My experience with Welsh so far (and 3 months of SSiW)

Almost three months since I started learning Welsh with SSiW, and…hey, I’m still here! When I decided to give a try to Challenge 1, mostly out of curiosity, I wasn’t even sure I’d get past lesson 2 or 3. Because, after all, I really don’t need to learn to speak Welsh.

I don’t live in Wales or anywhere close. I’m not planning to move there. I have no knowledge of Welsh ancestors of mine. I can’t think of any situation in my life now for which speaking Welsh could be necessary. I’m not even a Tolkien or a Celtic culture fan. I’ve spent only a few hours in Wales in all my life, as a teenager, on a train to Ireland. I didn’t hear anyone speaking Welsh, back then; I just saw a few names of towns, and they looked dreadful. So how on earth did I get myself into such trouble?

Welsh before SSiW
In 1995, a British musician, Ben Wallers, named a Welsh band among his favorites. I didn’t ask him to spell their name and, back to Italy, there was no way to figure out who those mysterious “datbloggy” could be.

About 10 years later, during a long boring drive in France, the iPod picked a song from a recently found record. “Hey, what language is this?!”. I just loved the way it sounded, even though the only words I could identify were casserole and germaine. I got totally hooked on trying to sing along those songs; or better, trying to repeat those sequences of somewhat weird sounds I was hearing. I can’t tell exactly why, but I sure had a whole lot of fun doing that!

Back home, my curiosity for the language didn’t completly vanish. It wasn’t strong enough to look for a serious course, but enough to try and find a bit more about it right away, and then try Duolingo Welsh lessons when they appeared, years later. Unfortunately, I got bored after a few days. All I remember now is a few names of foods and drinks, “Nos da, Draig”, and that they wanted me to repeat “I enjoy working as a secretary in a farm”. I quit, but there I found the link to…
I had a look at the website. The structure was set to change soon and that seemed to mean not having instant access to the same huge amount of free lessons any more. I happened to be about to leave for a lazy summer holiday at the seaside. It seemed quite a good timing: I love the seaside, but I don’t like doing crossword puzzles, playing cards, chatting about nothing with strangers - that’s how most Italians entertain themselves on the beach, when they’re not posting dumb rants and terrible pictures on Facebook. So why not studying Welsh instead?

I’m always full of enthusiasm, when I start something new; but it doesn’t last long. Therefore, I made a deal with myself: three months, no matter what. Then, we’ll see. So, every day, there I was on the beach, with iPod and headphones, listening to SSiW lessons and mumbling sentences in Welsh. From time to time, someone asked:
“What music are you listening?”
“It’s not music. It’s Welsh language lessons”
[astonished silence]
“Yes, I decided to learn to speak Welsh”
Standard reaction #1 - “But…is Welsh a language?”
Standard reaction #2 - “But…but…WHY???”
Most people in Italy think it’s an awkward idiom of the past that nobody uses any more, and basically useless. However, everybody seemed to accept my quirkiness with a mix of amusement and admiration, and sometimes even asked about my progress with apparently genuine interest.

As for myself, the first three months went pretty smooth. I’m enjoying it, it’s been easier than I expected and let’s not forget one thing: everything I learnt so far was almost completely free. I also got a lot of support from the Forum and I’m sure that this feeling of being directly connected to Wales, even from a thousand miles away, is one of the reasons why I’m still here. Of course there have been tough moments, like a few very challeging lessons where I got the sentences all wrong, felt totally exhausted and as if I was back to zero - but with a little patience and persistence it all worked out fine.
Oh, trying to listen to the radio - that’s still frustrating! Despite my huge efforts, I don’t have the slightest idea of what they’re talking about, since I can only catch a few scattered words.
However, when I went to England for the first time, I had the same feeling. And I had already studied it for 7 years at school, listened to hundreds of songs since I was a little child, and well…heard it and seen it a lot because English is just everywhere! Welsh is not. That’s intriguing, and also makes me more indulgent towards it.

How much did I learn?
My Official Common European Framework of Reference Skills - When I started
Listening: Can recognize titles when listening to the songs from one record (see resources list* for details). Can identify a few sequences of sounds as possible words and expressions.
Speaking: Can repeat words and sentences - including tough to pronounce ones like “reit lawr i’r gwleidyddiaeth” - from lyrics of 3 songs and sequences of sounds from a few more, quite accurately. Can say good night to a dragon.
Reading: Can follow and read aloud lyrics of 4 songs while listening to them.
Writing: Can copy words, one by one. Can spell “Datblygu” and “Nos da, Draig”.

