How Long Before Welsh Becomes Fun?


I’ve been learning Welsh since October, pretty much doing half an hour a day. I’ve been doing the same with French but only since November. The difference is startling. I am now able to concentrate on improving my French by reading the newspapers L’Equipe and Le Parisien and by listening to Euronews Radio in French. Whilst I still need to improve my French, I am having a lot of fun doing these things.

I have completed the first SSiW course, am now on lesson 9 of the second and have also completed Hugo Welsh in Three Months twice. However, if I try to read Y Cymro or listen to the news on Radio Cymru, it is like as though it’s a language I’ve never come across. It’s making learning Welsh feel like a chore rather than fun. I’ve even tried Radio Cymru’s Pigeon programme for learners and even that is gobbldegook to me.

How long does it take to learn Welsh before you can actually use it for fun things?

I know people will suggest talking to others in Welsh but I live in Ireland, not Wales, so that’s impossible. I also don’t want to have conversations with people where all I can say is “that’s children for you”. I don’t mean any offence to the course designers, the audio lessons work very well, but after nearly a year I’d have hoped to have been a bit more advanced than that.

Maybe I should just give up with Welsh and spend double the time on French.

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Yes, maybe that is the right solution for you - it sounds as though you’re enjoying learning French far more than learning Welsh, and it’s always a good idea to focus on the things you enjoy most…:slight_smile:

If you’re on Lesson 9 of Course 2 (as long as you’ve done the vocab units) you’d be ready for a Welsh only week, which most people find enjoyable - and where the conversations certainly tend to be far more wide-ranging than just saying ‘that’s children for you’.

Otherwise, it sounds as though you’re becoming frustrated by the fact that there is a greater difference between the spoken and the written language in Welsh than in French - as well perhaps as the fact that you have access to a wider body of shared vocabulary between English and French than between English and Welsh - and unfortunately neither of those things is going to change.

It also sounds as though you might be repeating lessons too much - if you ran straight through, you’d have finished Course 3 in 8 months of 30 minutes a day (although maybe you’ve put more of your time into Hugo - it’s not clear from your post what the split is), and I’ve yet to meet someone who’s finished Course 3 without being capable of having interesting conversations.

If you felt more enthusiastic about your Welsh, yes, I would suggest talking to others - we have a great number of learners all around the world using Skype (and other video tools) to have conversations in Welsh even though they don’t live in Wales…:slight_smile:


Hi Andrew, why do you think you’ve picked up French more easily than Welsh? That may be a pointer to ways of getting more mileage out of your efforts. One thing that comes to my mind is that English and French share many lexical features, more so than English and Welsh.
With regards to speaking Welsh outside Wales, many here on the forum use Skype and similar tools to get a conversation in…
My advice is to stick with it, listen to Radio Cymru as much as possible, watch S4C Clic, etc.


I am aware my French is greatly helped by my speaking Italian fluently. I therefore had help with things like Euronews as I listen to EN Italiano first/second EN Français second/first basis on alternate days (if that makes sense). Initially it helped me in terms of knowing what they were going to be saying on odd days and then seeing what I understood on even days.

It’s ten years ago that I started learning Italian and I know I went through a few books a few times before progressing onto La Gazzetta dello Sport on a daily basis and Euronews but I can’t remember it being as frustrating or taking as long though maybe it did and my memory is just fuzzy and/or my expectations weren’t as high so I wasn’t disappointed.

I don’t think it’s the difference between written and spoken Welsh as I literally haven’t a clue what they’re saying on Radio Cymru either.

I’ve never repeated a lesson on SSiW, apart from briefly going back over a few lessons on course one after a couple of months using Hugo. I find I have to pause occasionally now on course two whereas I rarely did on course one but I’m reasonably accurate - I’d say 80-85% correct.

I might not be being fair on myself with regards to Welsh as as I pointed out, I already had a very solid grounding in another Romance language which was bound to ease my path into French.

I had just hoped that by this stage I would have a decent command of Welsh, at least enough to get the gist of a news programme and understand, even if only the gist of, Dafydd Iwan songs.

I like Welsh and it would be a shame to quit after spending so much time on it but I just feel that after so much effort my Welsh is still very babyish whilst my French is reasonably proficient.

The Welsh only week is a good idea but with work etc. it’s not feasible for me.

If I keep ploughing on, by the end of course 3 would I at least understand a Dafydd Iwan song or two? Or is it still a very long road from there.

Please don’t take this as a go at your project. I think it’s done very well and would liken it to Michel Thomas which greatly helped my French. I’m just wondering whether it’s something to do with me and whether my language skills aren’t strong enough to learn an extremely different language - Romance languages are not particularly taxing to me but they have strong similarities to English.

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I find Radio Cymru and Welsh music very hard to understand, yet I can quite happily sit face to face with someone and have a conversation in Welsh. It’s an odd experience. I’d say after a year and a half the radio is making some sense but I still wouldn’t be able to pick up a show halfway through. I have to have the context. I don’t know Euronews - is it designed for learners? Is it pre-recorded, therefore, you’re starting at the beginning? Are you listening to Radio Cymru live? (I appreciate you mentioned Pigion).

In terms of music, I still don’t understand every word - Dafydd Iwan uses a lot of metaphors and more poetic language. I suppose that’s common with a lot of folk music though? I never ever understood George Bressans - although my French is disastrous compared to my Welsh, so that’s not really a surprise.


No, this definitely isn’t the case - in fact, your description of going through Course 1 and the beginning of Course 2 without any repetition and minimal pausing and at 80-85% correct puts you firmly in the top 10% of learners I’ve encountered for your natural ability.

I think this is about expectations - your Italian fluency inevitably makes your starting point for French far, far higher, so there’s no sense comparing your French journey with your Welsh journey - comparing your Italian journey with your Welsh journey makes more sense but is trickier given the time lapse - and again, you’ve got far wider shared vocabulary with Italian than with Welsh (although in due course the Italian will give you entertaining Latin-derived insight/familiarity with Welsh).

I’d be inclined to recommend that you finish off Course 2, and then come on over to Level 1 and Level 2 - because Level 1 will give you access to our first accelerated listening exercises, which will really help you get to grips with the radio.

Add a little more patience because it’s a less familiar language, plus making even just a little time for some conversations on Skype, and you’ll end up a very confident speaker… :slight_smile:


Euronews is a TV and radio station which broadcasts in a number of different languages. It’s very definitely not for learners - try ch 508 on Sky and watch the English version.

Is Welsh very layered, i.e. is Radio Cymru Welsh different from ordinary spoken Welsh? For example, a learner could hope to make sense of say Porta a Porta (sort of like the Italian Question Time) because the language is formal and what a learber would learn whilst La Domenica Sportiva (sort of like the Italian Match of the Day) would go completely over their heads as it’s more nuanced language (for example, zona cesarini, la melina, un fallo da arancione would make zero sense whatsoever because it’s all idiomatic).

Depends on the programme. Radio Cymru is as mixed as Italian TV from the sounds of things.

I find S4C easier to understand because of the additional cues (I don’t use the subtitles, I just mean body language etc.). I also find I switch off from all TV and radio irregardless of the language if the subject doesn’t interest me. So Pigion and Dal Ati are hit and miss for me. I don’t tend to find interviews with musicians I don’t know interesting enough to keep me focused. Whereas, Beti George’s interviews with Bryn Fôn and Tommo I found I understood and followed.

For a long time I could read French far better than I could Welsh (and again, my French has never been good), simply because of the lexical similarities. Now, however, my Welsh vocab has grown enough to say that I can read Welsh more proficiently.

I suspect, as Aran has said, Welsh is so much less related to the romance languages that it’s unfair to compare your French and Welsh.

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Sorry Aron, it’s actually the levels I’ve been using, not the courses.

I wouldn’t say my French is brilliant, certainly not like my Italian. I can understand it but wouldn’t be confident speaking it which is going to have to be my next challenge with French.

Very good point in terms of TV v radio though. When I started with Euronews in Italian, it was via the TV version because the pictures were massively helpful in terms of understanding. By the time I came to French I was probably already ingrained enough in Euronews’ style to know it’s patterns etc. If I can find a quick news bulletin on S4C maybe that would make more sense.

I also probably didn’t start with Euronews in Italian if I’m honest. Probably started with football commentaries and with being able to see what was happening it was obviously far easier to judge what was being said. If Ranocchia made a disastrous back pass the commentator was hardly going to be saying “good move by the Inter defender there”.

I’ll have a look at S4C’s schedule and see if I can find anything interesting. I love rugby but the Pro 12 turns me off. That said, maybe there’s stuff with Nigel Owens or something which I’d find interesting.

One thing I found with Italian though was that a period of frustration usually came before a breakthrough so hopefully…

When the Autumn internationals are on and the 6 Nations there is Jonathan (possibly some old episodes on Clic) - they’re more a bit of fun than strictly about rugby.

Sgorio if you like Welsh football (I mean the Aberystwyth Town level, not Swansea).

Clwb Rygbi - it’s pro12, which I know you’re not a fan of but could be a start.

All the Welsh 6 Nations matches are on S4C. As is, I believe, highlights of the first Lions match.

They may be of some use for you :slight_smile:

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Also, Beti George (Beti a’i Phobol) interviewed Ken Owens and there was a programme called 3 naw, 3 llew or the other way round. Which interviewed Gareth Edwards, Robert Jones and Dwayne Peel about the Lions tours they were on and the current tour (all on Radio Cymru)

Ah, that’s good news - are you using the listening exercises?

[P.S. It’s Aran, not Aron…:wink: ]

Sorry Aran.

No, I used the old listening exercises. Are the new ones repeated phrases which get faster per level?

I love Top 14 rugby (Clermont fan) and Serie A (well maybe I should say I used to as I’m an Inter fan). I know Sgorio used to cover Serie A but I think that stopped.

I just find Pro 12 a bit tedious. The quality isn’t great in my opinion and the atmosphere is nothing like the internationals, whilst the Top 14 atmospheres are incredible. I used to have a Cardiff season ticket when I was in university there though I’m from nearer Wrexham. I preferred it back in those days though where there was genuine local rivalry, I find the regions a bit contrived tbh.

I’ve never really looked at Welsh football at Aberystwyth level. I watch the odd bit of LoI stuff, particularly if Derry are playing. Does the standard compare to that or are the LoI teams still a bit further ahead?

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Beti George interviewed Nigel Owens, in Welsh, of course. Beti a’i Phobol. And the interview he did in English for Desert Island Discs, was one of the best I ever heard.

While I can’t recommend Soaps from personal experience, lots of people think very positively of them as a learning tool, with or without subtitles.

There is a huge amount to be said for having the radio on just in the background. Not as a ‘I must understand this programme’ experience, but just to be glad when you do understand the odd word or phrase, and perhaps more.

But radio and TV are quite passive ways of learning a language. There may not be many Welsh speakers where you live but I’m sure you can find a Skype partner here. Even if it’s only for ten minutes, real communication with a real person is an amazingly good feeling. And you can prepare at least some of it beforehand.

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Hands up, I have no idea about the standard and how it compares.

The Scarlets - Blues and Scarlets - Ospreys games have a good atmosphere - genuine rivalries. S4C also shows the Premiership and RGC have been worth the watch this year (don’t use the recent warm-up match as a stick to beat them with). I’ve been impressed with the speed they’ve played with.
Scarlets have been quality to watch this year. Particularly the latter half of the season but they were also great back in November at the Arms Park. Very fast rugby. Good standard. Maybe not Top14 level, but it’ll be interesting to see. Also, hard to compare anyone to Clermont. It’s like comparing everyone to Juve. I’d say Scarlets, Blues and the Ospreys are much better than Pau and Brive. In fact the Blues beat Pau twice and the Ospreys beat Lyon, with Munster, Glasgow and Leinster beating Racing and the Scarlets beat Toulouse. So I’d say the standard is comparable.

EDIT: back to language - maybe give the Pro12 a chance in Welsh.

I would say I need to find something which interests me and which I can do. Believe it or not I tried Spanish because I wanted to go from being bilingual to multilingual and felt Spanish was the quickest way from Italian but I just couldn’t get into it. I was the problem, not Spain, Spanish culture or people but I just don’t have any interest in Hispanic cultures. As I said I freely admit that that’s my problem not that of Hispanics. To think otherwise would be grossly racist. But I need to find something in Welsh which is enhanced from Welsh language usage. Music would be a possibility because I love Welsh language music - maybe Humpty Dumpty yn gymraeg lol.

A newish project is Cân Werin yr Wythnos

Intedned to be learnt orally so at a steady pace with clear “speech”
. Words then also available and translation too.

Could be an interesting way to get vocab?


Helo @andrew_6. Croeso! I can sympathise re modern rugby. I never really liked professionalism, but then I am an aged crone hankering for the days of glory! I just wonder if @siaronjames can help with advice on S4C programs, because she helps to make some of them!
I can totally sympathise with needing a purpose for learning! Moons ago, I learned to program computers in a language called Lisp because I had a job that needed doing and Lisp could help! I tried to learn another language when lacking a project and boredom kicked in! I got on ok with C because, again, I had a reason!
unless you have a good reason to learn Cymraeg, well you lack motive! How about crossing the Irish sea and having a holiday in Wales, meet people, make friends, have fun! Go to a rugby match!
Jonathan is a fun TV show, by the way!

I’m from Wales and my parents live there so I’m there regularly enough. But in a very Anglophone area.

I just think the Pro 12 is a weak product. I don’t watch rugby from England but compare the Pro 12 with the Top 14 and the former is a much much poorer competition.

The music angle might be a better option. I could thoroughly learn the vocabulary and the grammar of the song before moving onto a new one.

Conversely I think anybody can learn a language, particularly those closest to English if they ate interested in it, I don’t think it’s a magic thing for someone to speak a Romance or Germanic language well.

Thank you for this comment, I have the same problem and wondered if it was only me! :slight_smile: