Level 1 Northern

I just completed Challenge 1 of the northern course and I have a question regarding fedra i ddim.
I can’t quite tell whether the f is pronounced like an f or more like a v (or something in between?)



Shwmae Georg, and welcome to the forum!
The ‘f’ used in “fedra i…” is pronounced like the English ‘v’. As there is no actual ‘v’ in the Welsh alphabet, they use ‘f’ for the ‘v’ sound, and ‘ff’ for the English ‘f’ sound.
At this early stage of the course, I would recommend that you refrain from checking the course guide until you have completed a few lessons at the very least, so you get used to the sounds more. By checking the guides at this early stage, you will naturally try to read the words as you would in English, with the English pronounciations included, and this could affect your ability to sound more natural when you are speaking in Welsh. Unless of course you are already a little familiar with the Welsh alphabet and its pronounciations of each letter, but just need to fine-tune some of the letters. Either way, I hope this helps! Good luck with the rest of the course.

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Shwmae faithless!
I’m not a native English speaker either, and I tend to mix things up as I have a lot of languages floating around in my brain at the moment :smiley:
I’ll put down the lesson guide for the time being, thank you for the tip!


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Hi georgw!

As mentioned above, “f” in Welsh represents the sound generally represented in English by “v”,
and “ff” in Welsh represents the sound generally represented in English by “f”.

(If you are familiar with English, this happens in the English words “off” and “of”, where the letters “ff” and “f” in the English words are used irregularly to represent the sounds they have in Welsh.)

Thankfully, unlike English, Welsh uses the spelling quite consistently!

I myself would say the Welsh alphabet is comparitavely easy to come to terms with, and that even taking into account the dialect versus standard Welsh pronunciation there is less difference between spelling and pronunciation in Welsh than there is in many other languages, so that it is relatively easy to become familiar with the Welsh alphabet. And an approximate description of the sounds of the alphabet on the lesson guide would be useful in answering questions such as yours.

[Now, many people on this site would disagree with the following sentiment.] I would say (generally speaking, all other thing being equal) the earlier you do this the better. You will, however, have to look to other sources if you do wish to.

There is a strong opinion on SSiW that trying to read in the early stages of learning is actually bad for the learning process. I disagree (very strongly) with this opinion, and indeed believe the opposite to be true (that early learning of the alphabet and how to read generally improves your learning of the language), but I am not going to start linking to sources telling you where you can get them on this site! There are plenty out there, however.

However, (big however!) remember that Aran has a lot of experience with people learning Welsh, far more than me - but my mind has yet to be changed on this subject! But many others have been. Many others have been.

And, of course, remember that whatever other sources you use, whatever other sorts of learning are good for you, always always always continue with SSiW - other sources may compliment it, but nothing is better. And if I seem to be saying that as a fact in an unjustifiable way, that’s simply through seeing the effect it has on me and other people around me learning Welsh, all of whom use many different sorts of learning sources.

Anyhow, whatever you do, always remember you are able to pop onto this forum at any time and ask any question about pronunciation, and there will usually be someone who will be willing and able to answer your question as soon as they can!

Or any question on anything about Welsh, come to speak of it…

Or any question at all, sometimes…

[edited to take out me putting words into Aran’s mouth over what he says on the subject.]

Just to clarify a little on this - we have plenty of evidence that early reading is bad for the development of an accurate accent, which of course isn’t the same thing as the learning process itself.

It’s also very clear that the more time spent listening, the stronger the learner’s listening skills will be - and since this is something that a great many courses/approaches are very light on, we encourage people strongly to focus on this skill. That’s not the same as saying that early reading is bad for ‘the learning process’ - if someone is concerned with gaining access to texts and not interested in understanding the spoken language, then early reading is clearly going to be more beneficial for them.

I think perhaps referring to ‘the/a’ learning process muddies these waters - what we say at heart is that speaking, listening and reading are qualitatively different processes, that early reading won’t help with speaking and listening, and that on occasion it keeps less confident learners trapped in a more traditional approach.

Thank you for your response and for correcting me!

Absolutely! 100% in agreement with you on this. It’s what SSiW does so well, and as always many thanks are due to you.
No one could disagree with that!
Well, they could, but they would be mad.

Now that’s great. I have little knowledge on such subjects, (my evidence is only based on my experience and the anecdotal experiences of others), and whether the evidence is accepted and who by, etc. And whether such things have been tested in comparison through “only” reading with reading along with listening, or along with listening and/or speaking and reading, etc. I mean, only reading will not teach you the accent, even if it is well explained, and is a terrible way of learning a language anyway.

I agree with this statement 100%, but if you imply that it necessarily means that learning to read will only be beneficial to people not interested in learning the spoken language, I disagree with it. If it is to point out I should have specified that I meant the “learning process” of learning the spoken language, then that certainly illustrates your point.

