Is this method working for you?

I hesitated before deciding to post this.

Aside from the fact that most people who don’t feel they benefit from this system won’t have stayed around to be on this forum, I also don’t want to be a party pooper. But, even though I’ve been learning Welsh for over a year, I haven’t even been able to get through even the first exercise - even the thought of going back to it leaves me in a cold sweat. It’s not that I fear mistakes or whatever else Aran Jones mentioned as obstacles to learning in his videos - Welsh is the fifth language I’ve learned so I’m not a novice to language learning. I also know that I don’t learn languages like others do - I try to ignore grammar as much as possible in the early stages, for example. But the whole thing seems to be a race - everything gabbled at double time so that there is not even time to assimilate the English before the Welsh is spoken, and even less time to repeat the Welsh before it is repeated in the exercise. And no time to assimilate what we are hearing and learning at all. I know this is how fast some people speak on a day-to-day basis, but I don’t think this speed in the first exercise is at all helpful. I know I could sit on the pause button, but at that rate I’d have RSI before I was 10 minutes in.

It just makes me nervous, which I don’t have if I’m allowed a chance to think about things. I like learning languages like a child does, but parents don’t throw phrases in these loads at these speeds at children.

I’m really wondering if people are succeeding with this method. I note that Aran Jones mentioned in video 4 about how he learned the Dutch varkensvlees using his method and “has never got it wrong since”. Except in that video. Badly. Not a good advert for the method.

Does anybody have any helpful input? It’s great if this works for others. If everybody else is happy, that’s fine - I’ll pop off and learn my way, and leave you to it. Horses for courses. But I was wondering …

Graham

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Yes @GrahamR this method really, really works!!! :slight_smile: But I think its accepted that it doesn’t suit everyone… :frowning:
I’m one of many people who have successfully learned Welsh in a very short space of time through SSIW. Have a look at some of the videos on the SSIW Facebook page to see some testimonials (scroll past the celebs to see the ones made by ordinary people like me!) https://www.facebook.com/pg/SaySomethinginWelsh/videos/?ref=page_internal
I really hope you can give it another go, or find another method that suits you. :slight_smile:

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Thanks @Cetra. Interestingly, it looks to me like most of those videos are from people living in Wales with daily contact with the language and/or people who have learned Welsh at school or at home and want to improve it. If this method is designed for them, then I get it - they will already have an ear for the language and the muscle-memory for the mouth shaping. I don’t have that background - maybe that’s why it’s not coming across to me in the same way. Looking at the videos of the conversations with the “celebrities”, they’re much slower and more what I’d expect for language learning …

As Cetra said, there are many who have learned Welsh with this method and no, the course doesn’t suit everyone - it’s a very different way of learning to what most people are used to.
The course is not designed specifically for people in Wales or with any Welsh background (although of course that does tend to be an advantage) and although a lot of the videos may come from people in Wales there are people who have successfully learnt using this method all over the world - USA, Australia, Finland, Germany, Italy, Israel, Ireland, and of course Scotland and England come to mind immediately, but there are plenty of other places too.

Everyone’s experience is different - some move swiftly through the course, others take much longer, some take to the method straight away, others take time to get used to it, and there is plenty of personal ‘tweaking’ done to make it work for them as individuals, which is absolutely fine. The method won’t work for all, but there are methods within the method which some find invaluable (use of pausing, amount done at any one time, making notes, etc).

The main difference with the celebrities videos is that they are generally at a much earlier stage of learning than the others.

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Another satisfied SSiW customer here.
After 18 months of learning I’ve got to the level where I can have a decent conversation.
I live in England so I’m no way ‘immersed’, but I just find the method really engaging and fun, so I actively want to do at least 30 mins daily (during the commute in to work).
Saying that, I did find it hard for the first 10 challenges or so, and was using the pause button a LOT (plus repeating the challenges a few times each). My experience was that it got easier as I got deeper in.
It’s not for everyone - maybe you have to be at least partially an ‘auditory processor’ - but it most definitely works for me. Good luck with your journey.

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Hey @GrahamR,

I started learning Welsh with SSiW (in the summer if 2018) without having ever been to Wales - except on a train from Chester to Holyhead, as a teenager, to catch a ferry to Ireland.
When I started SSiW I didn’t even know that people actually spoke it in modern times. All I had heard was a few songs in Welsh (by Datblygu - by the way!).

