Learning Welsh as an Independent Study; North or South Dialect?

I’m currently in high school, or secondary school. Next year, which will be my last year of secondary school, I am doing an independent study on the Welsh language during my final year. I have a few questions for you all.

Should I learn the north or south dialect of the language? I have tried lesson one of each and done a bit of my own research, and I was thinking about the northern dialect, but I have heard that the southern dialect is more commonly used. So, it’s a bit of a conflict there.

What type of textbook would you recommend?

Will it mess up my learning during the SSiW course if I attempt to learn to read Welsh at the same time as speak it? I heard Aron say that it may be a bad idea to write things down, because I’ll use it as a crutch in my learning. But reading textbooks and literature in Welsh, is that any different?



Go to FAQs (up at the top there) and scroll down to the second Q, ‘Should I learn northern or southern Welsh?’ for the first bit… :sunny:

I’d recommend that you put your time into SSiW rather than into textbooks, to get as far as possible in the shortest time possible.

If you decide to mix methods and do other stuff at the same time, it won’t prevent you learning with SSiW, but it regularly seems to me that people who work through our stuff first and then move on to other kinds of input seem to find the process clearer and more straightforward… :sunny:


Heini Gruffudd’s “Welsh Rules” is a very good textbook.
Gareth King’s “Colloquial Welsh” is a very good textbook.
Many others, no insult meant by omitting them!
Personally, I (along with other people I know) found them very useful along with SSiW right from the off, and found neither process interfered with the other. (Including evening classes.) :blush:
(Each to their own best way of learning, of course! :blush:)


Thank you for your reply!
I do plan on spending as much of the study as I can with the SSiW course because my main goal is to speak Welsh relatively well in a quick period of just 185 days (the length of my school year), however, it’s a limitation the school board put on my study is that I have to read some Welsh too. :sunflower:

(Sorry for spelling your name wrong. :slight_smile:)


Thanks for your reply!
I had read some good things about both of those books you mentioned, and I had actually been looking very closely at “Colloquial Welsh.”


I chose the Northern dialect using a sophisticated scientific method: Harry Potter !

When I discovered that HP1 had been translated into Northern Welsh, well, it was a no-brainer from then on. :smile: (I have HP in en, fr, it, ger and eo. Yeah, I’m weird).

As far as textbooks go, l agree with aran. Don’t waste your time on them–unless you’re one of those unfortunate people who MUST learn languages through grammar and rote memorization (oh, the horror!). Much better to learn the SSiW way, then after 6 months or so, you can satisfy your curiosity by drilling all the grammar you want. You’ll be in a much better position to benefit from it when you’re comfortable with the language.

I know a few languages and learned all but one using the massive language input model: listening and repeating useful sentences and getting massive amounts of radio and TV right from the start. Recent experience: I started Italian 5 months ago with this method. I now can understand 90-95% of all audio and 95-100% of any non-technical text–reading novels is a breeze. My speaking is lagging behind because I didn’t start speaking right away–I listened to too many YouTube polyglots. So. The SSiW method works. Do it. You’ll thank me later. :sunglasses:

For another take on this, google AJATT. This is a fantastic site which recommends massive L2 input. There’s tons of very entertaining articles to show you how to do it. It goes very well with the SSiW method. (BTW the AJATT site author went from level 0 to fluency in Japanese in 18 months). “You don’t learn a language, you get used to it.”

Hwyl !


From, probably, the oldest person on the Forum, to, possibly, one of the youngest! When you think about it, we all learn to read and write some years after learning to talk. In the past, little kids went to school in Cymru and were faced with learning to speak, write and read English, all at once, with physical punishment to drill the lessons home!
It is clear that learning to talk first makes learning to read those words a lot easier. Even if the alphabet is totally phonetic, if you don’t know a word exists, it’s hard to have confidence in your reading.
So, I agree with all the others. Spend as much time as you can in SSiW and then crash course your reading towards the end. Where are you? Watching S4C can be very helpful. You may be able to get subtitles in English or Cymraeg. If you watch programmes for small kids, the words tend to be easier, so you could start with those!
Lwc dda!!!


I wouldn’t say there was such a thing as “northern Welsh” :blush:
Welsh spoken in the north, Welsh in the south etc. It’s just that the description of it as being in “northern Welsh” sounds a little odd to me. Myself, I found the Harry Potter books as being translated into Welsh - but then I had been talking to a fair few people and studied different sources before trying to read them. But there we are. :blush:

If the books you have been trying only teach through rote memorization and lists of gramnar, I would say you have been trying the wrong books. :blush:

I certainly wouldn’t call myself “unfortunate”, and as I say, many people have found the above books as very helpful in their journey to learning Welsh. I know that I, for one, would be no where near as fluent as I am, nowhere near enjoying using as much Welsh on a daily basis as I am today without them - and without other sources.

For one,vas I say. (And also other people I know) :blush:


Absolutely! And coming across new words and learning to read them makes learning to talk easier- but that’s just what I found!

Similarly, reading helps you come across and learn the meaning of new words, and thus have confidence in your speaking!
As I say, just what I found. Some people find reading much more frustrating than others, and everyone is in different circumstances regarding opportunities and time for using Welsh- I’m not saying what was good for me will be good for everybody!


Points well taken. My remark about “unfortunates” was a little bit tongue-in-cheek. I realize there are many learning styles and preferences, and that’s great. Whatever works, works. I was just relating my own experience. As for Harry Potter, that is a long-term goal. I normally read a lot of short texts for some time before tackling novels. And I recommend others do the same–if they like.

Thanks for the comment. Best of luck with your studies.


And from the sounds of your experience with languages, that sounds like something which could be very useful to a lot of people!


I just had another skim through this to remind myself…I did find some northern usages but I had to look quite a long way before they became apparent, so I don’t think it’s going to cause any particular difficulty to people who have started learning using the southern version of the courses/challenges.

It has other difficulties, however, and it’s not a book for beginner readers, in my humble opinion, even though it’s a children’s/teenager’s book, and even if you have the English version side by side with it.

However, when one is ready for it, another one to consider might be the “Cyfres o Ddigwyddiadau Anfoddus” series by Lemony Snicket, which I discovered last year in Wales. It contains what would be called southern usages but again, I had to look quite hard to find them, and I don’t think it would present any particular difficulty to people (like myself) who have come up through the Gog route.

These were originally written in English, and it says on the frontispiece “Addasiad gan Aled Islwyn” - Addasiad is “adaptation” rather than “translation”. This may mean that it is not a literal translation from the English. I imagine the English versions are not hard to find to compare with it, but I don’t have one.

Anyway, it seems to be supported by the Welsh Book Council and I think it’s from a reputable publisher, so I’m sure it’s good quality Welsh and not some google translation. (There are some of those out there as I’ve discovered lately, so one has to be a bit careful with translations, and ideally, it’s probably better to go for something that was written in Welsh to begin with, unless one can verify the bona fides of the translator, or at least check it with a native speaker or very experienced speaker).

On your point of “massive input”, I agree, and am doing what I can myself in that direction, both listening and reading. (But I did not start reading until well into Course 2 of the original SSiW).


I remember when I was younger attempting to read Dickens and such things alongside children’s books. I certainly didn’t manage to finish them, but it didn’t put me off reading! Wanting to read stuff like that actually increased the rate at which I learnt to read.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that the best attitude to gave when speaking Welsh is just to get out and do it. To speak to as many different people as possible. To fall down, dust yourself off and start again. To use the fact you don’t understand everything as a spur to learning more. To not confine yourself to speaking to learners on the same course as you because they have the same vocabulary and construction of sentence knowledge, but to speak to people who use vocabulary you don’t know, who speak in a different way- and to not get depressed you don’t understand them speaking, but to get interested and enjoy it!