You are right, I should have said I meant learning the spoken language. It is what I meant and intended to do. So thanks for pointing that out!

The first part of this sentence I disagree with, the second I sort of agree with. Being trapped in a traditional approach is bad. Perhaps on occasion the very fact of learning to read keeps some people trapped. I don’t know. I would have thought other attitudes would be more important in this, but I see your point. However, not learning to read and write early on occasion deprives other learners of the chance to improve their spoken skills. Horses for courses.

I’m not sure I get what you’re saying here. Maybe some examples would help? If you have any links to evidence that early reading helps with speaking and listening, I’d be very keen to see them :sunny:

I’m sorry, I can’t see why it is not clear, so I’m not sure how else I can say it.

Certainly! Being able to read Welsh letters from an early time enabled me to see how words should be pronounced if I came across them in writing. Combined with a dictionary, this enabled me to understand them if I heard someone say them or even to use them myself.

Reading Welsh from an early time gave me access to an enormous amount of Welsh around me in everyday life.
It increased my vocabulary tremendously, demonstrated patterns of Welsh in use and enabled me to see and experience Welsh in use at any time of the day when I had time. I was then able to use this extra vocabulary (or increased understanding of the subtleties of old vocabulary), new patterns (or increased familiarity with patterns I knew) when I spoke with people. This (the reading) was of particular help at the times when I did not have an opportunity to speak (or indeed, start to speak) Welsh with people around me.

It still helps now, and because I started early, in my opinion I have been able to take a lot of advantage of such opportunities.

Other people I know have expressed similar opinions about their own experience.

As I specified above, “my evidence is only based on my experience and the anecdotal experiences of others”. I was careful not to claim I had any empirical evidence or studies specific to these points.

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What I’m not understanding is your claim that not reading/writing early deprives people of ‘the chance to improve their spoken skills’ - I’m unclear exactly how you believe early reading/writing improves speaking skills.

Your examples seem to me to be about increasing vocabulary, not improving speaking per se. In which case, we’re really discussing a fairly fundamental difference in methodology - I believe that vocab is best acquired through a process of interleavened practice, spaced repetition and aural production (although interleaving will often not feel as successful to the learner, even when it leads to better results: http://gocognitive.net/interviews/benefits-interleaving-practice).

Having said that, people who enjoy reading, and are willing to go through the inevitable ‘look up every second word’ stage, will of course get value from the process. But for many learners, pre-conditioned by experience and expectations, a focus on reading from the beginning will encourage them to delay/reduce the much more challenging (and much more rewarding) focus on listening - I’ve seen this happen too many times to believe it’s an edge case (and of course it’s also a part of the associated issues with accent).

So, I can well believe that someone like you who enjoys reading and is a confident self-directed learner will feel that early reading was beneficial for him. What we can’t measure in any individual case, of course, and what we as yet don’t have enough large scale studies for (despite strong academic evidence for various parts of it), is whether or not the time you spent reading would have lead to faster acquisition if it had instead been invested in speaking/listening.

I suspect there’s a lot of work or previous exposure needed here to avoid the extremely common problem of English speakers mispronouncing Welsh words precisely because they’ve seen the written form, but pronounce ‘dd’, ‘f’, etc as though they were the familiar English letters they appear to be. I find it easy to believe that someone as detailed and careful (and, er, Welsh!) as you would avoid most of those pitfalls, but I’ve seen far too many people have lasting trouble with this to believe that it could be generally successful.

On this point, it is quite often easier to find time suitable for reading than find time suitable for speaking. Of course, my reading’s so bad that I never get anywhere with it, but with something like Memrise I can slowly acquire some vocabulary that way when otherwise I’d be doing nothing. 30mins might be better spent on an SSiW lesson than Memrise, but time when I can’t do a lesson? Probably a case where suboptimal learning is better than nothing. Perhaps.

And patterns of how the words are used to mean stuff, how sentences are put together, how the language works and fits together to form sentences.

Come across a word or construction in writing, then start using it when you do speak to people - bingo! :wink:

I think that’s it, maybe - I mean how you are using the language outside the -erm… learning process :blush: [that’s a rather happy looking “embarassed” icon], outside the challenges, lessons or whatever may have an effect on the effectiveness of various types of learning processes. And certainly individual attitudes, as you say.

I think I said somewhere before to you that I certainly believed time should be spent speaking rather than reading where possible, but it’s not always possible. And it’s not always possible for people to have time to do either as much as they would like, so I can certainly understand priority being given to speaking and listening.

Having gone through a stultifying two years of a mynediad course, we were lucky enough to have a good teacher. Most of the students from outside Wales seemed to get to grips with the basic letter pronunciations. (And those from outside the UK, generally already at least bilingual and more comfortable with the concept of a letter not just meaning one sound were even better, of course!) Oh, I mean some still struggled right through to the further courses, but most seem not to carry on making basic mistakes- and those who did tended to be the ones who don’t use their Welsh in or out of class (as I said, only reading and writing is a kiss of death for learning a language!)