My mother tongue is Italian. I had studied English and French at school, for many years. And unsuccessfully attempted German several times. And in all cases I had some form of previous knowledge or exposure to the languages.

However, Welsh is the language I’ve learnt to speak faster and with considerably less effort than all other languages.
So yes, I can tell that the method worked great for me!

This doesn’t mean I can speak fluently about any topic and in any register, in Welsh, like I do in Italian or English.
It doesn’t even mean that it’s not taking a certain effort to move past the very basic conversation level I reached in about 6 months-1 year after starting.
Through SSiW I didn’t learn to read or write.
It always takes a while for my brain to warm up and tune in to the language.
And I still do a lot of mistakes when I speak, and often get stuck while trying to express something too complicated and there’s a lot of ups and downs in the process.
And I’m sure that sometimes people smiles and nods but don’t understand everything I say! :rofl:

But still my conversation level is way better than it was after several years of studying languages in traditional courses.

All I did was experimenting a bit to find the way to make it work better for me - as in the beginning I felt totally lost, by the way and I was exhausted after 20 minutes!

Each learner is different, as many have said.
But if you like, I can write a bit more about how I got it to work well for me - just in case you find any inspiration!

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Hi Graham

I attend the slack chats and there are plenty of people there who can now hold a conversation in Welsh, having no prior exposure and not living in Wales. There are also people there who say they’ve tried many times before and failed only to succeed with SSiW.

However no method is for everyone, and maybe this isn’t for you. I personally used SSiW in conjunction with other resources: I describe SSiW as like turning the Christmas lights on. The other resources (including grammar study!) had hung the lights on the tree, but SSiW was the power switch which turned me into a happy, joyful speaker. We each have our own way.

I would say do browse the forum for strategies other people use. Some people do hit the pause button, others repeat each task more than three times, others do each lesson in ten minute blocks, others write out the English so they’re not struggling with their working memory and so on.

Maybe some of those strategies will help you, or maybe this just isn’t for you. It’s OK to decide you don’t like it enough to experiment with other strategies and just try another course entirely. What matters is that you’re getting what you want out of it. :slightly_smiling_face:

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@Graham, thank you for your very interesting feedback - and no, you are not a party pooper at all, since your posting is most polite and objective.
But allow me to add my comments also. I have no background in Welsh, and I live abroad where I have zero face-to-face interaction with anyone learning or speaking Welsh. And I have to say that Say Something in Welsh has been a great learning tool for me.
No, it has not been easy, in the sense that it took me a very long time to master the lessons. I had to go over them all more than once over about 3 years. That’s how I’m able to learn. I see nothing wrong in having to pause and repeat phrases if that’s what is needed. I did, and it worked for me. I am nowhere near fluent. Far from it, but if I had to survive speaking Welsh only I would manage.
One advantage of SSiW is the community of fellow learners that accompanies it. We offer mutual support and encouragement, as well as the marvellous opportunity to have one-to-one and group chats with fellow learners (and tutors) via Slack or other video conferencing systems such as Zoom. Many of us have made real friends through the process.
I agree that SSiW is not for all, but I suggest the following two points.
Firstly, as I mentioned above, try slowing down, pausing and repeating, if necessary. It’s not clear to me how many lessons/challenges you have attempted, but in fact all material is intentionally and constantly repeated throughout the levels. It’s therefore not necessary to learn a single challenge by heart 100%: in fact we are discouraged from this. Play around a bit and see if you can get it to work. It took me a while to work out my system, the one that worked for me, but eventually I succeeded.
Secondly, regard SSiW as a tool amongst many. I am currently learning Welsh on Duolingo in order to boost my vocabulary. I also listen to BBC Wales Newyddion (news) highlights podcast in Welsh which is aimed at learners. And there’s loads more out there. Some of us like to learn through recordings of Welsh songs. The list goes on…
Graham, don’t give up, and if you stay with SSiW you will find a new family of learners, each of us with our own frustrations, flops and triumphs.
(Note - I have no “vested interest” in SSiW - it just seems that you’ve tried this but maybe don’t quite realise its limitations and advantages.)
Good luck to you whatever path you choose!

