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:
- Given in context (inside sentences), not as lists of words (which are depressing and not so very useful)
- Structured, according to topics and level
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Coursebooks. Grammar exercises normally have very good vocabulary in it, that I can write down and practice separately.
- 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