Listening technique

I recently finished SSiW level 3. Have enrolled on Dysgu Cymraeg Canolradd, having lots of informal chats and listening to a lot of Radio Cymru. All going ok. Just wondered if anyone had tips for listening and interpreting…ie…at the moment I am picking out the words I do understand and putting them together, or should I be trying to work out every word but then the moment has gone!? Likewise with S4C - I use the subtitles because it helps me, but am I better off not using them to stretch myself. Would be interested to know the science behind how the mind works with all this, & the best techniques to use. Diolch!


It doesn’t help with radio, of course, but one thing that I find helpful (but maybe just me!) is focusing hard on people’s lips when they’re speaking - somehow for me it helps to make the link between the sounds I’m hearing coming out of their mouths and specific words and phrases.


Thanks John - it’s a great point.

I’ve had the experience of going from Welsh being a stream of incomprehensible sounds on the radio to being something I fully understand as easily as English, and I’m now going through it in another language, so if it helps, this is what I’ve found.

What you’re aiming for is being able to understand without interpreting, but it’s natural at first to pick out words you know and think what they are in English. That’s the first step, and it’s something to celebrate as it means the auditory processing part of your brain is starting to distinguish sounds and make meaning from them in Welsh.

As much as possible try not to concentrate too hard on what you’re listening to. I know that sounds a bit counterintuitive but if you can be just vaguely listening while you do something else, it helps to let your subconscious kick in and start to understand what you’re hearing.

Gradually the individual words start to join up and become short phrases and you get the gist of what they’re talking about. Try a few different presenters as they have different accents and speak at different speeds, so you’ll find you understand one earlier than the others.

From then on it’s regular listening that’s the key - a little every day, a couple of times a day if you can. When you can get the gist of something, then think about what you can say on that topic. Look up some extra vocabulary related to the topic. Say out loud what you might say in a conversation about that topic, and it helps with your understanding. It can be useful if you can listen again, so using the BBC Sounds app, or listening to podcasts is a good technique. Hearing the same phrases over and over again, they will start to become clearer.

It is definitely something that takes time, but everytime you listen you give yourself an opportunity to understand more, so perseverance is key. Dal ati, and you’ll definitely get there!


I wholeheartedly agree with all you have suggested. I did that with Finnish when I went there over 40 years ago ~ gradually numbers emerged from the “fog” of words I heard on the radio each morning ~ then I realsied that they read out the programmes for the day. Nest it was the weather forecast, the thickness of the ice in the harbours and which ice-breakers were working in each one ~ then announcements on the train ~ i used to have tears rolling down my cheeks when they told me, in Finnish, with a big sigh “This is the R Train, which stops at every single station between Helsinki and Hyvinkä.” That was becasue it was the last train of the day ~ and the weary guard needed to get home after a long day !
Persevere my friend, if you have time to do as suggested, you will make amazing progress without realising ~ pob lwc.


I am in exactly your position and so still whirl under machine gun welsh most times.

I find it really helpful to find sound tracks that also provide a script, preferably with a translation.

Whenever possible, I listen once or twice to the original blind, then once or twice with the script, and then again blind. Finally I read the translation to check my comprehension.

I only wish there was a library of such examples, as i find them quite hard to find, particularly anything towards 15 minutes long.

If anybody knows of examples, I would love to have the references.

Thanking you in anticipation.


Thanks everyone - really brilliant suggestions. Will try them all. Great to be part of such a great community

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Yes! I used to take the train every morning from Cardiff station so all the announcements were bilingual. It was great having the Welsh first, then hearing the English so I could check my understanding. Gradually recognisable words emerged, then phrases then finally the little, often more quickly said linking words so that I could understand everything.

@Cwyfan if you put “Welsh songs with lyrics” into the search in YouTube, you can find lots of videos that display the lyrics as they play.

The other option, of course, is to use the Advanced Content on the SSiW website. There you get an interview with a vocabulary list, and some of the longer ones also have a transcript and translation.

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With S4C programmes, if I want to use the as learning session I started by using the same technique suggested by Aran for the SSiW Advanced Content.

  1. watch an episode without subtitles
  2. watch it again with Welsh subtitles (if available)
  3. watch it again without subtitles
  4. now with English subtitles
  5. then one last time without subtitles
    (then let it sink for a few weeks or even months, then watch it again without subtitles and…notice the difference from the first time!)

For me, that works mostly to improve my understanding skills.

When I want to learn new expressions, for me it’s helpful working on one section at a time, of just 2-5 minutes: stopping at every unclear sentence to see the subtitles (in the beginning almost every single one, but it gets better! :sweat_smile:), then listen to it again right away.
Sometimes even taking note of the expression or sentence that might be useful when speaking.
It really helps me remembering them, and new vocabulary too.

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