Learning new vocabulary

When I started learning Welsh, I understood that I was facing a completely new question, that I had never had before, while learning English, Italian or French, - how to find relevant vocabulary.
SSIW provides us with a very good base of wonderful high-frequency words and collocations (collocations are words that like being together, like “enill yn hawdd” or “mynd mas”). But for someone who wants to start talking, reading, writing (or working…) as soon as he/she can, nothing is ever enough. And here, I was faced with an issue. I needed to decide which words to learn first (because you can’t just learn everything that pops up on the page – it’s hard and meaningless).
Now, when you’re learning English, you can choose among a variety of books: English vocabulary in use, English collocations in use, Key words for fluency and so on. They are all methodologically well thought-through and contain good words, that are:

  1. Given in context (inside sentences), not as lists of words (which are depressing and not so very useful)
  2. Structured, according to topics and level
  3. Recycled throughout the book – they appear again and again in new texts and topics until you’re literally forced to remember them.
    But English is a big industry, Welsh is smaller. So, I have to organize my own vocabulary learning somehow and I’ve come up with some things that maybe will be useful to other learners.
  4. I read every day, but not fiction books - they are too hard for me at the moment and contain a lot of very specific vocabulary. I read BBC Cymru and other websites with news and articles and interviews that are not too high-brow and that are on everyday topics. While I’m reading, I note down all expressions that seem useful – not just a word, but a word in context. Then I write some sentences to practice these new expressions. And then, when I’m a bit more familiar with the new expressions, I talk to my imaginary Welsh friends (everyone who is learning a language outside the target country should have them). Some teachers advise to record yourself while you’re speaking – well, I don’t do that, because I hate my voice, but I see how well it works with my own students.
    Articles are my main source of new vocabulary - for example, some days ago I read a wonderful article on New Year’s resolutions on Cymry Fyw, that gave me excellent expressions for talking about exercise, weight loss and alcohol – which topics, I think, are more than suitable to pull off a decent conversation.
  5. I read forums, blogs and FB posts in Welsh and do exactly the same thing – I write down useful expressions and use them to make up sentences and monologues.
  6. I watch S4C (also every day, if I can) – first with no subtitles, than with subtitles. Then again with no subtitles. I’m terrible at listening comprehension, and this exercise develops it (well, sort of. It should, though sometimes I think I’ll die before I can understand spoken Welsh). Again, I write down things and make up sentences. Audio and video files are very nice, because you can pause them and “take part” in the conversation – answer a question, give your own opinion, just repeat something after the actors.
  7. Coursebooks. Grammar exercises normally have very good vocabulary in it, that I can write down and practice separately.
  8. Wordlists – some good people write lists of useful expressions and post them on the Learn Welsh FB page and on Pinterest. I don’t like wordlists: taken out of the context, words tend to get forgotten much more easily. But they are also a good source and they work for a lot of people.

One consideration – I never write down and practice all the new words from an article or a video. At my (pathetically low) level of Welsh, I would just be buried under all the new vocabulary. I normally try to concentrate on one topic, for example, reading or keeping fit, and write down all the relevant vocabulary. Then it’s more convenient for the organization of the vocabulary notebook – I can have separate pages devoted to separate topics.
Why have I decided to write this horribly long post? (Because I’m an organization freak who wants to optimize everything) Well, this, and, also - I just wanted to share what I do, perhaps, it can be useful for someone, and to ask – what do you do to find/organize/practice new vocabulary? Are there any good books that are aimed at expanding it? Thanks :sunny:


Bore da Stella - ti’n gweithio yn galed ar dy Gymraeg ac yn trefnu’r gwaith yn dda. Dw i’n siŵr dy fod di’n mynd i lwyddiannu. Mae dy Saesneg yn ardderchog. For vocabulary building, I use Memrise and I’m sure that you’re familiar with it. I agree that unrelated lists of words are not aways useful and are not easily retained in the long run unless they are put to use. Also some of the Memrise lists contain blatant errors because they are compiled by learners. ( e.g. anghofia fol instead of anghofia fo for forget it and anwybod instead of anwybodaeth for ignorance) I also find reading useful and began with children’s books before graduating to contemporary adult novels or memoirs with plenty of dialogue. I read for general meaning and only look up words that crop up a bit and have registered with me. I have the same approach when listening and speaking - I don’t get hung up on a word but try and get the drift or tailor my own thoughts to the vocabulary that I have rather than reverting to English because of getting fixated on a word I don’t know. I use this approach with French as well as Welsh and retain words/expressions from Memrise best when I have already heard or read them somewhere else.


Thank you very much for your answer!

Diolch yn fawr iawn, dych chi’n garedig iawn. English is a labour of love for me :sunny:

Yes, that’s what I noticed about their Russian, so I never advise it to anyone unless I know a set of words that is perfectly correct. Sometimes I use Quizlet, another website, similar to Memrise, that helps remember lists of words. But I somehow noticed that I can’t use these words later in a conversation, they just don’t come to my mind for some reason - while whole sentences that I’ve learned with SSIW or just made up - these, I can remember with no difficulty.

Do you use an English-Welsh or a Welsh-Welsh dictionary?

Or, maybe you won’t mind suggesting something to read? Something with a lot of dialogue? I’m slowly reading “Diffodd y Ser” now, about the poet Ellis Evans - it’s a bit too complicated, but I’m very interested in his biography.


I use the Collins/Spurrell Pocket Welsh Dictionary, the Modern Welsh Dictionary by Gareth King and especially Y Geiriadur Mawr - The Complete Welsh-English, English-Welsh Dictionary. The Gareth King dictionary is popular with the students in our Welsh classes because it allows for mutations and context, two of the things you were after. Children’s books worth trying include the Tudur Budr series ( mishaps of a grotty but well meaning little boy). Dewi Prysor is a contemporary author who uses modern idiom,slang and quite a bit of strong language e.g. ‘Brithyll’. ( I only discovered this because I am a trout fisherman.)The entertaining Mici Plwm’s autobiography is also a good read - ‘Mici Ddrwg o Dwll y Mwg.’ He was closely involved with the emergence of rock music through the medium of Welsh in the 1970’s.


Thank you very much:) A reading list can’t be too long.

I bet you’d have a word with any of your own learners who put themselves down like this…:wink:

Language levels are all relative - as you know - and it’s not a bad thing to be a beginner - so there’s nothing pathetic about your Welsh… :sunny: :star2:


Thank you, Aran:) In fact, there are good things about being a beginner - I can understand what my students feel and be kinder to them.


I think it’s a huge advantage for any language teacher to be permanently engaged in the early stages of a language they don’t speak - for exactly that reason… :sunny:


Yes, and it gives a fantastic opportunity to look at exercises and approaches from a learner’s perspective: what is useful and what is not. I’ve re-evaluated lots of things I used to suggest to my students, and I’m trying now to write down and share all the things that work best for me and help me improve listening, speaking and so on.


Good news for people who are trying to read Cymraeg:
I just finished praising BBC Cymru Fyw articles for how simple and useful for learning they are - and they made their website even better.
It has now a fantastic tool for learners - the Vocab button that enables you to see the translations of the words in their articles without leaving the page, just by placing your cursor on the word. This has increased the speed of my reading enormously and has made it so much more pleasant. :sunny:


Thanks for posting that, @stella tella - I had a quick look at the BBC Cymry Fyw website with the vocab button, and it looks like a great resource.

You might like to look at Lingo Newydd. It is a magazine for learners published by Golwg. The articles are color-coded to indicate difficulty (starting to learn, more experienced, very experienced). Each article is accompanied by a vocabulary list. It’s not a big magazine - the Dec 15/Jan16 issue is about 20 pages - but there is no advertising, and it’s quite a bit of content. Unfortunately it is expensive to have it shipped outside of the UK. I am lucky because Sion Corn was very good to me and got me a subscription :slight_smile:

I have also recently finished reading “e-ffrindiau” by Lois Arnold, which is fiction. It was written for learners and has vocab at the bottom of each page. It is written as a series of e-mails between two women learners, and as such, gets progressively more difficult as the book goes on (and the learners learn more). I enjoyed it very much, and learned a lot of vocab. It would not be too hard for you.

I do use Memrise, but I agree with you that a lot of the vocab learned that way doesn’t really stick - at least not until I can use it in some way. I have been keeping a written journal in Welsh since November, just writing a simple paragraph or two about my day, and that has been a good way to make some of the words learned via Memrise, and words looked up in the dictionary, stick in my brain. I also make my own Memrise course out of words I keep hearing and don’t know. I seem to retain those better, probably because I chose them :smile:

Watching S4C can be an exercise in frustration, because it makes me realize how far from real-life comprehension I really am, but I love being immersed in the language and I am seeing myself make a tiny bit of progress, I think. I do really enjoy some of the programs. Wish I had more time to watch!

I had been listening to Radio Cymru a lot more previously, and I need to get back to putting that on in the background when I am doing other things like eating lunch or cooking supper. Lately I’ve been listening to Welsh music instead, which has also been a good way to learn vocab. I find that as time goes on, I can pick a new word or phrase out of songs I’ve already listened to many times, which is always fun.

Ok, I rambled on enough! Diolch i ti for sharing your experience and resources.


Diolch i ti, Anna, for sharing your experience and for advice! Unfortunately, I’m based outside Cymru, so the shipping of the magazine would cost probably too much, but maybe I can persuade by boyfriend, who’s from Cornwall, to subscribe and then bring it to me when he visits. I’m also very interested in E-ffrindiau, seems like a great book, and it’s graded! Oh, how I wish there were more graded books for learners in Welsh (preferably in the ebook form).

Oh, I do it too! I try to use the new words that I learned during the day. Sometimes I write poems, too, just to practice. I hope one day I will be able to reread them and correct all the grammar mistakes!

What are your favourite shows on S4C? I read in the other thread that you like Rownd a Rownd, I’ve started watching it too (thank you, those who made it available internationally - you’re my favourite people, together with BBC). But I like Dim ond y gwir most of all. And Bore da, of course, which is wonderful because it has English AND Welsh subtitles available.

Listening is always the hardest skill to develop. (I realize that this thought doesn’t make it any less frustrating - but still, it gives me some consolation when I want to shout at myself for not understanding a word of the spoken Cymraeg).

Yes, it’s wonderful:) I listen to Welsh songs every day. Even if I don’t understand much, it’s nice and keeps me motivated.
To keep my motivation high, I also try to read a lot about Wales, even though it’s mostly in English at the moment. I bought a historical novel by Sharon Key Penman “Here be dragons”, I think it’s going to be very interesting. And I have a lot of books about customs in the rural 19th century Wales (my favourite era to read about).
Learning a language is like being in love - the more you like the person the more you want to know him. And then at some point you realize it becomes a part of your life:)


This is similar to RedLang’s feature what is actually more then great! And, If I’m correct, there somewhere is @CatrinLliarJones’ article too on BBC Cymru Fyw … Ah, ya, to point it out, here’s the link to her thread about her article, started by @aran. Maybe her article can be translated with that “translate” button too. I will check this out later on, but if one has a will and is curious enough, then I’d be glad to hear from you.


It would be great if there were more books available as e-books - it makes it a lot easier for those of us who live overseas. I also have another book (paper) by Lois Arnold, called “Sgwp!”, and one by Bethan Gwanas called “Bywyd Blodwen Jones”. These are also for learners, but a step up from “e-ffrindiau”. I am saving them for now, because I haven’t learned the “short forms” yet.

I also like “Dim Ond Y Gwir” very much, although I’ve come into it in the middle. I watch “Dal Ati: Bore Da”, too. I absolutely loved “Lan a Lawr” and am impatiently waiting for the second series to be available internationally. I enjoyed “Becws”, especially since I had seen Beca on “The Great British Baking Show” when it was shown in the US. I liked “Natur Cymru”, “Patagonia Huw Edwards” (I think that’s the name), and I watched a lot of Eisteddfod coverage. Not available internationally (so far) on S4C is “Y Gwyll”, - I watched the first series in English on Netflix, and then purchased the Welsh version DVDs. I’ am really hoping they will put the second series on S4C international!

Sounds interesting! I have been reading some fiction by Welsh women authors published by Honno Press (which I discovered via Elizabeth Jane Corbett’s blog - http://elizabethjanecorbett.com - Thanks, Elizabeth Jane!). I’ve recently finished “Eden’s Garden” by Juliet Greenwood - it was excellent. And I have been able to find these as e-books, which is great!

I had no idea when I started looking at Welsh pronunciation, found SSiW, and dipped my toe in, how much a part of my life this would become! There’s no going back now :slight_smile:


That’s the perfect statement of what has happened to so many of us,



So many interesting information - thank you very-very much, Anna! I will try to catch up with the S4C programs you mention - I really only watched Bore Da, Dim ond y Gwir, Rownd a Rownd and the programs for learners, but I definitely must go out of my comfort zone and watch something that is not a drama:)

And thanks a lot for mentioning Honno Press - I love reading and I am very interesting in the contemporary Welsh writers. I found Juliet Greenwood’s books available as ebooks - could you maybe roughly tell what the one you read is about, and how you would describe it? I trust people I now more than reviews left by strangers.
Maybe we should have some thread called “Beth ydych chi’n darllen ar hyn o bryd?” It could be in English, of course, but I think it would be a fun way to practice Welsh - and to give/get advice on what to read.

A mystery, the connection between two women’s lives woven between the past and the present, a story of the struggle of women everywhere to balance their lives, romance in the best meaning of the word…I don’t want to ruin any of the magic by writing too much. The synopsis from Honno Press is here ., and there is a link there to a beautiful trailer on YouTube. I thought it was really well written and I had a hard time putting it down. If you check out Elizabeth’s Jane’s blog, she writes book reviews occasionally, which are really well done.

As far as the S4C programs go, it’s hard because they only last for 30 days or so, and then they are gone. Too bad there isn’t a way to “record” them to be able to watch them later!

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Thanks a lot, I’ve put it on my list.

It looks exactly like something I would like to read.

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Is it just me, or is that Vocab tool only available on the website, not the app? I usually read Cymru Fyw on my tablet using the app, and I can’t see how to turn the Vocab tool on there.

It’s great on the website though!

And if you’re after a good book to try - Pwy sy’n cofio Siôn by Mair Evans isn’t bad. Although it’s written for “learners” it is also interesting to read and will definitely extend you. It’s available through sites like Amazon or this one Siop Cwlwm (though it appears to be sold out at the moment - sorry)

Njami! Something to test for me. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh … Let’s see. :slight_smile:

It seams it isn’t available on the app. But, as always, I’ll go right to the source and ask what’s this all about. They don’t bite. - hehe. Will report back their answer.

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