Frustration of not keeping up with speed of people talking

When I go back over TV programmes, and maybe put the subtitles back on, I often find I would probably get a fair bit of what is being said… but in real time it’s often just too fast and all seems to morph into one. Anyone else had this frustration?

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It’s the hardest bit of learning a new language, the only bit you can’t control. You can read and re-read until you understand, perhaps picking up a dictionary as you go along. You can practice what you speak until you are perfect. You can write again and again, again with the dictionary. But you can’t control what bits of vocab other people use, or the speed they go at. And in real life, face to face conversation we don’t use subtitles. And, in the same way that the other skills improve, practice, practice, practice makes perfect. There are of course things that make it easier. One to one conversation is easier than in a group. Talking without a lot of background noise is easier. Talking with different people exposes you to different accents and idioms and rhythms, not necessarily easier in the short term but, in the long term what language learning is about.


endlessly. sometimes i understand everything. other days i understand nothing. literally. as though i speak nothing of the tongue.

over time i realised that just about every welsh speaker speaks it their way. i live next to an old old man. he mumbles and speaks a language from a bygone time. he doesn’t understand my welsh either. it literally sounds different because it IS different.

fwiw, my advice? fash ye not over what isn’t understood, & let it be. meanwhile, celebrate successful communication, & ultimately, relax & enjoy: to whatever degree, you are contributing to keeping alive an ancient tongue. yay!


This is so sad and reminds me of a similar thing that happened to me. An old man started talking to me on the way into a bakery in Germany. I made conversation as best I could but I felt like over night my ability to speak and understand German had disappeared. After he left the bakery, the German girl serving me asked “did you understand what he was saying?”. I told her I couldn’t, and she told me “me neither”.

I’m hindsight I think perhaps I understood better than she did because I put all my effort into it.

Apologies for the derailment. I agree with what has been said. People In conversation rudely don’t stick to the expected topic like TV, they go where the conversation leads. And as learners we don’t have the luxury of letting go of the conversation thread for even a second or its gone until the next topic change.

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I’ve been in various situations where I couldn’t understand the other person - and they were a native English speaker speaking their own local version of English!
So I remind myself of this every time I come across a Welsh speaker that I find difficult to understand :slight_smile:

One thing that I found helped me in the early days was to listen to the different presenters on Radio Cymru and pick one that I understood a little more than the others. I concentrated on listening only to that presenter for a while, until I could understand them fairly easily. Then I picked another presenter and started listening to them too. There were some that I found impossible in the beginning, but gradually I worked on it and I got there in the end!


I literally used to have to translate what my grandad said for my girlfriend - pretty much every sentence. They were both speaking English as a first language, but he spoke with a heavy dialect.

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Ah yes. Once upon a time a friend from home came to visit me at university. We went to the pub and met some of my uni friends. They told me the next day they couldn’t understand a word we were staying all evening. :joy:. We were all speaking English, they’d just never heard Black Country accents before.


there you go. not alone, eh? :grinning:

something else that may aid: when it is incomprehensible, actively STOP trying to translate. just let it wash over in a wide wave and simply be open, aware and receptive, listening, and most important FEELING. get a sense of the communication. eg, ‘i dunno exactly what he said, but it was something about driving and cars, and he wasn’t happy about it’.

the point of language is to communicate. the point of communication is connection.

so be there, be present, be open and receptive, let the wave wash over you and when it has passed you will the see shiny sparkles of understanding, where you did comprehend and connect, through your mind, your ears or your :heart:.

pob lwc!


My accent tends to go native back in Cornwall. I remember the first time I took my wife-to-be down there on holiday for the first time. We were getting near the end of the week and she suddenly turned to me and said “I can’t understand you any more”.


My American grandmother could understand her grandsons (my brothers) as preteens when we lived in Malvern. After a couple of years in South London she couldn’t understand a word they said. And my husband’s mild Scottish accent (he’s not lived there for more than 25 years) gets stronger when he talks with Scottish people and, or, when alcohol has been taken. :smiley:

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Rhwystredig iawn hefyd / been very frustrated too

Listening is my weakest skill :stuck_out_tongue:

I hope my question fits into this:
When did you find your very own Welsh voice?
My reason for asking: I’m comfortable with how I sound to myself in a few languages, without being necessarily fluent in them. Welsh, however, eludes me. To my ear I don’t even come near the right rhythm and intonation. It feels downright uncomfortable. I’ve forgotten when respective Eureka moments happened in the other languages or whether I perhaps felt at home immediately (once I actually dared to speak which generally took ages.) Any guidance?

That’s a very interesting question. For me, I think it sort of clicked when I started using Welsh in the wild (I’m lucky to have a couple of active speaking groups and welsh speaking friends and colleagues, which I know isn’t everyone’s situation) - and I realised that i didn’t have to talk in complete sentences and proper grammar.. It’s OK to grunt in Welsh (not all the time, obviously but it’s better to say something short now than something longer after a pregnant pause). That helped enormously with getting the rhythm of natural speech. Then build the complexity back up for the times that you actually need it (“he said that she said that they wouldn’t have gone to the party if you hadn’t apologised” - which sounds like a classic SSIW sentence, anyway!).

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Thank you! I look foward to the day when your “nearly an SSiW sentence” shall trip off my tongue. Until then it looks like I’ll have to be patient a little while longer. Getting hold of a wild Welsh speaker here in Sussex is a bit of a challenge: my hairdresser’s network has failed miserably to produce one, The best find, though useless, was an ex-brother in law who’s gone back to North Wales.(They wouldn’t have wanted to talk to him ever again, in any case.) Meanwhile I’ll hone my little-old-lady hesitations so that I won’t have to grunt once I’m brave enough to speak. With the new skipping/rewinding facility on AutoMagic, the cadence of favourite sentences might stick earlier. Diolch yn fawr!

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