Hidden treasures: What do you now know about SSiW that you wish you'd known before?

Inspired by the “why did you choose SSiW” thread here: Why did you decide to try SSiW?, I’ve been wondering what information should we give new learners to help them to use the course?

If you’ve been going for a while, what has helped you to keep going?
What has made you want to give up?
Did you find the most useful things early on in the course? If so, how? If not, what lead to your discovery?
How could we help people more to get the most out of the courses?
How important is the social contact - the forum and the weekly email - to you?
What is missing that you think might help?

If you’ve just begun, then how did you find the forum?
Reading other people’s comments, what has struck you as “wow, that looks useful”?

As always, diolch for your help!


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I wish I had found the forum at once. It took me ages to look at it! Also much in FAQ turned out to be really interesting - about how SSiW came to be - now superceded by @aran’s book! I’m not sure if, now, more intro is given on background and forum, but if not, it might be worth a sort of ‘Welcome Pack’!

I started the courses and quickly shifted to the levels after reading a forum post. Having the levels as the first port of call would definitely be beneficial. I think having level 3 will make them look equally appealing (there looks like there’s the same amount, in fact the levels offer more).
Bootcamp, bootcamp, bootcamp, oh and bootcamp. By far the most valuable and moving learning experience I’ve ever had (irregardless of topic).
Reassurance that not being able to understand conversations at first is perfectly normal. I think the course does say it, I think most choose not to hear it. Plus there’s only so much you can be told before havin to experience it first hand to believe it.
What kept me going with SSiW was the regular mini-breaks. I’d have a week off between levels. I think I had a week off after id reached a certain number (maybe 15) and waited for new material. Plus a few others that were scattered around. I felt guilty doing it but it was good to do.


What has helped me keep going: The forum, the support, the accessibility of Iestyn and Aran and the friendly and ready advice. And the course itself, which is by far and away better than anything else online that I’ve looked at.

What has made me want to give up: Hitting a wall, twice so far. SSiW - I had a moment very early on when I got to around lesson 4 on the old course, stopped for a while and restarted - over and over. Then got some advice from Iestyn to push on and never looked back. Welsh generally - halfway through my real-life course (Canolradd) I just felt I wasn’t able to speak and developing a kind of anxiety about it. Coming back to SSiW levels, going to bootcamp, totally blew that away.

The most useful thing: the forum, and I found it very early on. It said ‘forum’ on the top bar and I clicked on it and signed up. Definitely worth encouraging everyone to do that, because it’s the biggest source of support there is when you’re starting out and haven’t got many people you can talk to in Welsh. And it helps you find people you can meet and talk to in Welsh, who are now my biggest source of support. (The pinned post about how unfriendly the forum has become might be a bit off-putting to newbies though!) I think some people are put off internet forums because they can be places of conflict and misery - people need to know this one’s different.

Help people to get more: perhaps do a Level 3 and get rid of the old course, or bury it so that first-timers come to the levels first. It’s like the difference between an axe and a chainsaw. They’re both great, but if learning to hold a conversation in Welsh is like cutting down a tree, you want to do it with the most powerful tool, not be hacking away wondering if your back will give out first. Also, could there be some sort of end-of-level activity that people could do, that brings them together with others on the forum? I did an online bootcamp when I finished one of the courses and it gave me a boost, but I stumbled across it by accident. Something like that is a good way of taking stock, seeing how much you’ve learned, and getting a bit of a pat on the back to help you towards the next step. It’s also a bit of a break from the intense concentration before you move on.

Social contact: I think that this is the single most important thing about SSiW and what sets us apart (see, I say ‘us’ now!) - it’s a group that supports each other, talks to each other, meets up virtually and in the real world, and you get the sense you’re not alone and you can ask for help. It’s like a club. But not one where you have to turn up every week and bicker about whose turn it is to bring the biscuits. You can take part as little or as much as you want. The weekly mail is useful because it highlights things I might have missed, and reminds me to visit the forum.

What’s missing: This is really hard. I can’t think of much. I wish it was easier to find Skype partners or one-to-one conversation partners. Ffrindiaith doesn’t work too well the way it’s setup, and it’d be good if there was a some way you could see who’s up for a chat at any given time.

One more thing: everyone, EVERYONE should be encouraged to go on bootcamp - shared dorms and all. (Alright, maybe there could be a less brownie-camp option for those who don’t like dorms) But that week of speaking only Welsh, and mucking in and getting on with it, and speaking to strangers, and doing stupid things, can be transforming. I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t done as much with it as I should have in my everyday life (yet), but my confidence is still high and I know I can speak. I’ve been to a few learners and speakers events and when someone speaks to me in Welsh my heartrate stays at normal and there are no black spots in front of my eyes. That’s a huge step and I think it will stay with me. Plus, I have pretend conversations with myself in Welsh all the time! I miss dreaming in Welsh, thinking in Welsh. I need another bootcamp!

