How/when will I be able to understand spoken Welsh?

I’m struggling to understand spoken Welsh. At what stage does comprehension come? I try to do the listening exercises once a day but I haven’t really improved at understanding them. Actually I think I’ve got worse.

I’m not really into watching TV or having the radio on so watching S4C or listening to Radio Cymru is really something I have to force myself to do against my will, even though I know it’s the only way to improve.

As I work full-time it’s not possible for me to get to most of the groups in Cardiff for learners (and besides, they tend to be too advanced for me).

Does anyone have any ideas? I’m really disheartened by it as it’s stopping me from trying to speak Welsh.

It’s not like comprehension is a switch that is clicked on in a single event – it is a gradual thing. And I find it hard to believe that your understanding gets worse with repeatedly doing the listening exercises. Maybe you expect too much from yourself, and if these expectations are not met, you feel disheartened.

I’ve been reading all your posts during the past months, trying to be as helpful as I can, but I feel it’s time for a cold, hard truth: no one can help you get better if your own heart is not “in it”. If you want to get better, you need to find something you actually enjoy.

It seems to me that your language learning journey is a constant struggle, an uphill battle – for whatever reason, and sooner or later you will need to ask yourself why you are learning Welsh, and if you can’t answer that question yourself, well, no-one can answer that question for you.

Trying to end this seemingly harsh answer on a helpful note… seeing as you neither enjoy TV nor radio, and having trouble finding people of a suitable level to talk to – do you enjoy reading Welsh books? :thinking: Or what about listening to Welsh music?

Comprehension sneaks up on you, and better comprehension takes longer.

So, I was a nurse and suddenly I heard the word oer, cold. I’d learnt it in class (this was before SSIW) but then my patient said it. And it wasn’t about the weather, it was that she was cold and wanted a blanket.

SSIW is primarily Say SIW. It isn’t read, write, or even (sorry Aran and the team) understand SIW. It’s grammar lite. You are given listening exercises, but if that’s all you listen to, that’s all you will (eventually) understand.

In my personal opinion, the more contexts you use your language in, and the more more contexts you hear the language in, the better. You know this, you find it hard. What I could suggest is falling madly in love with someone who will only speak Welsh with you! I can’t motivate you, I can’t make you like things.

If you remember why you want to learn, improve, your Welsh, because, honestly you are better than when you started, that’s a good start.

Who do you want to speak to? What do you want to speak about? What do you like to talk about in English? Go find people who are interested in the same things yn Gymraeg. I know it’s hard, but you can’t learn a language, either to speak it, or to understand it, without real people at the other end of the conversation.

Also, pick your battles. I’m studying theology at the moment, In English. But there are large portions I don’t, on first hearing or reading, understand. There are bits of medical stuff I don’t understand, despite a career in nursing. So don’t expect to understand everything, And thus, don’t beat yourself up about stuff you don’t understand.


Even if you don’t like the TV, would you watch some YouTube videos? I really enjoy Gales con Marian. Marian speaks very clearly - lots of repetition - about everyday things, going for walks, having tea, etc. presented first without and then with subtitles.

Don’t be put off by the name, I think the videos were originally made for learners in Patagonia. None of the videos I have watched are actually in Spanish.

The dialect is North Wales, but I learn South Wales, and don’t struggle at all.

Highly recommended. I really feel like I can understand Welsh when I watch them. Good luck


Thank you for the suggestion, I actually watch a lot of YouTube so that would be really easy for me to fit into my routine! Don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before!

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Look, I’m sorry that my posts come accross as negative. I get that.

I my defence (and you’re not obliged to accept this excuse), I’m learning Welsh alone, with (often, quite severe) mental health conditions, with no social circle whatsoever in this country.

I have never been someone who learns things easily or quickly. My early experiences of learning were all ‘get it right first time or be humiliated’.

All I can suggest is to try to avoid reading my posts, as I said I can completely see how you’d find them irritating.

For my part I’m going to just do the exercises and not use the forum.

The forum is an important part of learning with SSiW, so I’d like to ask you to reconsider. I am always trying to help fellow learners with my posts, and I felt that in this case, a bit of “tough love” would be helpful – clearly I have severely misjudged the situation and inadvertently hurt your feelings, and for that I am deeply sorry.

In my defense, English is not my first language, so sometimes it’s hard for me to get the tone of my posts right. I have had people tell me that I occasionally come across as arrogant and patronizing, but that is never my intention.

Please accept my sincerest apology, and please don’t turn your back on this helpful resource just because of my misguided attempt of trying to help you. For my part, I promise I’ll stick to answering grammar questions in the future, if you’d let me.


There is a podcast called Sgwrsio, which I’ve found has helped me with understanding. The host interviews learners about their language journey, it’s always interesting. Because it’s learners, the language used is pretty accessible (and often they reference SSiW).

There is always something you can pick out and get the jist of what’s being discussed. In fact, going back and re-listening through some episodes months later, I am really happy with how much more I can get.


Thank you. It’s fine- this week has been a bad week and it just happened by bad Co-incidence that I got to Lessons 22 and 23 of Level 2 as well. There is a block of 5 or so sentences near the end of Lesson 22 that are very frustrating.

And yes, your grammar explanations have always been clear and very helpful.


Thank you, I’ll have a look. If it’s something I can listen to while doing housework or something that’s great (I suppose I’m describing Radio Cymru there actually…)

The thing to remember is that speaking, listening, reading and writing are four separate skills. SSiW gets people speaking, but the only way to understand spoken Welsh is to hear a lot of it. The way I got exposure to a lot of spoken Welsh was to have Radio Cymru on in the car when I was driving to and from work.

The trick is not to force yourself to listen, but to have Radio Cymru on in the background while you’re doing other things, e.g. housework, exercise, driving. If you don’t like what’s on live, why not find something on BBC Sounds and listen to that? Or try the Pigion podcasts? These are designed for learners and new speakers of Welsh and are short clips taken from a variety of programmes.

There are things in Welsh on YouTube, including my own videos. Just search on Cymraeg and then see if any channels take your fancy. Once you start watching things in Welsh, with luck the algorithm will show you more.

Of course it’s possible that conversing in Welsh isn’t what you really want to do. What activities do you do in English that you enjoy? Listening to music or perhaps you like reading, either books or social media posts. You can find Welsh versions of most things.

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Actually, this might be really helpful - when I was at a similar end-of-course-2-ish level I used to watch the soap opera Rownd a Rownd, and I used to watch each episode up to 3 times - without subtitles, with Welsh subtitles, and with English. I would often go through the first time feeling very frustrated that I hadn’t understood anything - and then, with subtitles, catch myself thinking “well, duh! - we already knew that,” only for it to dawn on me that I only knew it because some of it must have sunk in even when I felt lost and thought it hadn’t. Your mileage may vary, ofc, but it could be worth a try.

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Thank you. I will have a look at BBC sounds. I tried listening to the YouTube videos of Galés con Marian earlier and I got on fine with that. From the one video I saw, she does travel, hiking and stuff like that which is more up my street.

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This would be good for me too I think. I often end up using subtitles for films in English anyway nowadays so I don’t think I’d feel like it was such a failure to have to ‘resort’ to subtitles!

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This is the first time I have done this. I am a little ahead of you in SSiW but have been doing Duolingo for a long time as well. It helps. I am also elderly and my memory isn’t great. I live in England but have managed to find two groups to join and three people who are willing to talk with me. This helps enormously but I find I hear a word that I know, can’t remember what it means, think about it and then lose my concentration on the whole conversation. The same thing happens with radio and tele. I do realise, however, that I have improved hugely and this gives me hope.


That’s great! It’s surprising how many Welsh speakers you can find in England actually- just in the small town near Birmingham I grew up in there were at least three people fluent in Welsh (two of them kids at my school who only spoke Welsh to begin with!). I think Birmingham even has a Welsh-language church.

I also highly recommend Gales con Marian - I’ve found her videos to be really good.

Echoing what others have said about watching things with subtitles, I’ve been watching some things in the S4C Clic app (or website) and I watch things multiple times, first two or three times without subtitles, but then again with subtitles, with welsh subtitles and then with English subtitles, and back again to no subtitles. I’ve been watching Ein Byd Bach Ni, which is only about nine minutes long, is aimed for not-too-young children, and the language isn’t too fast. I don’t get everything that’s said by any stretch of the imagination, but I pick up bits here and there at first, and build on it.


Thank you, I will have a look at Ein Byd Bach Ni- to my brain, watching three ten-minite videos feels a lot more doable than one 30-minute one, so that would be perfect for me.


I find that watching Pobl y Cwm with English subtitles and then watching it again with Welsh subtitles is a great help. Just a thought.


I have the same problem but find I do manage to sort of understand Heno on S4C and actually quite enjoy it. (as long as it is not people from North Wales who I can’t understand at all!). I can cope with that programme much better than I do with the listening practices which I really struggle with even when I slow them down as the sound has got distorted somehow