I did it! Following the advice I received on this Forum last month, I descended two days ago on the unsuspecting population of Llanrwst and spoke Welsh, and I generally made myself perfectly understood! I list the following observations:
Llanrwst and its people are wonderful.
They love it when a non-Welsh person comes there to actually try and speak Welsh.
If you tell people what you’re here for in English they will listen.
If you say “Dw i’n trio siarad Cymraeg”, they will take you very seriously indeed.
The above, with S’mae, Bore da, os gwelwch yn dda, diolch, and similar, as appropriate, will open their hearts.
The world does not end when you make mistakes. Mistakes are regarded as integral parts of a learner’s speech, and are passed over without comment.
However, asking for help and to be corrected gives the impression that you’re serious about it, and gains another dimension of respect.
Welsh people are humans and not quaint tourist objects. As anywhere, respect breeds respect.
Soft, nasal and aspirate mutations really do start to come naturally. I would not have believed it when I first heard it on SSiW.
The difference between the southern and northern dialects is not at all strict.
“Yn arafach” is the greatest lifeboat in Wales.
“Diolch” is the most important word.
Nobody cares if beginners confuse “ti” and “chi”.
Hard work pays off!
Having said this, it was clear that my listening skills are poorly developed. I found it very, very hard to understand, even with generous doses of note 11 above. But everyone told me how well I spoke Welsh.
It was a tremendous confidence-booster. I admit to having been really nervous when I got off the bus. That soon vanished.
But advice on how to improve my comprehension skills will be welcomed.
Really great to read how well you did @Baruch. It is an amazing moment when you realise you are actually understood!
With regard to comprehension skills I would recommend:
Try to find a local learners group, there is a list on the weekly e-mail.
Listen to Radio Cymru as often as possible.
If money is not an issue you could join the SSIW Growth Club, there is a long thread on it somewhere; for ten pounds a month you there is a weekly discussion between Aran and Catrin about something topical and the last ten or so are archived so you can retrieve them.
Some people have a Skype / FaceTime partner but I found using Skype a big distracting as my internet connection kept freezing out.
Most important advice with any listening is not to try and understand everything. It is best just to let the words wash over you, notice familiar patterns and words etc. Ocassionally look up the odd word you keep hearing and try and remember it. Eventually whole sentences begin to emerge from the ‘mist’. It is not a quick process but well worth the effort.
Margaret, thanks for this comment. I had realised this from the start, but you have put it into the words that I’ve been seeking for the last two years: “There really is another world in Wales of Welsh speakers if only we dare to open our mouths.”
Yn dda iawn, @Baruch! You have made me realise that I need to spend more time on listening practices!! In fact, since I am actually needing to listen more than speak, I should really be doing a course called “Hear Something in Welsh”!!! @aran??? - for sad exiles wanting to watch S4C with no subtitles!!!
Agree totally with all of the above. I like playing word games - sad I know- I take the words in each challenge and see how many different ways I can use them. Extra points for adding a few words before Iestyn/ Cat as well- yes seriously sad. I find it helps as it mixes things up which is reality and where I used to do the rabbit in headlights if anyone replied to me.
Other tip is to find a 5 year old and practice- works great as they are happy to chat at my level.
Thanks to all for the listening advice above. Yes, I should start taking advantage of the Internet, in particular (but not only) YouTube, for the large amount of Welsh out there, and start listening. I appreciate that it will take time - that’s called learning the language. SSiW is fantastic for the “SS” bit: it’s time to expand and start the Listen component.
I do listen to the Level 1 listening exercises, but not daily, not enough. I will soon finish Level 1, and then contribute to this wonderful venture to enable me to continue to Level or Course 2 (probably both).
I think the trick here is to make that 5 minutes part of your daily routine - so you listen to them while you do something else, so that it becomes automatic - and then you’ll definitely be ready for the even faster ones that will be ready for Level 2 before too much longer…
Great post and well done indeed, Baruch. I should print your tips out and stick them on my dashboard for upcoming holiday. Have managed to get a few days B&B-hopping in Wales, and guess where Mrs AG pointed to on the map this morning as a suitable stopover for our last day before heading home!
The local people told us that it’s best to stay out of Betws-y-coed in tourist season as it gets too busy and that Llanrwst is just as nice so that is where they choose to go. You seem to be heading in the same direction.