Sorry - bit off topic at the end there. And sorry for the long post, but you asked a lot of questions! :slight_smile:


May I put in a plea for those like me for whom bootcamp just isn’t an option? I truly believe that it is possible to learn without it. It probably takes longer, but it isn’t impossible without! Of course, those who can get together in places like Saith Seren and Mochyn Du have an advantage. It may be possible to use Skype.
I am thinking, not just of the aged and infirm, but of those in, say, Belarus, Brunai, South Australia…
Please make it clear that Bootcamp is great, but don’t put people off SSiW by giving them the idea that it’s essential!

@henddraig (twice!) Thank you for that - I have always considered the forum to be a really important part of SSi, so thank you for being one of the people who make it so important!

On bootcamp - it’s a vital part of going from learning to speaking, for those in a hurry because it short cuts the process, but bear in mind that we have thousands of beyond-level-1 learners who’ve never been on bootcamp, and no, it’s not essential. I wonder how we can emphasise the difference that a bootcamp makes without making it seem too much of a stumbling block.

@AnthonyCusack - a good point, and one that has now been done. We were always a bit worried about putting the levels first when there weren;t many of them, but with level 2 now complete, they’ve been swopped around.

The not understanding thing? Vital, as you say, to make sure that people now that this is not a failure, but a symptom of growth - if you dodn;t know so much, you wouldn’t be so worried by not understanding, after all! And interesting about the mini breaks - diolch!

@Isata - I’m so glad to hear that the bootcamp has wound it’s spell well! And yes, I remember that conversation - and you most certainly have pushed on! Good to know that you find the csocial side so useful (and that you are now very much “one of us”!).

We’ve had a few tentative discussions about the Ffrindiaith / linking learners / skype encouragement thing that have never really got beyond the “what we really need” stage. Definitely time to push it up the agenda a bit. Diolch!


That was never my intention, and I apologise if I appeared to be suggesting that people couldn’t learn Welsh without it. I just meant that it can be a fantastically valuable experience, amongst a host of valuable experiences that SSiW offers, and a general encouragement to give it a go wouldn’t be a bad thing. I’m still a bit evangelistic about the whole bootcamp thing, so I got a bit carried away. Of course not everyone can go, for various reasons (though I don’t think encouraging someone from South Australia to come is unthinkable - Brisbane has been represented, after all), and I apologise for the crass and thoughtless ‘EVERYONE’.


I over-reacted, I think. No need to apologise!


Mae dal yn teimlo’n od i siarad â ti yn saesneg

@Isata I still get very evangelical too at times! Also, we were very luck with how eclectic our group was (not that others haven’t been…they may well have been, given @brigitte has been to many of them :smiley:)

I feel emerson should be encouraged, as this is a proven way of accelerating learning and progressing from trying to speak the language, to having conversations. It’s not to exclude those who can’t, it’s just to encourage those who can.


I don’t think you over reacted. And it’s good for me to be reminded to be careful of my phrasing, and that not everyone has the same circumstances. Diolch!

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@Isata @henddraig Isn’t it amazing how easy it is to say something so simple, so obviously “correct”, and yet when someone points out to you that it’s not quite as simple or correct as it felt at the time, that is also obvious. Thank you both for reacting constructively!

I remember writing a blurb about SSiW that used to be on the “landing page” (where you first arrive). I’d just met a few people who had learnt extraordinarily quckly, and really wanted people to know that it was possible, so I spoke about these people in glowing terms of “what was possible” with our course.

A few weeks later, someone wrote, ever so sheepishly on the forum, that they had read this front page, and having “only” reached lesson 15 or so after two months, had felt a total failure, and had felt like giving up. Of course, as soon as one person said it, there were a forest of “and me” hands stuck up, and the landung page was changed PDQ!

So, yes, I am aware of the dangers of being too enthusiastic about some of the thing that are possible, and yes - I definitely need reminding about it, because enthusiasm is something I sometimes do better than thinking…!


I wish SSIW had been around when I was younger, after leaving school or when I was a student, but it never existed back then. As someone who had done the grammar in school, but no speaking skills this would have been an easy time to indulge in Bootcamps and all the rest. SSIW and Bootcamps would have been perfect as a sort of finishing school and in socialising and making friends etc. In later life, well before retiring anyway, doing these sorts of things gets more complicated as time becomes more precious.

SSiW has given me a massive amount of confidence that speaking Welsh and being able to speak Welsh well and confidently is definately not an unachievable aim.


I like this idea! It might be worth starting a new ‘Instant Chat’ thread to arrange ad hoc spontaneous chats? I’m not the only one who has occasionally (in a moment of need :slight_smile:) put out a plea for an instant Skype partner on the forum! (And I wasn’t disappointed, diolch @margaretnock!)


If you’ve been going for a while, what has helped you to keep going?
Mainly the local monthly meet-up, the annual One-day Welsh School held in Derby, the constant support of Eileen and, early on, the Skype sessions with John, Mike and Bie.

What has made you want to give up? Nothing.

Did you find the most useful things early on in the course? No.
If not, what led to your discovery? John (ranblingjohn) did that for me.

How could we help people more to get the most out of the courses?
More frequent opportunities to speak Welsh.

How important is the social contact - the forum and the weekly email - to you? The opportunity to put out a question on the forum and get a prompt reply can solve a problem very effectively.

What is missing that you think might help? Reading through the threads can be interesting but experience helps you to find the nuggets more quickly.

Reading other people’s comments, what has struck you as “wow, that looks useful”? The idea of a ‘Who’s up for a chat?’ window.

I’ve tried ‘ffrindiaith’ and exchanged emails to set it up but never managed to get as far as a conversation. I agree with the suggestion to review the way it does or doesn’t work.

One spur for me has been the realisation that I can now read and understand books in Welsh. I recognise that this isn’t encouraged, that it won’t work for everyone and that the books are intended for youngsters, not adults, but I find it a measure of how far I have come in a few years.

Sorry, this has been all about my experiences but I was trying to answer Iestyn’s questions!


Diolch @raymondkefford - your experience is esactly what I was asking my questions for!

ANd regarding the books, we don;t like people reading in the early days, but once you’re suing your Welsh in the real world, and have got fairly comfortable with the patterns and rythms of the language, then reading is a great way to build vocab and confidence.

The problem with reading early on (apart from accent and pronunciation problems) is that reading is so much easier than speaking or listening. You have all the time in the world, a dictionary for the essential words, the chance to skip over a couple of paragraphs that are a bit too complicated, and I’ve never heard of anyone who;s nervous that a book might laugh at them. And so for an early learner, it’s a good way to start making excuses to not speak "until I’ve learnt a bit more)

But it soubds like you’re doing the stuff you need to do to become a more and more confident speaker, and the books are helping you to expand your language. That is exactly how it should be!


If you’ve been going for a while, what has helped you to keep going?

The forum, definitely the forum! I’m in the US, where I don’t know anyone who knows anything about Welsh - no one to talk to here, no Welsh classes if I wanted to do that, no support at all. Without the ability to ask questions on the forum, I would not have stuck with it. But more than that, it’s the community of the forum - I feel like I have Welsh-speaking “friends”, and the support and encouragement have been vital for me. And I agree with @isata - having Aran and Iestyn accessible on the forum is great.

What has made you want to give up?

I’ve never wanted to give up. The course is fantastic. I did get really discouraged when I did the last lesson of Course 1 and felt liked I’d “failed” when I was expecting to do much better with that review lesson than I did. But when I wrote about my experience on the forum, Iestyn wrote me a long and encouraging post which really helped, and other people were very kind to share their experiences and support me. I’ve been moving forward ever since.

Did you find the most useful things early on in the course? If so, how? If not, what lead to your discovery?

I can only speak to the old Courses here, because I haven’t done the Levels yet. (I’ve finished Course 1 plus vocabs, Course 2 lessons, and I am now doing Course 2 vocabs.) The most useful thing I found early on in the course was that it was fun! The way the course is put together so that you have success right away is very satisfying - right away in the first lessons you can put together real sentences. And it isn’t stupid “where is the train station?” stuff (did that with another language in college, and it was boring, and I don’t remember any of it). And the sense of humor and encouragement made SSiW fun, too. And I came onto the Forum pretty early on (are you sensing a theme here yet?)

How could we help people more to get the most out of the courses?

Encourage people to come to the forum, whether or not they want to post anything. There is so much additional information and support that people can read even if they have no desire to participate. I feel like there is so much about SSiW that someone would miss if all they ever did was use the website or the app.

Obviously bwtcamp is a fantastic way to get more out of the courses, but I am one of those who will likely never be able to attend one. It would be nice to have some kind of SSiW-sponsored activities online. Some kind of online-bwtcamp, or other activites where people can use the language would be nice.

How important is the social contact - the forum and the weekly email - to you?

Social contact via the forum is critical, as I mentioned above. The weekly email is helpful, too, to highlight what’s been going on recently, and for those who are looking to attend meet-ups, I think it’s great to have that information available every week.

What is missing that you think might help?

As others have said, better ways to find speaking/Skype partners. I was lucky to get someone great when I first asked on the forum, but I need to find more people to talk with and it’s a bit scary to just say "Who wants to talk with me? when you have no idea who might respond and if you have anything in common with them. I like @netmouse’s idea of “instant chat”, too.

Diolch yn fawr iawn to the whole SSiW team for all the hard work and thought and constant looking to improve that makes SSiW the fantastic resource that it is!


The Forum

FWIW I remember the previous previous forum, which had subsections for all the individual lessons, and people talked about the content of the lessons in them. I feel that was a lot more specifically helpful to me as a learner than the slightly more free-for-all modern approach.

It helped build an index of common questions about the lessons, and you could see other people struggling in similar places.




Although it’s rather difficult to ask the author what they meant, because you didn’t understand a word!

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Yes, I had forgotten about that. I don’t do it now but during the first course and for a few lessons into course 2 I would refer to these when I got stuck/puzzled/confused. Nearly every time I found someone who had met the same problem and there was already an answer that explained it perfectly. Those categorised answers are a very valuable resource.

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@raymondkefford @dave_5 That’s an interesting point, and something that we need to look at in more detail. Diolch!

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