New high intensity work

Just a quick post, because Catrin’s off to a choir evening soon, and I’ve only just got back - but I want to share a few bits and pieces with you about the last week…

I did last Thursday and Friday with Martyn (who won Dysgwr y Flwyddyn the year before last) doing a real workout with our Spanish materials. Then he had five days ‘off’ when all he had to do was listen to the listening exercises - and then yesterday and today we went flat out again, closing up with a Skype chat with Gaby today (the beginning of which we recorded).

I’ve had my parameters shifted again.

Martyn has a phenomenal appetite for work - he made me feel dreadfully lazy by comparison - and that’s despite the fact that he actually doesn’t have a very strong short-term memory, so this stuff is difficult for him. But you set him a challenge, he’ll do it, no holding back.

The last person I worked with who had problems with short-term memory triggered my soft side - lots of pause button, repeating sessions, and so on - and ended up getting through 5 sessions in 2 days of very hard work.

Martyn, by contrast, got through 25 sessions (the whole of Level 1) in the four days - and over the course of those 4 days, I would say that he probably got about 10% of the sentences out, complete, correct before Rosa’s Spanish.

Yup, about 10%.

I’ll freely admit, it was so tough for him I started to wonder if missing the second half of so many sentences would stop the system from working for him.

But yesterday, we had our first ‘No Welsh (or English)’ day - and at lunch-time, despite being absolutely knackered (too much Spanish, not enough sleep!), Martyn suddenly started producing sentences. And not just random sentences - real communication, about real things.

And today, more of the same - and his chat with Gaby was absolutely fantastic (as you’ll be able to see, when we get the video up). In fact, he said several things flawlessly with Gaby that he hadn’t ever said before - hugely, hugely impressive.

So from now on, anyone who is resistant to the ‘70% is good enough to move on’ guideline will have to put up with me coughing loudly and explaining that actually, 10% is enough to move on successfully… :sunny:


I found myself in this sentence and have a strong feeling it was written (especially) for me :slight_smile: so from now on I’LL SHUT UP completely! :slight_smile:


There are plenty of people who struggle to accept not being perfect - you’re certainly one of them, but this was written for all of them :sunny:

I wish you could have seen how tough it was for Martyn, Tatjana. You’ll be able to see him beginning to communicate with Gaby in the video, when it’s ready - and you’ll see that after just 4 days, it’s genuinely starting to be functional for him - and he could repeat Level 1 as many times as he liked without ever getting to the levels of success that you reach (because of his short-term memory).

If he’d stopped or gone back to repeat because he wasn’t getting things right, he’d never have had that conversation. It’s certainly worth you thinking about - because if you were willing to accept even just a 50% ‘not right’ rate, you’d already have finished all our materials…

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Don’t be hasty, Tatjana!! None of us believe you and we wouldn’t want you to!!!

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@henddraig well, I meant regarding moaning and complaining. :slight_smile: As you can see I still am “harassing” this forum. :slight_smile: :smiley:

That’s why I decided to go STRAIGHT THROUGH everything once again. I’ll pretend I didn’t even start to learn before … :slight_smile: Yesterday was a horrible one Lesson 23 with 59 % correct but what a heck. I was so tired that it might be I’ve even “overslept” some of the phrases I had to say but yah, that’s why this could be heck of an acheavement. Learning while sleeping … hehe, this obviously can happen too. :smiley:

What the heck indeed. Martyn would have given his eye-teeth to get 59% correct. That is roughly SIX times more correct responses than Martyn - and yet as you’ll see in the video he learnt successfully.

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He’s a :star: I know that, that’s why I’ve said “I’ll shut up completely”. When reading his story I feel stupid and bothering even to myself …

So, I’ll say “Martyn rocks!” Now only boldly go forward Martyn! :sunny: :star2:

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Interesting - so although it might have looked at first as though it hadn’t “gone in”, maybe it did go in at some deeper subconscious level.

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Obviously. It convinced even me about that. :slight_smile:

I think this is one of the most important points in the entire process - I’m certainly seeing it all the time, now that I know what to look for.

We have an understanding (perhaps reinforced or created by the standard school system?) that knowledge is essentially binary - you either know something or you don’t.

Research into memory shows this is overly simplistic - and I think what we’re seeing when people are brave enough to push through their own uncertainty is that we acquire new words on a partial basis initially, and that continued exposure (even when we’re still not ‘getting it right’) eventually paints enough coats on that partial learning for it to become complete.

When people hit a word they haven’t acquired completely, it’s almost always clear that they have some of it learnt - they’ll make umming/ahhing sounds that very, very often include some of the sounds of the word they’re aiming for - or they’ll have the first letter, or the first vowel sound, but not be able to complete, and so on.

In traditional approaches, when we don’t have complete learning, we think we’re meant to go back and do lots of revision until we acquire it. This is why so many people get stuck into repeating lessons.

Modern research is showing in increasing depth, though, that continued exposure (and continued ‘mistakes’!) will lead you to complete acquisition - without spending all the extra time on repeating lessons… :sunny:

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Aran, years ago, as I recall, there was a lot said about “sleep learning”, as in : “Go to sleep listening to what you want to learn and you will wake up knowing it!”. I may even have tried it, but don’t think it worked brilliantly as I haven’t kept it up!! Comments??? :blush:
I thought of it when there was mention of being so tired while trying a lesson.

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Not an academic view, but the sleep thing is the way I learn bass lines. I won’t bore you with details but I found this worked for me when, years ago, I was listening to Radio 3, fell asleep and woke with knowledge about the composer Janacek that could only have come from a programme on in the early hours. I was listening to something else when (I think) I fell asleep. Strange, eh?


It’s quite surprising how many times when I can’t think of a word, I can think of the first letter, or even letters, and it later turns out to be right. This happens in English as well (old age creeping up …).

@henddraig : I thought that at one point, sleep-learning had been comprehensively rubbished, only for it to have been at least partly validated at some later time. I have an open mind on the subject, but I don’t see why in principle it could not work. After all, when people are in comas, I believe the advice now is to keep talking to them even though you “know” they can’t hear you, and apparently this has sometimes been shown to be beneficial.

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I often play lessons if I wake in the night to try and become tired enough to nod off again. I don’t know if I’m acquiring much, but i had an amazingly surreal dream where I was in Menai Bridge, possibly on the set of Rownd a Rownd, trying to get coffee & cake in the cafe and being all set to order yn cymraeg… only to blurt it out in English then hurry away. Next thing I’m on a pleasure cruiser up the Straits only to look down at the water to see a chap furiously rowing alongside shouting up to me that i had left my Welsh dictionary in the cafe… this man I knew to be Aran, although I’ve never met him. Make of this what you will!


Well if it wasn’t Aran, it was probably Philip Parry chasing you because you had forgotten to pay for the coffee and cake … :slight_smile:

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Owow, I rather don’t tell what sorts of dreams regarding Cymraeg I have but in all of them I speak Cymraeg fluently. Interestingly enough the “oponent” speaks Slovene fluently despite he/she is Cymro/Cymraes. How about that? :slight_smile:

However, if we’re talking about learning while sleeping then I’m not the right one to tell you how successful this is. I do it many times (not willingly though) slumbering on the chair behind the computer but the outcome is always the same: I don’t even know what I was required to say not that I’d remember something.

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I’m not aware of any good research that supports this (and I have a hard time believing it could ever work for the kind of learning where intent/effort make a real difference, which definitely includes language acquisition).

Having said that, it’s clear that the brain doesn’t shut down all its input mechanisms during sleep, so I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that certain kinds of learning (like priming effects, for example) might be possible… which might be part of what Andy feels is working for him…

Don’t expect a ‘Learn Welsh In Your Sleep’ method any time soon, though… well, not one that works…:wink:


This sounds about right as what I seem to get is a feel for the ‘shape’ of the bass line. Of course, most of that may well have soaked in before I dropped off. Now, how about a massive clinical trial over the next 5 years? Well, maybe not😀


Sounds ideal. Let me just check if they’ve remembered to lock the bank…