Frustrated beginner, please help

Hello Forum,

I am stuck on Challenge 1 of Level 1, and I’m wondering if my brain is suitable for this system of learning a new language. Here are my symptoms:

I started Challenge 1 and soon got the different parts like ‘I want’, ‘I’m going to’, ‘I still’ mixed up. The problem is not that I make mistakes, but that I can’t recall them at all when I should. I finished Challenge 1 totally confused, but thought that maybe that is part of the system.

Next day, Challenge 2 was definitely already too hard for me, so I went back and redid Challenge 1, which went marginally better, but I got confused again towards the end. I tried to do the recommended homework, and thought Welsh phrases now and again, but I could only remember about half the words that had come up so far.

Today, I tried Challenge 2 again, and I still could hardly recall any words/phrases from Challenge 1. And trying to remember words from Challenge 1 made it hard to concentrate on the new words, and so I found myself not remembering words I just heard a few seconds ago. I stopped Challenge 2 in frustration after five minutes.

I don’t know how to proceed. It will be hard to find the patience to do Challenge 1 a third time, but I don’t feel ready for Challenge 2 at all. I may be doing something fundamentally wrong, so I would be grateful for any help or recommendations on how to proceed.

AdvThanksance, Michael

Hi Michael. Welcome to the forum, it’s lovely to meet new people here. And congratulations in choosing SSIW for learning Welsh!

It’s all a bit overwhelming at the start isn’t it?

To start off with, yes, your brain will work with this system. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be somewhat frazzled on the journey from No Welsh to Good Enough Welsh. For myself the journey, at times, has been a little like walking on jelly.

Everything from Challenge 1 will turn up again in future challenges, so don’t worry that you have to understand everything in a challenge before moving onto the next one. But perhaps leave a bit of time for your brain to absorb stuff before moving onto the next one. And think those Welsh phrases inbetween times as well.

And be kind to yourself on the journey. Your brain works. You aren’t stupid. It’s just we don’t learn things in a straight line, but we want to. Learning a language is an amazingly complex thing. Perhaps it’s more like gardening than lego.

Anyway, enough of the sermon. Give it a short rest, go back to challenge 2. Have Radio Cymru on in the background, not to understand everything but to be delighted when you understand one word in a hundred. It can only get better.


Hi Michael,

First of all Welcome to the forum. I am sure @Aran will be will be able to put this better than me. First of all, I am completely certain that is is a suitable way for anyone to learn. Mainly because there or so many here who started he lessons feeling like you and have gone on to be Welsh speakers!

Can I ask if you have read the frequently asked questions/Info section? I am not good at putting links on here but I know someone like @tatjana will be able to help. There is a lot of good advice in there.

I think it would be pretty remarkable if you could embark on a new way of learning and be ready to move on to Lesson 2 after two sittings. When I first started learning several years ago the advice was:

Don’t Panic and ask questions here (you have got that bit right already!)
20 minutes a day or so
Move to next lesson when you are getting 80% accuracy.

Sometimes I have to do a lesson at least 5 or 6 times to get things sorted in my head, even though I might not be confident anything has gone in, I do eventually find that it has been absorbed somehow.

Hopefully others will add to the discussion with better advice, I am just rushing out to work so can’t linger this morning! Good Luck :slight_smile:


Hi Michael,

First of all, could you do this quick test twice, and let me know your two scores?

Hello aran,

I got an 8.5 on the first exercise, but no second exercise did materialize on my browser (Chrome on Linux).

Cheers, Michael

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Hello aran,

Sorry, misread your instructions. I just did the Test a second time and got 7.5.

Cheers, Michael


Hi Michael,

Don’t worry at all. This will work itself out.

There was a time when my wife and I started - that we couldn’t for the life of us remember the difference between ‘still’, ‘need’ and ‘want’. It was a bugbear of ours for about the first 3 weeks. Then it suddenly (and I can’t remember how) just clicked.

Keep at it, don’t strive for perfection - and you’ll be fine :smiley:


Take @aran’s advice - after all, he invented the whole thing, but I just wondered, we do all learn in different ways, is it possible that the more structured ‘Lessons’ would suit you when starting off, better than the Challenges, which do, I think, speed up the learning process?
Oh and Croeso (Welcome) to the Forum, and 7.5 seems a very good score to me, I was told I’d finished with 4.5 when I made mistakes at the 5 lights level, although I got them all right twice! Lack of memory comes with age, I guess! (henddraig = old dragon!)


Thank you all for your encouraging words. It gave me motivation to try to tackle Challenge 2 again in my lunch break, but I failed again miserably. The new words just don’t seem to stick in my brain at all, and the old words jumble together and don’t come out when I need them.

I will try Challenge 1 a third time in the evening, but I have the feeling that my brain may not be very compatible with the SaySomething approach.

Cheers, Michael

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Hi Michael - tell me a little more about this failing ‘miserably’ - do you mean that you couldn’t produce any Welsh words at all?

You have a strong working memory - which usually makes the process a fair bit easier - so the next thing I want to check is that you don’t have misplaced expectations about what you’re meant to achieve during a session - you’re not meant to be anywhere near getting everything right. At a rough guess, how many of the sentences do you feel you’re somewhere near on?

Learning isn’t a binary experience - it’s a process. If you learn a list of words in the way you do at school, you push and push until you can remember them all perfectly - which is actually a very inefficient approach. What we do here is give you layer after layer of learning, until eventually the first material you encountered has been revisited often enough for your brain to gain conscious control of it.

Multiple repetitions of individual lessons isn’t going to help you at this point. You’d be far better off going the whole way through to Challenge 10 without any repetition, and then revisiting Challenge 1 and seeing what it feels like at that point… :slight_smile:

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Hello aran,

Thank you again for helping me through this. Here is a more detailed account of my experience with Challenge 2:

It started out easy enough with a new word (to say), but as soon as I had to put this into context with the words from Challenge 1 I ran into problems. I remembered a few phrases and words (like ‘I want’, ‘I try’), but some of them (like ‘I still’, ‘I am going to’) I could not recall at all. I tried to retain these phrases, but this just resulted in me not remembering the new words. In addition, I started to mix up all the phrases from Challenge 1, so that I found myself not recalling anything at all.

Approximately 10 minutes in, I could not get any word correctly anymore, and I stopped. My brain feels like a soup now where the English and Welsh phrases swim around but where I can not find a match between them.

Cheers, Michael

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If you hit the wall and can’t get anything at all out in the gaps, then yes, stop, breathe, come and talk it through - excellent decision… :slight_smile:

Next questions - are you using the pause button, or running without it?

How would you feel about recording yourself doing the lessons - on something like Soundcloud or Facebook Live? If I could hear exactly what was happening, it would be easier to give useful advice… :slight_smile:

Not wanting to undermine the boss in any way, but personally I’m quite glad I didn’t start Challenge 1 as a completely fresh beginner. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’d have felt like this too.

I wonder what proportion of people who get on the rails successfully are already familiar with some Welsh and structures from previous exposure / failed attempts at learning? I can imaging that the first few challenges could be - well, pretty challenging, if you’re starting from scratch!

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At my first run through Challenge 1 I did not use the pause button. I realize now that this was a mistake. On my second try through Challenge 1, I used the pause button, but sparingly. This may be the source of my problem. I made copious use of pause during today’s effort with Challenge 2.

That would be an interesting experiment. I would need some time to set up the technical side of things. I’m going to try [<- up to this point I can say this sentence in Welsh :slight_smile:] to record my struggle with Challenge 2 this evening.

Cheers, Michael

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I started as a completely fresh beginner, no exposure at all, but I started with the older Courses instead of the Levels. I didn’t find the first lesson really difficult, and my working memory score was about 4.5, which isn’t great. I’m curious if Course 1 Lesson 1 would feel any different to @Eigentime - although definitely stick with Aran’s help, I’m not meaning to send you off on a different tangent! :slight_smile:


Interesting. I wonder if the courses might have been easier in the very early stages, with less variety of structures? The learning curve at the very beginning has been bugging me for ages, as my Dad repeatedly failed to get hooked over the years. (Having said which, finally he now seems to be, so I may take it all back! :slight_smile:)

Anyway I’ll get out of this discussion as I’m not helping the case in hand…

Good luck @Eigentime! Stick with it - it’s a brilliant course!


I don’t think it was a mistake - we’ve seen a certain amount of evidence that learners adapt to the faster production over time - but it certainly makes it feel tougher, so if you’re uncomfortable with a high number of mistakes, living without the pause button is not an approach you’ll find easy.

If you can crack the technical side of things, it’ll be very interesting to hear you on 2 - my current best guess is that you’re being too hard on yourself in terms of the number of errors, and that it’s the frustration that comes with that which is responsible for you reaching the ‘can’t say anything’ point… :slight_smile:

Well, I did it. Kinda. The setup was a bit improvised, I struggled to find the stop button at first, the audio quality is abysmal, and occasionally I could not stop myself from swearing.

If you still, want to listen, I have uploaded the whole mess to Google Drive. Again, I was too frustrated to continue after about 10 minutes - and most of it is awkward silence while I try to remember. I noticed that my frustration rose every time I had not the faintest idea how to translate a particular phrase - which happened more and more often throughout this session. It was particularly irksome when I couldn’t remember even after listening to the translation.

It may well be that my frustration results from me being too hard on myself, but then the question arises how to change that?

Cheers, Michael

Hi and croeso
The way I (just about) manage my frustration is to think – I know more now than when I started. This seems to me to help keep the barrier of frustration as weak as possible. Also I tend to do the challenges in blocks of two or three and then do nothing for the next few days. It is amazing how much I can then remember especially things that I thought I wasn’t remembering at the time.I don’t know if I have explained this very well but I hope it helps a little bit.


Another quick observation, after I tried to clearly analyze the source of my frustration. It seems to stem from the following situation:

  • I am asked to translate some phrase which I am unable to do because I do not remember some part of it.

  • I get the “solution” (the translated phrase), but trying to simultaneously concentrate on the part I did not remember and the new part that is trained is too much, and I do not retain either.

  • The challenge moves on mercilessly to the next phrase which I possibly can’t translate either.

  • I do not get the feeling I have improved at all - neither the new nor the old vocabulary sticks to memory - and I get frustrated.

Maybe there is something I can do after I don’t know an answer?

Cheers, Michael