro


Pob lwc!!! :slight_smile:


Brilliant story, Bob and a tremendous example of tenacity. There’s not a week goes by when I don’t despair of my dodgy Welsh but it’s stories like this that shame me into keeping trying. Well, that and my good mate Louis :grinning:
You really deserve your success and long may you continue.


Now I will get the chance to see what happens if I come back to speaking “in the wild” after a break.

After going to Wrecsam almost every week (I think I had just missed one) after Easter, I have just missed TWO whole weeks of chat sessions at the Saith Seren. Two weeks ago I could not fill my petrol tank due to cash flow issues and last week I had a viral bug. And I had just started trying to go to more than one weekly meeting, too.

I have taken the opportunity to almost finish Course 3 during the enforced “break” and will also jump diagonally “back” to Level 2 (Northern), for the lessons that are there so far. But the withdrawal symptoms, the separation anxiety, the hiraeth, are unbearable.

In less than 24 hours I will, gobeithio, be in the Saith Seren unwaith eto and I am wondering if I will be pretty mute for the first half hour as my brain re-adjusts to Y Gymraeg. I will just take it as it comes and I hope it will all come flooding back before the evening is finished.

To the folks of Sesiwn Sgwrs Nos Lun Y Saith Seren: Dw i’n edrych ymlaen at eich gweld chi yn fuan iawn.


That sounds like a good, practical set of expectations - I’ll look forward very much to hearing how it goes :sunny:

Better than expected. No muteness, just the (usual) intermittent tripping over the tongue. And the (quite normal) slight feeling of remorse when I realise I said something in quite a clunky way and after I finished saying it, my brain finds a better way I could have used instead.

But in general, everything was as normal, pretty much as if I had been speaking last week instead of three weeks ago.

I am sure this is quite normal, too, but when I am speaking with people who are rhugl, I feel like a total dechreuwr. On the other hand, when I speak with dechreuwyr, I feel almost rhugl. I guess, objectively, that places me somewhere firmly in between these two ends. I shall Dal Ati and dal i fwynhau y daith.

Dw i ar daith efo’r Iaith! :slight_smile:

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That sounds a) perfectly normal and b) as though you’re doing all the right things :sunny: