Just watched this because I’d seen it mentioned on here, but hadn’t taken in in advance the connection with SSiW. I’ve only just started learning (ten days ago), so this was my first experience of watching Welsh TV - and I loved it! That Iolo is lovely, isn’t he? And Steve - what an inspiration!
Lots of questions! I’ll try and answer them all in one go - feel free to ask for clarity if I leave anything out…
So, the deal was that each celeb would be expected/able to do 2 days, with the option to do more if they wanted - the ideal being that they have an intensive day before starting, work through as much of Level 1 as possible, and then have an intensive day before filming. But then scheduling kicks in, and some stuff simply becomes impossible.
For example, Steve wasn’t able to schedule an intensive day before he went to film on a diveboat for three weeks (which was his only window to do the work) - so we had a couple of calls, and I did what I could to prep him for what would be difficult - and he got up to 14 on the boat, and came back very disheartened and considering not carrying on. I had a follow up call to explain about the 12/13/14 effect, and he then carried on - we had an intensive day down in his garden (freezing cold!) where it all started to come to life for him, and that was it in terms of input from me. So his results are really unusual, and show that he put a hell of an effort in on his own time. Steve was starting absolutely from scratch, with no more than one or two words previously.
Joanna had an intensive day face-to-face in London, and another one (mmm, or possibly two?) online - online isn’t as good as in person, but it can still do a lot of valuable things. That was it for her in terms of my input, apart from answering the occasional question - all the rest was her effort working with the lessons and listening exercises on her own. Joanna wasn’t starting from scratch, but she wasn’t all that far off - almost none of what she’d encountered previously was available to her as active vocabulary until she got her teeth into the challenges.
Rakie had an intensive day online, then an intensive in person in London, and then a couple more online sessions before she filmed - it was in her last session that she suddenly made the switch from being able to make up sentences to being able to keep on piling them on top of each other to make paragraphs - it was really exciting being a witness to that moment of sudden change… Rakie had done some school Welsh, but again it wasn’t available to her as active vocabulary, but she did start to remember extra bits and pieces as she pushed on through the lessons.
Kiri had an intro session in person on Ynys Môn, and then a combination of online intensives and one really brutal intensive day here, where she spent over 7 hours speaking Welsh - it’s a hugely, hugely important part of her identity, and she was massively determined to push as far as possible (and to carry on past the show until she gets to genuine fluency, which she’s clearly going to do) - so I think she must have had about five or six days in the end, coupled with a lot of work on her own. Kiri was starting with quite a lot of passive Welsh from having grown up in/near Bangor, but she went through English medium education and was never a functional Welsh speaker - the more work she does, the more of the passive stuff becomes active, though.
James had the toughest gig - he had one intensive in person, where he was starting pretty much from scratch, apart from a bit of faintly remembered school Welsh - and then he had only 12 days before he had to film - he got through to about Challenge 15, I think, off the top of my head, and we had a follow up online session of a couple of hours before he filmed - he really worked his socks off, but what a difficult challenge it was for him with the time available.
And then Chris - he was also starting pretty much from scratch, but I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone so hungry to challenge himself - I can see how he became an international footballer! We had an intensive in person day down near Winchester, and then did a bunch of online sessions, plus he came up here twice for a couple of two day intensive sessions, so 5 in total - where he just worked like a Trojan. We also did a bunch of online sessions in the week before he filmed, and he did every single extra challenge I set him as if his life depended on it - the amount he learnt from scratch in just 5 weeks absolutely took my breath away.
In terms of what we actually did in the various sessions - my first session is always about mindset and belief, and then an assessment of how they respond to the challenges, so that I can give them guidance about how to do the work effectively… it’s rare to do more than 3 or 4 challenges on the first intensive day. Follow up sessions depend a bit on how much time the person has had to do their own work - if they haven’t done many extra sessions, a follow up day will mostly be about cracking the whip and getting them through as many challenges as possible - if they’ve been pushing themselves and getting through plenty of challenges, the follow up sessions will mostly be about giving them longer and longer periods of time where they only speak in Welsh.
I can’t wait to see the rest of the series. They really were an absolutely remarkable crew of people, just an utter joy to work with…
I’m pleased to say this series is available online via S4C Clic to those of us who live outside the UK.
I thoroughly enjoyed Steve’s efforts and was also delighted to see parts of Wales I remember from years ago, including some roads my wife and I even drove along! Will certainly watch the future episodes and look forward especially to seeing James Hook.
Just one remark on Steve’s learning experience: his near exhaustion at the end of days when he was immersed in Welsh is not unusual. The mental effort to follow a substantially different language really is very tiring in the beginning, both mentally and, I found when I was in the same boat, physically.
Chris Coleman has read this thread and wanted me to share this message with you all:
Hope your all enjoying this challenge as much as I am.
I thought I’d post something to share my thoughts on the process.
Personally I like being in the red zone when I’m trying to get better at something. SSI has pushed me hard and it’s been a great challenge.
It’s been a lot of fun also.
Getting it wrong and putting the words in the wrong order is par for the course.
Hope your getting stuck in and make sure you enjoy the journey.
Phob lwc gyda popeth
Uh oh… What’s that? I’m on Challenge 11…
Almost everybody had a hard time with those!
You can find a lot of reports around the forum, but to give you an idea here’s mine:
Diolch, @gisella-albertini ! I did try to search but didn’t come up with an effective search phrase! I’ll go read through your thread so I’m prepared for what’s coming.
Ok, read it and it was really helpful, thanks! Especially the feedback from two months later.
Anyway, sorry for the thread derail. Back to the subject… Ooh, another episode today! Exciting!
The Rakie Ayola programme was interesting. It was a bit of a tough ask following the Steve Backshall one as that had set such a high standard, especially as he had obviously made such great strides so quickly. The fact that Rakie and Eiry Thomas got on so well made it an enjoyable watch though.
That friendship showed how much fun can be had using and learning a second language. I liked the acting words quiz as Rakie did what I do so often when I can’t quite remember a word but you have that memory/sense of it being eg. long or short or beginning with a certain letter. It’s fascinating seeing the language learning experience in action.
Another lovely episode - with Rakie.
It’s a shame that we learners sometimes feel the urge to compare the episodes, and which of the learners is doing ‘better’; have caught myself doing it too.
They’re all on this fantastic journey, with us, and competing (if that’s even the right word) with themselves.
Chwarae teg/Fair play to them all, to do that ‘in public’.
She seemed to be doing great, to be honest.
And defintely, each individual is different, and rather than judging who’s better not worse in the show it seems more I retesting to realize that everybody can succeed in speaking some Welsh out in the wild!
I happened to read that Steve is a fluent Japanese and Indonesian speaker (besides having said he likes to learn some language of every country he visited) so no doubt he has some advantage in learning Welsh as well!
The thing I got most from Rakie was her absolute joy in using Welsh and when she read that story it was wonderful and quite moving.
Totally agree with you @judith-roberts. I do hope we see Rakie on S4C - she seemed quite excited at the prospect.
I’ve really enjoyed both episodes.
I love how this show shows the highs and lows of language learning, but also ultimately that language is for living, not for memorising. And it’s fun!
I challenged myself to watch Steve’s episode without any subtitles and I found myself understanding almost the entire program. It was a great confidence boost.
I’m looking forward to the rest of the series particularly Chris Coleman’s episode and James Hook with Nigel Owens.
Yes, hear hear, exactly this
I’ve had longer conversations with Rakie than I’ve had with Steve, as it happens, so there may also be some ‘how it seems on screen’ stuff going on there - I’m very, very confident that Rakie is going to push on through to real conversational fluency…
I have thoroughly enjoyed this series and was so glad to see it on S4C (I’m in the US).Seeing how well everyone does gives me hope that I too could have conversations when I am able to return to Wales. Loved the sweater in the Chrismas episode and it was great to see you on the program @aran!
I got quite a bit of grief from Scott Quinnell for that sweater
Here is one of the most powerful things I’ve read about learning Welsh, from the inspirational Kiri Pritchard-Mclean:
I thought I’d tell you a little bit more about my experience.
I think it’s fair to say that much of the time Aran spent was teaching me how to manage the emotional side to learning as much as practising and tweaking pronunciation etc.
The way I see it my obstacles in this area were two fold.
Firstly, I don’t have a great success with formal education. I was diagnosed in university with ADHD, the principal manifestation of which is a vastly reduced working memory. During school and university I enjoyed learning and could understand everything but was never really able to show that in a test or essay- although would do well in oral assessments.
No problem you might think, as SSIW isn’t there to support me in writing an essay. Well, I think the end result of this academic frustration is a crushing chip on my shoulder when it comes to my own intellect. I love my job as I’ve managed to incorporate talking with showing the world I’m clever. If you’ve seen me do some material on tell that’s pretty filthy I’m sure you’re puzzled but my tour shows always start with an issue I think isn’t funny and it’s my job to make it accessible and funny (structural racism, child grooming, cohesive control, male suicide etc). I’ve found a job where I can wear my smarts on my sleeve without ever having to write “in conclusion…”.
Preparing for Iaith ar Daith is the first time in over a decade I’ve had to confront these issues because as a stand up I work on my own terms. The transition to another language immediately ruptured my sense of self. In Welsh I couldn’t express myself well, I couldn’t be funny, I couldn’t talk about big ideas and I found it maddening, I don’t want to learn Welsh to walk about the weather- I want to talk about the world with the same fluency I do in English.
In addition to this I sort of felt like a failure entering into this. My primary school didn’t really teach welsh, we were an English speaking household (despite having one side of my family that is entirely iaith cyntaf) and I went to an English medium high school where I was in set 7 out of 8 for Welsh, so learned very little. I’d been pottering around on Duolingo for a bit but to all intense purposes I felt like I’d been “learning” Welsh for 33 years and couldn’t speak it and therefore never would.
This leads me neatly on to the second point, the emotional journey. I don’t think I can overstate how painful I find it I don’t speak Welsh fluently. It is my only regret (amazing when you’ve seen some of things I’ve worn and said on stage). If I had one wish from a genie it wouldn’t be a fortune or world peace - sorry- it would be to speak Welsh.
Growing up in a very Welsh speaking area it contributed to me feeling like an outsider. Until I was 18 if you’d have asked me I would have said I was English even though I had lived on Ynys Môn since I was 8 months old. I felt I had no right to say I was Welsh because I didn’t speak the language.
I found the feeling of sadness, frustration and guilt very painful and those feelings ebbed into my learning. Added to this on the occasions I’d tried to practice Welsh with my father he’d immediately shut it down saying that my Welsh was terrible (parents reading, this stuff is how you grow a stand up comedian).
Moving to England at 18 for uni was a turning point. I immediately felt Welsh and was pretty overwhelmed with a sense of Hiraeth. I didn’t just miss my family and proper food. I missed the feeling of being in Wales, I started saying I was Welsh and haven’t stopped. The spectre at the feast was always the language though.
So, I feel like Aran was as much a Counsellor as he was a teacher - although that’s not to undersell the great job he did as a teacher.