Happy anniversary to me!

Today is the first anniversary of my starting learning Welsh with SSiW – I’ve baked a cake (highest density chocolate cake ever, it even has its own gravitational field), I’ve brewed some beer (the attractively named “Frank as Apollo”), and I’ve taken stock of what I’ve got out of the last year of learning.

At the start of the year I’d pootled around with conventional lessons for a year and had got nowhere. Now I’m a few lessons into SSiW course 3. By a rough reckoning I’ve spent 300 hours listening to Iestyn and Cat teach me Welsh. They’ve hung out with me practically every evening, they’ve been on holiday with me, they’ve been on work trips (last week we did a few lessons together on a veranda overlooking a lake in Finland), and they’re currently spending lunchtimes with me in the grounds of St Fagans castle.

They’ve been strict teachers and some of what they’ve told me has been pretty unpalatable – the instruction to avoiding reading was very hard. I read and I write therefore I am. Even so, I followed their advice for as long as I could until halfway through the second course I cracked. Emails started coming through to me in Welsh and I kept finding myself on Welsh websites. It would have been rude not to find out what they were saying. Now I’m reading Welsh books for pleasure every day. It’s like doing a crossword at the same time as watching a detective story, but every time I go back through a book I find I understand a bit more. I’m excited even thinking about how much fun this is! So was there any point to depriving myself of reading for as long as I did? Yes, I was told last week that my pronounciation was almost perfect – damn those “r’s”! - and that’s because Iestyn and Cat stopped me mangling my mind by anglicising Welsh spellings. Thanks both.

Then there are the radio and tv programmes that are slowly opening up to me. At the start of the year I could snatch a word from a sentence and be pleased, now I can snatch a phrase from a good number of sentences. Even better I can follow the gist of conversations that are happening around me. That’s pretty incredible as well and, again, it’s down to Iestyn and Cat.

And then there’s just the sheer wonderment that I’m doing this at all! I mean, heavens, I’ve got a window on a whole new culture, thanks to the work that Iestyn and Cat have done with me over the last year. Simple things like words that are a joy to say: “gwthio”, “wyneb” and “darllen”, to a growing insight into how differently the world looks when you use a different language.

So has it all been great? Well no. Some of it has been absolutely awful. Like any voyage of discovery there have been doldrums, tempests and times spent lost in uncharted waters. There have been weeks spent in the depths of despair as Iestyn and Cat have tried to navigate me through “bod” and possession – but now I can look back on those wide seas and know I’ve conquered the worst they had to offer, even if the detail still evades Perhaps most testing of all has been the growing awareness of how vast this whole business of learning a language is. It’s not a sprint, it’s not a marathon, it’s more like an odyssey. The answer for me? Persistence – do a little, do a lot, do it badly, do it well, just do something, every day. There have been failures too. Speech is my weakest card and a constant source of frustration, and no amount of encouragement from Iestyn and Cat has solved that one. But that’s just confidence, time… and Bootcamp

So here’s to a year of learning with SSiW. The most phenomenal learning resource I’ve ever come across. And to Aran and Catrin and the forum members who have provided all the support I needed. Learning is nice, but it’s better when it’s done in company.

So why go to the trouble of writing a post like this? Because you guys deserve something more than the few pounds I’m giving you every month. Thanks SSiW. I’m off to get the cake out of the oven now.

That made me smile, even if you’re much further along after much less time than I am. Thanks for sharing, and congratulations on the progress :slight_smile:

Time to listen to as many lessons in a row as I can stomach, methinks…

Wow Steve, you have accomplished a great deal in one year. I started in August last year and am not nearly as far along as you. So, congratulations and keep up the good work.

Steve, what a pleasure to read such a lively and encouraging account. You have
made my day and given my own slower efforts a boost. Chocolate first, then Challenge!

Hey Steve, penblwydd hapus!!!
What a lovely tribute!
I always enjoy hearing how you’re getting on, and have noticed over the last year that we seem to be progressing similarly (although I’m insanely jealous of all your welsh-speaking colleagues!)
I can only second all your praise of the method and teachers! Wow, after achieving so much this year, I wonder what next year will bring.
Hope you enjoyed the cake. Maybe you should consider sending some off in the post though… (er, haven’t you heard lesson 15 yet?)

Great post, Steve, and congratulations!

Nice one Steve, very inspirational. :wink:

Happy anniversary, Steve! Your excitement really comes across, and it was great to read how good your pronunciation is, just shows what a good way of learning this is.

Altho I haven’t been doing SSIW for even half the time you have, I can relate to a lot of the things you say about the experience, you put it so much better than I would have.

Just think how fluent you’ll be by your next SSIW birthday :slight_smile: :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

Llongyfarchiadau Steve! Sounds like you’re making absolutely fantastic progress! Penblwydd hapus. :slight_smile:

Llongyfarchiadau mawr…:star:

Llongyfarchiadau! Its a great feeling! I hope this next year of learning continues to be as exciting (and sometimes petrifying!) and you’ll look back this time next year with an even bigger sense of achievement and awe! :slight_smile:

And here is is a toast to your next year too! :-):-):slight_smile:

Penblwydd hapus Steve, o vi hefyd.

I think I started perhaps a month or so after you, and can relate to a lot of your post, with the difference that I was doing northern rather than southern. (and I’d be about as good as King Alfred at baking cakes).

Although I did C1 and 2 (gog) pretty thoroughly, I’d only skimmed the surface of part of C3, when thew new Level 1 course came along, so I thought I’d do that thoroughly, before revisiting C3. Also, since attending the Tresaith Bootcamp, I’ve had the confidence to expose myself to some of the southern lessons, without worrying that it will somehow make me forget the northern material. It doesn’t of course: it simply augments it and gives me more chance of understanding what I might hear on the radio or S4C. Following Iestyn’s advice, I don’t bother trying to speak it (or not much of it), but use it as listening comprehension. No point in trying to learn more ways of saying the same thing, when you could be learning to say more different things … sort of idea.

And just to echo your point that SSiW is the best language course of any language that I’ve ever come across, and I’ve done a few.

Funnily enough, I was taking part in a German conversation group today. (German is the other main language I’m actively studying, and have actually done tons of it in very traditional ways over far too many years, but far too little actual speaking). Anyway, one of the other members was asking the group teacher (who teaches formal classes in various places) about a grammar class she’d heard of, and the teacher told her all about it. And someone else was interested in doing the same course.

And I thought: “Why? - If you want to speak, just practice speaking (like we were doing), and listening of course, and reading, but I doubt if going to a grammar class is going to make you a better speaker”. But I didn’t say anything; she was pretty set on it, and people make their own choices, and I’m not saying she won’t get anything out of it: she probably will, but she probably already has enough grammar to get by in almost all situations anyway, and all that’s needed is probably, like a lot of us, a lot more vocabulary and practice in actually using it.

Thanks to everyone who posted their best wishes on my anniversary. They were all very much appreciated, and they all made me smile very much as I ate the chocolate cake (which was only finished today). The beer that I brewed to celebrate will be ready in a week so I will get to enjoy the anniversary experience all over again next Saturday.

On another note I had a lovely cheer me up today. Was doing a presentation with a Welsh speaking colleague in front of a Welsh-speaking audience. I did my presentation in English (see previous postings about being a bit shy with my speaking), then my colleague chipped in with her section in Welsh. She started off with “Just to let you know, Steve’s a Welsh learner, but he can understand what we’re saying, so we can carry on in Welsh”. Can’t tell you how proud I felt. Fortunately it really was one of those days where I could understand what was being said, not one of those days where it all turns into a jumble of white noise.