I found that this attitude worked for me with speaking. And I found it worked for me with reading. I think the best suggestion for learning to read is to get out there and read, :blush: Don’t panic, don’t worry, just read as much as you can. You’ll soon find the level and style you enjoy most- but try everything. Try it, fail, don’t worry, enjoy it, because you will be learning as you go. :blush:


In terms of similar series, the Artemis Fowl books are in Welsh.
Like mikeellwood, though, I really think the best thing is to go for books originally written in Welsh. Not only are you guaranteed a natural Welsh construction, you get to appreciate to something you haven’t before- always a good thing! And you can give a bit of support to starving Welsh writers :blush:
Elgan Philip Davies wrote a series for young people with a magical paranormal thing going on. Less obvious than Harry Potter. More old fashioned somehow. With everything normal on the surface but hints of something going on in the background. (but then, I like that!)
Plenty of others you can discover if you just get out there and start reading!:blush:


A lot of the Roald Dahl stories have been translated into Welsh by Elin Meek, who wrote the first classroom text book that I ever used, southern(ish) version of the language. Roald Dahl, born of Norwegian parents in Wales, but I can’t find any evidence that he spoke Welsh. Anyway, his stories are shorter, much, than Harri Potter, and the translation sits much easier on my ears and eyes than the northern HP.


No worries with the name - you’re not the first, and won’t be the last…:wink:

If you’re focusing on tight timescales, it might be a good idea for you to have a look at the guidelines and discussions in our Accelerated Welsh group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/441099812756153/

There’s no reason why you shouldn’t get through all of our material in much less time than you have available - if you did 2 sessions per day, with no repetition (as we recommend in the Accelerated Welsh group), you’d have finished all our material in about 50 days - at which point, you could then switch your focus to massive L2 input via listening exercises and reading, which ought to cover all your bases with the teachers!.. :sunny:

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Thanks a lot, that was a very interesting link/suggestion.

I completely agree about massive L2 input - it’s the only way to real competence, and it’s at the route of how we’re going to be approaching things once we’ve got L3 ready.

I find it interesting that so many advocates of massive L2 input suggest input before output, too (which I’ve seen suggested a couple of times on the AJATT site) - that instinctively makes very little sense to me, since there’s so much fun to be had from starting to produce in a new language - I think the ideal is what you describe with your Italian, for people who’ve got the confidence to accept the large amounts of initial incomprehensible input… :sunny:

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He couldn’t. (He could speak Norwegian though!) He left Wales when very young, and may not even gave regarded himself as Welsh in any important way. There has certainly never been the same “Roald Dahl was Welsh!” Attitude towards him that there often is to other famous people born in Wales, perhaps reflecting that. That is, he didn’t seem to think his Welsh connections were important, and Wales agreed with him :blush:

(Mind you, considering some of his views on certain subjects, that might not be a bad thing… I shall stop there!)

I was intially sold on input before output. It got me to a pretty good passive level in the other language I’m working on now. The theory is that with enough input, speaking will come naturally. But with SSiW, you start speaking right away. But it’s not speaking acutally, it’s more imitating, I think. Which is excellent and much better than trying to come up with original utterances, at least for beginners.

I think the “input before output” advocates have got a point, though. They say you can’t speak if you don’t have enough familiarity with the the language through listening and reading, i.e. enough vocabulary and language structure. That’s good as far as it goes, but if you don’t practice speaking, or imitating, you won’t learn to speak. It took me many years after leaving school to reach fluency in a language I’d “learned” in university. The problem was lack of speaking practice, among other things.

Anyway, SSiW has been a sort of epiphany for me. I admit I was a bit skeptical, but your emphasis on speaking (imitating) right away is spot on. I’m very pleased to be able to produce some real Cymraeg as a beginner. And I’m surprised to have some words/phrases get “stuck in my head”. I find myself repeating some of them easily between lessons. So talking right from the start seems to work for me. And it’s fun, if a bit stressfull not using the “pause” button (I do use it, but sparingly for now). So, I’ll be applying the SSiW method to the other language I’ve been working on for months, i.e. speaking useful sentences (my Berlitz phrase book should be good for that). Diolch !


Passive input like films, radio and reading give me the impression that I am making excellent progress. It appears that I am having quite fluent conversations “in my mind”. I do quite a lot of passive learning. The result, for me, in terms of speaking however is very poor.

So I am a convert to the SSiW approach of SPEAK, SPEAK, SPEAK - by imitation or otherwise. I find it works wonders, And no other method in my experience compares in effectiveness - by a considerable margin - if your goal is to speak the language;