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As Sharon has said, that’s not the case at all in my experience! :slight_smile: I’m in England and so are many other learners, including several of the others who’ve provided testimonials, such as Marcus and Neil, and there are also many other learners I’ve met on the course who live even further afield - Canada, North America, Australia, France, Germany, Russia to name the ones I can think of! :slight_smile:

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Here are a couple of threads where people talk about how they’ve adapted their approach to the challenges to their own needs:

Edited to add another one: Working memory issues and SSiW

You might also want to check out the “old course” (it’s included in your subscription) and see if the timings suit you better. Some people like the old course better than the current course (and many of us do the old course when we finish the new one, to broaden our vocab.)

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My sincerest thanks to all those who took so much effort to comment on my post - I really appreciate it. Especially @gisella-albertini - your comment about not learning to read or write using SSiW flipped a switch for me (see below).

The comments have got me thinking about some things. I realise, for example, that I need to be less obedient and not try to follow the course designer’s instructions, which are clearly not working for me - I’m too long in the tooth and realise now I should use this course as a resource which I can dip into and use to aid my way of learning. I see many people have their own ways of learning with this course, so I can feel free to loosen up and do things my way. Perhaps I’ve picked up more of the German way of doing things than I had realised :wink:

Secondly, there’s the clear emphasis on learning to speak only. (Well, duh!). Languages have four pillars - understanding, reading, writing, speaking - but for me speaking is the last and least. I’m autistic and avoid social interactions, so the chance of me ever actually speaking Welsh face-to-face with anybody else is zero. I’d much rather learn to read it, and in any case I’m learning Welsh as an intellectual exercise because I want to find out how Celtic languages work. So speaking is always the last thing I do in the languages I learn. I need to take that fact on board. But I do need to be able to interleave those four pillars - I can’t ignore any one of them - but it’s OK for me to give speaking a lower level of attention. @gisella-albertini You have my sympathy and understanding about German. I had to learn it to pass exams to get a passport (Brexit …), but after that I dropped it like a hot brick. I can happily read a novel in German but it still takes me ages to warm up to have a conversation in it.

I already use other resources - Duolingo and online Welsh-language revision days, amongst others. I’m way ahead in those so I do need to get my spoken Welsh up to a more normal level. Thanks for the encouragement. I still think the system is flawed (especially the speed of the texts in the exercises), and I have noticed in the meantime a number of other posts with similar issues, so it’s not just me; but I’ll see what I can get out of them.

Cheers all!

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Try not to get too hung up on the perceived speed!! :slight_smile: When you come back to the early lessons after having progressed through the course they will seem slow! :slight_smile: Its intended to get you to say something (anything!) in Welsh in the gap. It doesn’t matter how wrong you get it! You just have to trust the method and keep going. It all works out eventually! :slight_smile:

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@Cetra I can’t agree with you, I’m afraid. I timed the gaps in the first lesson. That’s the FIRST lesson, assuming the learner knows nothing. They leave 4 seconds to say a text that the fluent Welsh speakers take 3 seconds to say, at speed. I can’t believe that they expect a learner to be able to say something they’ve never heard before, in a language they do not know, in that short time, with no time allowed to even think about the English text. There’s no helping text, no showing of the English version on the screen to help you remember what you’re supposed to be saying. Nothing. It seems designed to demotivate unless you’re willing to use the pause button constantly, which the course designers say you should not do. You’ve been through it and have the confidence that it will all work out in the end. I wonder how many people don’t stick with it. I think it could have been much better designed - leaving 6 or 7 seconds to at least give a learner a chance would have been something. It shouldn’t be a race and I don’t think it aids learning. By the way, I should say that I’ve been learning Welsh for 1.5 years and watch S4C, so I am used to hearing Welsh and what I hear in the exercises is spoken (in my opinion) faster than is necessary - it’s not a case of perceiving it as fast.

Re the speed, because I used SSiW while I was doing mundane tasks such as washing up or ironing or going for a walk, I never used the pause button. To be honest, I didn’t learn Welsh with SSiW because I’d been doing traditional courses for years, but what the course did was get what I’d learned onto the tip of my tongue so I could use it in real time in conversations. I will say that it took me three attempts to make the method work for me, but regarding the length allowed for saying the phrase or sentence after Aran, I’m now using Say Something in Spanish and finding that having mastered the method with Welsh, despite never having done any Spanish before, or having been to Spain, I can get the words out fast enough, at least some of the time!

Because I have a terrible short-term memory and I knew others had the same problem, I actually made a video about how I’d finally mastered learning via an audio only method. I think the video has been linked above, but basically you don’t wait for Aran to finish speaking. As soon as you hear a few words or a phrase, you start saying it in Welsh. It sounds as though it wouldn’t work, but it does, and that enables you to finish before the Welsh is spoken. I then used to say it again along with the second speaker.

Anyway, I hope you can find a way to make use of the course alongside the other resources you’ve found. I’ve seen people learn really effectively and that includes someone living in Switzerland (who took the advanced exam last summer at the same time I did) and another living in Australia. One thing I have noticed is that anyone who has learned using SSiW has really good accents.

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Interesting, @margarethall - it sounds more like the training to become an interpreter (speaking and listening at the same time). But everything I’m reading (bar from one person) suggests the need to adjust the way you use the resources and that you need to keep attacking the exercises in different ways to work out how they can help you. I really don’t think that’s a good way of teaching people (though it’s a good way of winnowing out people who can’t get their heads around it in their initial attempts). I see how these courses help learning by building knowledge as blocks, but I still think they could have been better designed and have been more helpful. I don’t think being able to get the words out on time “some of the time” should be the aim. Should it?

To begin with, yes. Perfection isn’t the aim here, it’s more letting your brain adjust to an aural way of learning rather than a visual one, and the more the brain gets the hang of it, the easier it becomes to get the words out.

The suggestions of adjusting how to do the course exist because it’s accepted that some - for whatever reason (and they’re all valid) - just can’t cope with a purely aural method, but that’s ok because the aim is to get people speaking Welsh and it doesn’t really matter which path you take or how long you take, the goal is the same.

There are also learners who struggle with the “ok to make mistakes” and “ok to adjust the method” aspects because in formal education those things are not usually present, so we’re just not used to ‘not following the rules’, and it can seem counter-intuitive.

In the end, it’s not going to suit everyone, perhaps especially those who, like you as you’ve said, are more directed towards reading and writing, and yes, there are certainly people who have given up and done more traditional methods instead, but that’s not to say it hasn’t been a very effective method for many (even ones who’ve been very frustrated at times!).

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I’m probably not going to add loads to this conversation that hasn’t been already said. However, I’ll throw in my 2 pennies. I am one of the privileged who lives here in Wales with daily access to the language. I wasn’t at all familiar with the language before i started learning with SSiW. I found the course revolutionary because I’d never successfully learnt a second language before.

In terms of the methodology, i have met Aran on a few occassions and have heard him talk about the methodology both formally and informally. This is a very well researched approach with “method to the madness”. So, although at face value I can imagine why a course that makes it difficult to complete the given task may sound counter intuitive, the research, and results for so many, suggests there is more to this than intuition.

The figure I’ve heard, which in noway is a specific figure it is definitely nuanced and varied, is an 80% rate. So if you complete approximately 80% of the sentence then you’ve achieved the ball park aim. That means in 4 seconds if you cover what the native speakers have in 2.4 seconds. Close to double the time. Again, this is not a specific set of figures.

From my own background (medical world) teaching to perfection is a poorly designed aim of any educational course. Teaching to accept that “to err is human” is more productive teaching method. In other words, teaching to embrace mistakes leads to greater success.

Good luck with your learning

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Thanks for your sympathy and understanding about German. :wink:
As you’ve mentioned skills, I actually did learn to read to a decent level never managed to put together more than a bunch of words without a structure when I tried to communicate in German-speaking lands, by the way.

Just an extra comment about speed in SSiW, again based on my personal experience:

when I first tried challenges, I (obviously?) wasn’t able to say the whole sentence in those 3-4 seconds.
I’m not first language English and even have a very poor working/short term memory for words, so I couldn’t even remember what I was supposed to say let alone translating it into Welsh in so little time.
Having read the instructions and tried to follow them accurately, and failed.
I got really frustrated and had to choose between quitting the course, or “tweak” it a bit to my needs.

So I started using the pause button.
As little as possible, but as much as I needed to remember at least a few of the words and say them out loud.
This way, I managed to finish all Level 1 and 2. Rarely saying the longest sentences in full, but that’s where the tip that @Cetra reminded came handy.
And it worked, because I actually found out I had learned much more than I expected in fact.

Then with level 3 there was just no way for me to go further, even with the pause button.
So I read somewhere that in the Spanish course (not 100% sure but one of the other languages anyway) lessons come with a video where the sentence in English appears on the screen while it’s being said by the speaker. A bit like a subtitle, I guess.
So, I took my time and transcribed all the English sentences for all the lessons in Level 3, so that I could read them the same way instead of having to find them in my bad working memory while also thinking on how to turn them into their Welsh counterparts! And it worked, so I finished level 3 too.

This about the tricks I used once I walked out of the Germanitude, in case they may be helpful. :sweat_smile:

As far as “why not giving more time in the first place, instead?”, a few more considerations:

  • it was written somewhere, but I definitely can tell from my experience that a bit of pressure actually helps getting the brain alert and memorizing.
    Of course if the pressure is too high, you get the opposite effect and brain shuts down. But that’s when pause button comes handy - and if one thing, I definitely think it would be worth writing more clearly that “no pause!” is the general rule, but there are circumstances when it may be advisable to do differently and each learner could/should find their own balance with it.

  • I did each challenge only once, occasionally twice, no more. This because it the instructions were to avoid too much repetition. But also because there are things I can happily listen 10 million times (like songs - very useful by the way, to memorize sentences, if I may say).
    But other repetitions get me bored and if it happens my mind just wanders away and there’s no way for me to focus(for example with Duolingo at first I thought I had to go all the way till level 5 on each lesson and I just couldn’t stand it)
    A few months after I finished the Level, I went back and tried a few earlier lessons. And to my surprise, believe it or not, the time I had to say the Welsh sentence most of the time was…too long!
    And in the end, got quite a good grasp of the structure and rules - even though not in a gradual and slow way, more like children-like way of learning.

To my understanding one of the aims of having a short(er) time is to help you reach faster into “automatic gear” as opposed to overthinking and/or trying to translate word by word.

I found videos by Anthony Lauder very interesting and useful, especially this (I’m almost sure it was this video, but you can have a look at his channel): https://youtu.be/Ntr-l8Rng7E

The idea is similar, I think, to what another technique called “Extensive reading”. Have you have heard of it?
If not, it might be interesting for you since you seem to be more into figuring out the language structure and system and understanding rather than reaching some degree of spoken fluency in everyday life, or chats and social events that you’re unlikely to get involved in. Did I understand right?

In any case for you or anyone else interested, there’s quite a few videos about the theory, but when I moved to trying to acquire some reading skills it seemed very efficient and rewarding to me.
(BTW I started with Colin Jones, and then the Amdani series and Lois Arnold to name a few).

Ok, just a few more notes if anything helps!

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Thanks for the extra input.

Honestly, I remain unconvinced, especially as so many people have said that the system worked for them, but they had to tweak the system. Ergo, the system didn’t work for them. I know people can learn from mistakes (some don’t, because very few people actually listen to themselves as they speak). But creating a system which has the ethos “do not be afraid to make mistakes, but we will create exercises which are impossible to complete without making mistakes” would cause a psychological block for many people. I don’t need Duolingo’s endless cheering every time I do an exercise perfectly either, but I think a balance between the positive and the negative is required, and this system veers way too far to the negative for my liking.

No, perfection isn’t the aim, but this isn’t a binary choice - there is a whole spectrum of ways of learning languages. I don’t learn well in structured grammar-based learning situations either. German is a good point - all systems I tried had an obsession with minor grammatical points which are of little relevance in daily life and which only change meaning in a single sentence structure which is hardly used. But I had to learn it to pass exams, after which I immediately forgot it. It put me off the language, as any aggressive learning technique would.

Incidentally, doing several levels and then going back and finding that the first level feels suddenly easier is not unusual, regardless of the technique.

For what it’s worth, I have learned a second language to absolute fluency level (Dutch, in speaking. writing, reading and understanding), and I did that simply by using the language and allowing my conscious and sub-conscious brain to make links and create pathways in its own time. Not once was I expected to make my order for bread or answer a question in a meeting in four seconds. That would have switched me off from the language and left me psychologically vulnerable.

Anyway, as I said, that’s just me and it’s just my opinion. I’m sure Aran doesn’t care a jot and is a millionaire in the meantime, and it’s great that some people have the staying power to use this system. I’ll choose a less aggressive way of learning, because this is putting me off the language. And I hope that the powers that be here do note that many people have felt the need to tweak the system to get it to work for them, and look pragmatically at how they’ve structured the course. I still think it could be improved … :slight_smile:

Knowing @aran personally, I can guarantee that he does care an awful lot and is far from being a millionaire!

Whatever path you choose, we all wish you the best and hope that you find a method that works for you.

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