Unscientific, not enough of a sample, and I think we have been lucky to have good tutors most of the way through.

But yes, I would certainly say for reading to be of use, you do have to have… well, an access to the spoken language, shall I say.

[Actually, having said that, I would have thought SSiW provided that very effectively… but never mind!]

So anyway, whatever our disagreements about reading (probably not as great as they might appear, as often happens), I certainly think that to alter anything like that in SSiW would simply be er… the opposite of rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic? Is there an idiom for that? Making tiny changes for the improvement of something which is sailing along magnificently?

Oh, incidentally, I shouldn’t have used the word “deprived”. I certainly did not mean it in that way, but it does have overtones which I didn’t intend.

SSiW users are not deprived in any way.

Depraved, yes. But not deprived.

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Just another point in SSiW’s favour: With SSiW you are speaking almost from the word go, and pretty much matching the quantity of speaking with the quantity of listening. I don’t think I’ve come across that anywhere else (possibly early Linguaphone? - not sure, but I’ve heard good reports about them).

So almost by definition, the vocabulary and structures you acquire are “active” and not simply “passive”.

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Gilding the lily!” That’s it.

Sort of.

Maybe not though, thinking about it.

Sorry, move along now. Nothing to see here.

Yup, I think that’s almost always the case, although I’d suspect that a lot of the time there’s also an element of habituation - reading something while you wait for a train might seem like ‘better than nothing’, but if you’d developed the habit of having an mp3 player in your pocket with some accelerated dialogues on it, there’d be another alternative to nothing…

Personal preference is important, too - for some people, reading a bit might feel relaxing and easy enough to do when they’re too tired to focus on speech production, and don’t feel Zen enough to do listening exercises - which is probably the main reason why I’ve never (as far as I can remember!) actually scolded people for reading…:wink:

Ah - I think we might be reading the word ‘early’ differently here (reading, huh?!) - someone doing the first 10 sessions of SSiW is going to pick up very, very little extra stuff on those fronts from reading, because they’re not going to have the core vocabulary they need to do much more than pick painstakingly through each individual word in a dictionary.

So yes, we’re not really all that far from common ground. I don’t think that the process of reading per se does active damage (input is input, after all), but I do feel that the tempting familiarity and ease of the written word can be a negative distraction for early stage learners (say up to about Lesson 15) who are not used to focusing on speaking and listening (and that learners who focus on speaking/listening only for the first 15-25 lessons consistently seem to have unusually good accents, significantly better than I’ve witnessed from any traditional courses).

In an ideal world, I wouldn’t harp on about it all that much at all - the only reason it feels so front-and-centre here is that reading/writing from the start is normal for the vast majority of learners, so we have to make a bit of a song and dance out of it just to get people to consider an alternative approach (not dissimilar to the heavy emphasis we put on the English Not on Bootcamp).

[I prefer ‘rearranging the deckchairs on not the Titanic’ to ‘gilding the lily’, by the way…;-)]

Just learning the sounds of the Welsh alphabet would answer the "is that sound a ‘v’ or a ‘ph’, a ‘dd’ or a ‘v’ etcetera questions right from the off.*
(edit- But it looks like we will differ on our view of whether that is true or not!)

And even the way a word changes, or two or three words fit together show patterns in the language and increase your familiarity with it. But certainly, the amount got from being able to read would increase (tremendously)as speaking ability increased, certainly.

[*I know that everyone will understand you if you use “f” instead of “dd” (welsh spelling of sounds), but I can certainly and definitely hear it when people swap the sounds in English, I can’t see why this would not be the case in Welsh. Welsh speakers I know certainly pick up on my pronunciation of such things (when they pick up anything at all!) [That extraordinary effect where someone forms their mouth into a ‘v’ shape while another sound is heard looks as if it only works when incorrect visual and sound messages are mixed, which is unlikely to happen in real life!
Even if it has not been noticed in individual cases, what such a sound is in a word, if people can not tell from the audio in the lessons, is a question which needs an answer, and could be answered with a passing familiarity with the Welsh alphabet along with the lesson guide rather than individually asking about each word on the forum. Or, indeed, as is more likely, not asking at all.]

Having said all that,

is a very understandable attitude, an important one, and one which is in my opinion the best one to take. If I think the stress goes too far, it is certainly better… better …erm - in kind? [What do I mean? When it’s better, not just by being better along a sliding scale, but better by being in a different class. Oh, you know what I mean!] than the alternative stress in most (if not all) other Welsh courses.

So yes, I think we are just differing over details of the best way to achieve this with regards to babies and bathwater and suchlike.
But it’s not a very important baby.
[Talking of such things, along with swapping consonant sounds, you don’t want the pore little fing to go dahn the plug’ole, even if it is so skinny an’ fin!]

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