Fluency Level

Hi, I have just reached the end of Level 1. I was wondering, what level of fluency can someone expect at the end of Level 3 (as a %) assuming they don’t have the ability to speak frequently to Welsh speakers? 30% fleunt?



Hi Chris.

Congratulations on getting to the end of level 1! Putting the work in is a great start.

That’s a really interesting and complex question which I can’t really answer, but I can put in my tuppence worth. There are so many elements to it.

When you get to the end of level 3 you will have the knowledge, although perhaps not the vocabulary, to say whatever you need to say, and perhaps not very prettily or very accurately. You are unlikely to be taken for a native speaker. Whether you’ll have the confidence to do so is a totally different matter, and as I’ve said elsewhere, I feel this is more a matter of personality than ability. But, to increase confidence you do need to practice with real people as much as possible. On line is perfectly acceptable, and SSIW has Slack to help. Bootcamps, if, when, they return are also a great method. Eliminate the possibilty of another language and you use what you do know.

(I met someone once who way a professional translator, on paper, who could barely string a spoken sentence together, but could sit with a page of writing, and I assume, a dictionary, and turn it from one language to the other.)

Fluency is also not to be confused with ‘being able to uderstand what everyone else is saying’. SSIW is about saying Welsh and you will of course get to understand some Welsh while you’re going along. But any language course will, can only, introduce a limited vocabulary. This is made worse by local variations in both grammar, pronounciation and vocab. Say that the course introduces 50% of the possible vocab (I have no idea what the % is), that’s still another 50% for the native speaker, radio presenter, TV programme, to throw at you.


Hi Chris,

Well done for reaching the end of Level 1 - a massive achievement.

Fluency, have a quick look at this video which discusses…in a quirky manner… the idea of fluency and the relative benefits and pitfalls of said term :slight_smile:

When you get to the end of Level 3 you will be in a position where you will be able to more than comfortably get out there and speak to other Welsh speakers and feeling confident that you have a level of colloquial Welsh that will sound incredibly convincing to native speakers.

After this, its all about polishing, sharpening and seeing where the rest of the language takes you!

After Level 1 I was bothering the chaps down at my local Welsh language book shop and using them as practice fodder! By the end of Level 3 I had moved to a more Welsh speaking area and pretty much only ever spoke Welsh! It’s addictive!


The word ‘fluency’ is difficult to define, I used to organise walks for Welsh learners in Powys and there were many people on the walks who would speak comfortably in Welsh. One lady, who I had only spoken Welsh to for years revealed to me that she didn’t feel she was fluent and I asked her why. Her reply was that she did not, as yet, know all the words. When I asked her if she knew all the words in the English language she had to admit that she did not.
So how do we define fluency? I think that you can regard yourself as fluent when you are comfortable speaking in Welsh with someone about all sorts of subjects. From that time on your vocabulary and your skills in communication develops normally, as a child’s skills develops. Interestingly no-one questions a child’s fluency.
Using the language in all its ways, talking, listening, reading and writing is the natural way to progress, you may find talking difficult at first but Welsh people are very kind towards learners. But listening, reading and writing can be totally painless. Listen to Radio Cymru, read books, books for children to start with, you won’t understand everything at first but your brain has a way of suspecting the meaning of words according to the context. That means that as your vocabulary increases your brain has more information to perfect its suspicions. Radio Cymru is an excellent medium and there are far more books in the Welsh language than you imagine - it’s a wonderful world out there.
And writing, well as you may know I am always on the look out for people to write stories for the Wennol especially short, simple pieces. Writing gives you the time to put words together without the panic that occurs when you are talking to someone. And, don’t worry I will make sure that your piece is correct.
If you would like to have a go, send something to me at bobwennol@ntlworld.com


@Nicky: Watching the video, been wondering what “redot” could be, when he first said it! :rofl::rofl::rofl:

But - and this also goes on to my own attempt to answer @chris-flower’s question, besides the excellent comments the others have posted.

It’s a fact that even those of us fluent in English just don’t pronounce band names (and places, and foods and many other things) the way first language speakers would.
Let alone the (still many) who don’t speak English.
One funny example from 80s memories, people saying Dire Straits as “dee-rah streits” (because “dire” is an Italian word and we pronounce it that way - and of course don’t forget the good strong rolled R).

Saying this especially because I’ve recently been in Wales and briefly in England.
I studied English at school for about 10 years, 5 of which, quite intensively and very advanced. Passed several exams with top marks.
I’ve spent more than a year in English speaking countries, used it a LOT through the years and especially since Internet and Netflix etc exist I consistently use it every single day.
I can switch from Italian to English any time, feel confident talking about any subject, and definitely consider myself fluent, or even very fluent.

Despite all this, in the UK it still happens quite often that people in shops, restaurants, hotels, train stations, buses and any everyday situation you can think of just…don’t understand what I say the first time I say it.
And I don’t understand them the first time they say something. :rofl:

Ok, wait, now this may seem disheartening. But it’s not, and this is why I’m telling this story:

  1. Does that experience change my perception of being a fluent English speaker and discourage me from using it? Not a bit. It always happened, it will happen again, and it happens to English first language speakers too!
    I just know it’s part of learning and speaking languages and I think it’s very important to remember when you try a new one.

  2. I don’t feel as confident with Welsh, and I certainly have limits in what I’m able to say, and no doubt still do a lot of mistakes.
    BUT even the very first time I ever went to Wales, after about 6 months I had started SSiW and only knew a bunch of sentences, most people seem to understand me well.
    They basically just always start and go on speaking at normal (=fast) speed, apparently forgetting I’m still somewhat of a learner.
    And, well, I really credit SSiW for this: because it got me started with the right foot about pronunciation and a “feel” of the language that just allowed me to communicate successfully.
    As opposed to traditional courses, that’s how how learnt English: with Italian teachers, studying a lot of grammar, writing and doing exercises and repetitions, but hardly ever speaking until several years later. And it took me years to reach the same level of “feeling” the language as with Welsh, and as it seems - I’m probably hopeless about pronunciation of British accents! :sweat_smile:


As a supplementary question : at what stage does one change to ‘Yes’ in answer to the question ‘Do you speak Welsh ?’ . I think in London I’d usually say ‘Yes’ but in Gwynedd it would have to be ’ Tipyn bach’ . But maybe we tend to underestimate our abilities. I was pleasantly surprised when a French work colleague me introduced me to someone I hadn’t met previously as 'Richard who speaks French fluently ’ .


Think of it this way - without the question being asked first, if you were to have an exact same conversation in both London and Gwynedd then you’re speaking Welsh so the answer is ‘yes’ in both places.
It’s not so much “Do you speak Welsh” as “How confident are you at speaking Welsh” - I think that maybe where the difference lies as it’s understandable to feel less confident speaking Welsh as a learner in the heartlands than as a learner elsewhere.


If it’s a census question the answer is yes! If it’s an ATM, in Wales, the answer is yes! If it’s a court case, perhaps no. But absolutely, yes, a lot of people underestimate themselves. I can’t remember when I decided to say I have learned Welsh, dw i wedi dysgu Cymraeg, rather than call myself a learner, dysgwr, knowing full well that there’s plenty more to learn, and that I’m not perfect by any means. But at some point I did. The world of learners is very comfortable and quite niche, but it’s not where we should live.


Surprisingly , there was no question on the census form in London this time about what languages other than English people speak. I think I recall that there was such a question last time. There are reputed to be 20,000 Welsh speakers in London : I wonder how that figure was calculated .

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They have the question on the census in Wales.

No idea how the figure is calculated but I can imagine using figures from the London Welsh Centre, the Welsh chapels, the London Welsh Primary school and university statistics, with the brain drain of young people towards London. I’m not exactly certain that my children, educatated for 10 and 12 years here in Wales, would want to be counted. Perhaps one, probably not the other.

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I don’t classify myself as a fluent speaker even though I am happy to have a conversation in Welsh on virtually all everyday subjects. The only time I would insist on English is talking to a medical practitioner about my health, or my bank manager, or if I am in court (Hopefully the last won’t happen) I suppose the reason I don’t claim to be “fluent” is because I am aware there are 100s of words that I don’t know.

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I’m a second language teacher, and have generally always thought as “fluent” to be around B2 level on the CEFR scale. I think Duolingo takes you to around A2 level, not sure about SSIW. But it’s a very blunt tool. Also, a learner may feel fluent talking about work or a hobby, yet be rendered wordless trying to keep up with a general conversation in the pub.

FWIW I moved to the Basque Country with zero Spanish or Basque, and didn’t consider myself fluent in either until I’d been there around 4 years.

If you look at the CEFR descriptors, “fluency” isn’t mentioned until you get to B2. For reference, for most of my students the jump from B2 to C1 level takes around 1 to 2 years depending largely on motivation, eg whether they want to reach that level, or have to (eg for a certificate).

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Fluency is a tricky one. After going through all of the current course and most of the old course I can speak Welsh reasonably well on a casual basis, but I understand barely anything I hear, which limits my ability to interact with anyone. So do I speak Welsh? Yes. Do I understand Welsh? Not really. :man_shrugging:


The answer.

So, after completing both the New and Old Course, I feel I’m hovering between B1 and B2 as long as you a) are in North Wales and b) don’t start confusing me with roast levels and coffee bean varieties… I imagine they’re covered in the Advanced Levels. :grinning:.

BTW, these new-fangled CEFR language levels were a surprise to me. When I graduated (43 years ago…), they didn’t really care how much I understood of the spoken language, as long as I could compare and contrast the use of floral imagery in Zola and Baudelaire…