My Official Common European Framework of Reference Skills - Now
Listening: Can recognize most words from SSiW lessons, and a few from familiar songs, in a fluent conversation. Can understand sentences from TV shows or in basic, slow conversations. Can understand simple questions.
Speaking: Can build dozens of simple sentences, mostly based on SSiW vocabulary. Can repeat full and more complex sentences from about 40 songs. Can answer to simple questions.
Reading: Can follow most songs lyrics while listening to them. Can understand the gist of texts on various topics.
Writing: Can spell several sentences from SSiW vocabulary lists, and from a few songs.

What next?
Well, I have to admit there’s always a voice in the back of my head telling it’s just a waste of time. But I’m not going to listen to it, yet. Three more months, and let’s see what happens. I just need to keep on enjoying it. And for that extra motivation…I think a trip to Wales is what it takes, to test how I survive out in the wild, among native speakers. So, hey, ho, let’s go make some plans now.

[*List of my learning resources will follow, in another post]


Lovely to hear about your progress - hoping to meet you in Wales before long. In the meantime, if you ever feel like a chat in Welsh on Slack, please get in touch!


Yes, thanks I plan to hang out on Slack more often, so I’m sure we’ll meet there soon (and maybe in Wales later, too).

By the way, my first attempt to say anything to real people was in @Nicky’s beginners hang-out, but you’re the first I had some sort of conversation in Welsh with. :smiley:

The third was @siaronjames group, where I mostly tried to test my ability to understand…which was proven not so good yet, but it will get better someday. :grin:


I also got this a lot, and I’m only in England. Usually it goes something like:

“Why are you learning Welsh?!”
“Why not?”
“Why don’t you learn a useful language, like Spanish?”
“I never go to Spain; I go to Wales all the time”
“But everyone in Wales speaks English!”
“Yeah, and isn’t that a bit sad?”


Ha, yes! The “Why don’t you learn something useful” is a classic here too!

However, another option I often got is:
[implicit: if you really want to learn something useless]
why don’t you learn an Italian dialect?
[also implicit: instead of a language from a foreign country you have no relation with]?

Many people in Italy seem to perceive some sort of meaning and value into learning a sort of minority language from “our” country.
I guess at least this should be just as obvious in Britain for Welsh, shouldn’t it?


Lovely posting @gisella-albertini!
In general, when friends/relatives hear that I’m learning Welsh, I get one of two replies:

  1. from open-minded people: “Really? How interesting! Good for you!”
  2. from close-minded people: “But…but…WHY???”

I rest my case.

Good luck with it, and hope to meet you in Italy or Wales one day!


Aside from the loveliness of the content of this post, the writing is superb.

Thank you for sharing it with us.


I get the first question but my second is different. “Say something in Welsh?” To which I reply, “Wyt ti’n eisiau i fi deud rhwybeth yn y Cymraeg?” I generally get smiles when I say that. :smile:


A few extra notes, and the list of resources I used (for those who are curious and/or really like reading)

What I remember from learning a new language at school is that the process was long and boring and with tons of complicated rules from day 1. The method here at SSiW is much smoother, the learning curve really fast, but for me still pretty steep: throughout the first month in particular, I felt my brain melting, while doing most of the challenges; and despite the extra boost of curiosity, sometimes I hated lessons, Welsh language and my idea of learning it. But then I remembered how much I laughed like a silly three-year-old on that holiday in France, pretending to sing in fake Welsh, with no practical purpose at all. And always reconciled with the language right away.

Everything in this list was enjoyable for me - to various degrees. These may or may not work for other people, but sure is proof and a reminder that learning the basics of a language doesn’t have to be a torture: if I was able to have fun so far, then…there’s always a way!

All my learning resources before SSiW (in chronological order):

Datblygu ‎ – “1985 - 1995” (Ankstmusik)
The one that started it all. Oh by the way…if anyone happens to see the original vinyls (here rereleased as CD comp) at a reasonable price, just let me know. I’m always looking for them!

Datblygu - "Syrffedu" video on YouTube

Since I had read the alphabet and could hear a bunch of “LL”s in the song, I thought might as well try and copy how he pronounced it. It kinda worked. However, what I still haven’t figured out is how come one in the band is wearing a shirt, one a short-sleeved dress and one a thick woolen jumper!!!

Welsh Pronunciation Series 1 - The Basics! - Welsh+ YouTube Channel Simple, clear explanations

Gwyneth Angharad - YouTube Channel
Welsh lessons - Beginner - How to pronounce LL Additional helpful explanation

Datblygu – “Hwgr-Grawth-Og” (Recordiau Anhrefn)
lyrics and translations, posted by someone on Discogs.
The songs were already on the first CD, but happy to be able to say actual words, at last. Also, the translation became the key to start deciphering written Cymraeg. Pretty much like Rosetta stone for hieroglyphs, and about the same level of difficulty - but still enjoyable to me.
(note: click on “More Images” to see them)

Duolingo Welsh
I wasn’t very patient with it, but I think it can be a good way to start, to learn to read and write a bit and to build some vocabulary. They’re very quick lessons, and you can turn audio off so you can easily sneak a lesson or two even while waiting for the bus or something.

Wikitongues - YouTube Channel
To get a vague idea of how Welsh sounds without the music, and definitely decide if I really wanted to try and learn to speak it

Learning resources since I started SSiW (until now)

Level 1, 2, 3 = sample lesson + free trial (1 month) + subscription (2 months so far)

SSiW Forum community support

Slack “Welsh Speaking Practice” channel (conversation groups, chats and hangouts)

Learn Welsh with @Nicky - YouTube Channel
Quite a few very useful, easy, straightforward explanations of stuff that’s good to understand, at some point. Like, what are all those “n”, “y” and “w”s floating around in so many sentences and how not to sound like a tory or from Windsor or both.

Radio Cymru
First time I ever heard a conversation in fluent Welsh. At the moment, presenters and topics are not so relevant ‘cause I understand almost nothing.
Anyway, I happened to try and listen to a bit more of:

Taro’r Post
mostly because it’s all spoken (which is what I really need), it featured a few familiar guests and Nicky posts a few transcriptions, so at least I know what they say.

Recordiau Rhys Mwyn
mostly because it’s the best music selection around.

S4C and YouTube
Various clips, mostly music or food related. Sai’n pasio unryw farn about casseroles and recipes, but I enjoy the subject and I can somewhat understand a bit more of what’s going on than in the average generic TV show.

Beca YouTube Channel

Modern Welsh Dictionary/Geiriadur Cymraeg Cyfoes by Gareth King, Oxford University Press
The way it’s structured helps finding words that sometimes are hard to identify, because of mutations or because they’re just one more variation of bod, et cetera. It includes a lot of examples of sentences and a bit grammar that I found very helpful, while still easy to understand even to beginners like me.

Datblygu - Wyau / Pyst / Libertino (Ankstmusik) - songs, lyrics and translations.
Reading lyrics while listening to songs is absolutely the easiest way for me to learn to read such a weird-looking language, and pronounce it. These in particular are also some of the greatest lyrics ever, for me, and often really hilarious - that is good, because I can always count on this to enjoy myself and don’t get bored.
Warning: I have the impression it’s a language and a kind of dark humour that some people might not appreciate fully. In this case, just find your own favorites and you’ll be fine. :slight_smile:


:dizzy_face: That’s impressive.

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I’m north of you in Austria. A short five hours drive away. :smiley:

Hey Marion!
I tend to go to France more often than to Austria and Germany, but I’ll keep it in mind (and of course if you happen to be around Piedmont , you know I’m here and will be glad to try and speak Welsh with you!) :smiley:

I rarely have occasion to go south but maybe someday we can meet in the middle like Lugano :smiley:

Ha, right!
Actually you reminded me there’s a map of Welsh speakers here on SSiW. In theory there’s a few people in this area of Europe but most people don’t seem active here and not sure they’re still in the same place and interested in practicing. I know @tatjana is not too far, and maybe @brigitte? (but Germany is big, so maybe not!).
In case we want to organize a local event at some point! :smiley:

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great idea! I was thinking it would be cool to get everyone in this area together. not a weekly thing, obviously, but maybe every few months. I know there are quite a few learners in this neck of the woods.

but first I need to make it through the course so I can actually speak Welsh. :smiley:

Yes, sounds like a good idea:
let’s learn to speak some Welsh, before traveling to meet and speak it! :grinning:

In the meantime, anyone interested in participating to a meeting over here, get in touch and at some point we’ll organize it!

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Hmmm … now, where in Austria are you?

This sounds interesting though.

Hey Tatjana.
I’m in the west, corner of Austria, Switzerland and Germany. Where are you?

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Slovenia. I was curious if you’re just across the border. Further North-west I rearly go but it’s nice to hear that this part of the Europe holds some Welsh learners too. The Souther you go the rearest is occassion to meet some and in Slovenia I’m prety lonely on this part. :slight_smile: But, yes, I had a fortune I’ve got at least one visit from the North each year 3 years in the row already. :slight_smile:

I very rarely get to chat with a Welshman who lives near me, but I don’t see him often enough to truly practice what I’ve learned so far.