Learning - In with the New, but Out with the Old first

There are those who say the brain is capable of absorbing limitless amounts of information.

I’m leaning towards Homer Simpson when he said that to absorb new knowledge you first you have to make room for it by getting rid of the old.

I have known vocabulary and used it, I am capable of learning new vocabulary, and then when I try to use words I did once know, my mind is a blank. It could be age, but do others find this demoralising phenomenon. Is there any treatment?


I think that’s normal. I’m often listening to something, or reading, and a word will come up and I know that I’ve learnt it but in that moment I can’t remember what it means. I did keep lists of words, hundreds of words which I would write down as a prompter when I first started learning…but, trying to remember them was so frustrating I shredded them…
As to treatment…Doh!!!

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But countering this, there is also the effect I have often noticed (and I know I am not alone) that a word will pop into my head, apparently out of the blue, that I didn’t “know” I knew, or had forgotten that I knew, and it will be (even more surprisingly) right.


So very very true. Like most of life there are two sides to this Frustration / elation.
I would so like to be further ahead of myself but only time will tell.

Cheers J.P.

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Let’s drill down a bit here. Are you talking about all words you once knew, or a smaller subset? Can you pick out any patterns? My main suspicion initially is that this will be about words that you don’t need very often…

I find that the words I most struggle to find (or get muddled up) are the ones that start off your sentence - e.g. Can I/can we/can you?, do you/do we/do I?, when?, why?, which?, I have, they have etc.

Once I get past this, the actual descriptive words seem to flow ok . Although I do still have that annoying thing sometimes when someone uses a word you instantly recognise the sound of but can’t recall the meaning of for the life of you!


The one thing that being on the bwtcamp taught me was that practising talking with other welsh speakers (native speakers or other learners) helps you get past this, as you start to hear the same patterns of speech over and over, then you start to absorb it subconsciously and end up using them yourself without thinking too much about it.


I used to notice this with the lessons after a while. You’d start to hear a phrase you knew well, so that you knew what was coming, so this took the strain off, and you could pay attention to the new stuff that you could expect would be added. In real conversations, this is obviously more random, but I think the same effect happens to some extent.


Before I went on the bwtcamp I could rattle through a lot of the lessons - like you say, you start to unconsciously know what’s coming next.

When having to speak other people yn Gymraeg though, it completely threw me at first - I couldn’t remember ANY of the llawer o geiriau that I thought I knew, because the conversation didn’t follow the “right” patterns.

After a couple of days of panicking about this, I found that the random effect that you rightly identified actually helped me to stop thinking about learned patterns and adapt more naturally to speaking.

On reflection, I think I used the same methods in conversation that I used on the lessons - I copied other peoples speech patterns and as a result worried less about the grammar and concentrated more on the content?


I suffer from nominal ephasia and always have. I am getting older, so there is more junk in my poor brain! Frequently, I go to say something and a word I know well, have known for years, but not needed lately, has vanished!! Ten minutes later, it pops into my head!! This happens in English and Cymraeg and with names of everything from people to places!! It may be dementia. I just know it’s very, very frustrating!!! Cure? Don’t get older!!

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The same problem and it always puts me WAY “DOWN the hill” almost to the bottom of it so I have to “climb” up again and again and again to gain comfortable spirit to contilue my learning process. The thing is even worse as in normal working day practice is almost impossible unless talking to myself on the bus … and with practice I mean repeating or learning lessons. Other practice I don’t have since I don’t live in Cymru and I don’t have people who would speak Cymraeg around me not even in a year what about every day.

To be honest I NEVER in my life met anyone in Slovenia who would speak Cymraeg. Once I passed one bar on railway station hearing someone saying to other person that he’s from Wales and even that was said in English. The person didn’t show any signs that he would even speak Cymraeg at all.

So, yes it is demoralising phenomenon for me and I’m not sure it’s really “curable” in deed. :slight_smile:

There are huge amounts of evidence that engaging in active learning, at any age, is beneficial to memory - so your efforts to learn Welsh are without any doubt at all having a positive impact, and the more you use it the more impact it’ll have :sunny:

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In answer to Aran’s question, for me they are a mix of words which aren’t regularly used, but also and worryingly, words that I have known a long time and really fumble for.

I think the remedy is to get as much realperson practice as possible. I remember my own bwtcamp experience - there’s no substitute for total immersion to make you forget niceties and forcing you to find ways of communicating.

Forcing in the nicest possible way of course.

At least I take comfort from not being alone

Onward and upwards, Friends
Or as Aran says ‘Ymlaen’

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Mmm… if I really was making efforts, you might be right, but I really use the Forum as a nice comfy blanket of Cymru to keep hiraeth away and SSiW as a memory aid rather than lessons, per se. I don’t learn much that I didn’t know, because I lurk in the early stages rather than rushing through the challenges!!

Interesting description. Does ‘known for a long time’ mean that you learnt them a long time ago and use them regularly, or just the former?

I think you’ve identified your own solution, though - this sounds like the kind of stuff you pick up when the learning starts to slip into becoming an academic exercise, and you assess yourself against the unhelpful but very common learners’ goal of ‘being better’. You need to find another Welsh speaker whose company you like enough to spend an hour a week having a pint with them :sunny:

@henddraig - push yourself, move on, and you’ll reap the benefits. It’s becoming increasingly clear in all sorts of studies of memory, age, exercise, etc, that much of it boils down to ‘use it or lose it’… so very, very clearly, if you want to strengthen your memory, learning new things will do that for you :sunny:

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Sorry to interrupt, but I was an avid “Watergate watcher”! A very good friend was driving round London with, “Don’t blame me I’m from Massechussets” (spelling?) on his car. I knew all the names of all concerned and all the details. Recently, I had huge trouble remembering John Dean’s name. Now it pops up and I’ll probably forget something else. Is it like that Mark?
p.s. I have…the name of the friend!!

Having just entered my seventies * my aphasia in English is getting worse by the day much to the entertainment of my wife and frustration of myself. “Pass me the show-where-to-go-paper” instead of “pass me the map” is a dramatic example.

Strangely enough (although I’m sure there’s a brain-chemistry-thingy explanation) this doesn’t seem to apply to languages I’ve learned such as French, Welsh and Italian. We have just spent a marvellous time in the Languedoc and then Catalonia and now Aragon and I’ve been talking more confidently than ever. (Might be something to do with the grape-juice-thingy, though :wink: )

  • Being in my 70s, I now wish to be known on the forum as “y doethawr hynafol” :laughing:

I, when forgetting a word in one language, mentally having resolved ‘no English’ fill in with the word of the same meaning in another!! I might just have used ‘carte’ in your example, but maybe not in an English context? My own example was ‘halen’ to a French friend!!

I tend to use German or Italian words when I can’t find (mostly) Welsh ones and the fact is that Italian (although I’ve spoke it very well) is totally forgotten now. I don’t use it, I don’t write in it … nothing for already about approximately 20 years.

The similar thing happens when I speak English. Despite I wouldn’t remember German words when speaking German, they’d flow in when speaking English.

However, you just have to bear in mind I rearly speak other language then Slovene. I simply don’t have the chance for that however I write in English a lot but not in German, Italian, Serbo-Croatian and more less in Spanish which I once taught myeslf a bit too.

I won’t speak about Cymraeg what concerns writing as my (although correct) writing is full of help with glosaries and Google translate for words to be written correctly while in English I don’t need that but am writing as I’d write in Slovene (my native language) even without too much of thinking (transkating)

So, yes, memory is really strange thing and my seams to be VERY complicated one and it doesn’t function in a way old out and new in but is kind of mixture of all this with addition of very much fristration and anger upon myself being so forgetful. From there comes my “beginners moaning” all the time allover this forum and elswhere upon everything what couldn’t stick into my head and stay inthere. :slight_smile:

But (at least I think so) the things are calming down slowly although I don’t remember more then I did before and I still care when forgeting things occurs.

Thanks, but I don’t seem to have any probs speaking learned languages. It’s only when I speak English that my aphasia kicks in. I should add that I have long since accepted this as a natural part of growing old :smile: It doesn’t worry me any more than the creaky joints :laughing: