New learner, finding it hard

I am a new learner and finding it hard at the moment. Some words are going in easily, probably the ones I remember from school, others are just all of a jumble. I match Welsh words to the wrong English words or can’t recall them at all. All the encouraging emails have been great, but this really isn’t working for me at the moment. I am determined to learn Welsh this time, but my confidence is dwindling and I think I need to do something more to get that vocabulary into my head. So, what I would like to know from this community is - has anyone else made a slow start, but eventually succeeded, and what other strategies did you employ?


Can you tell us a little more about how far you’ve got, Mari? What you’re describing might be entirely normal - or it might be an indicator that you need higher frequency repetition.

Which challenge are you on at the moment? How often are you managing to say something before you hear the Welsh? Are you repeating challenges? :slight_smile:

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I have done the first five challenges. Some of them I sat down and gave them my complete attention, and others I did while doing house work. Yes, I have repeated challenges, I know it is not in the spirit of SSi, but I am struggling here. I have started challenge 6 and in the first 10 minutes I am only getting about 60% correct (but the sentence are shorter at the start of the challenge, so that percentage will probably decrease). I am not so bad at using the newly introduced vocabulary, especially where the new word features at the start of a sentence, but where I need to remember vocabulary from earlier challenges I fall down. It may be worth noting that I do have some dyslexia indicators, for example being able to recite back strings of numbers, but I have (I think) a better than average English vocabulary.

Can I ask which works you’re finding you mix up?

When I started:
Dweud and siarad (to say and to speak)
Licio/hoffi and eisiau (isio) (to like and to want)
Angen and something else

All got mixed up for me. I was always wanting when I was meant to be liking and saying when I should be speaking.

I think this is quite common because the meanings are similar but not identical. Also, I found that initially I would be frustrated (and sometimes later on that would pop back up) but it did help me learn them. The mistakes have stuck with me but not negatively. Every now and then I still make those mistakes, but I’ve also developed a whole host of different mistakes I male too :slight_smile:


Without sounding rude, it sounds like you’re pushing yourself too hard too quickly. Take a step back and just enjoy the language. Stop trying to match up words to English as it rarely works that way. In time, it will just click.


I sometimes mix ‘dweud’ and ‘siarad’, not so much as ‘siarad’ is firmly printed in my memory from childhood. Wanting and needing are problems, but I have just had a bit of a light-bulb moment that I have been trying to remember them in strings of other words ‘ma dal isie i fi’ - I still need to and ‘dw i dal yn moyn’ - I still want. Just realised this as I was looking over the vocabulary.

Helo Mari,

Congratulations on your determination to learn Welsh—that deep desire, persistence and willingness to come on this Forum will pay off as you learn to SSiW. As others have already said—many of us share the confusions you mention—so join the club! But it is a great club—a wonderfully helpful and encouraging group of people that you have ‘lucked into’ here.

You mentioned your struggle, but I found there is truth in the saying that we learn from our mistakes. If you ever need to be convinced, glance through the thread ‘What am I hearing or missing…’ because that is where I recorded and found amazing support through the struggle.

You asked for strategies to try. All the advice and encouragement Aran and Iestyn offer in the Introductions and during each Lesson are brilliant, but we each need to experiment to find the right approach which will probably change from time to time. For example, being profoundly hard of hearing (stone deaf on one side) I had to create visual ‘clues’, hit the pause button, take dictation, rewind, recheck, and if still puzzled then come on the Forum to ask if I were really hearing an ‘r’ or ‘d’ in a particular phrase—and the answer always came straight back helping.

The SSiW website is excellent because you can pull up the vocabulary at need, and although the strength of the method is simply to listen and respond verbally, some of us do need visual clues at times. The trick seems to be not to rely on them as a crutch, just ‘check it out’ then close that window and carry on. Yes I had to repeat lessons, but I would do the ‘slow going’ approach early in the day, taking about an hour per lesson. Then I would do it again later in the day, only using the pause button a little bit. The next day I would move on.

To make it ‘fun’ I created a little game—a horse race, pitting lessons in the Old Course against the New ones—not really to be recommended, but the Forum angel Tatjana really cheered me on illustrating it, and I really did imagine these two approaches like a steeplechase with hurdles to jump over, sometimes getting bogged down when the going got tough, sometimes streaking along. Making it a game took away the natural ‘seriousness’ I tend to have when trying to learn.

One other thing to try at the stage you are at—a Bootcamp, even if it is one you have to create for yourself. Others, like me, have done that too and there are threads on the Forum describing different versions. When I hit Lesson 5, since I live in Vancouver and could not sign up for one in Wales, I set aside a weekend Bootcamp—made meals and snacks in advance—including Welsh cakes, brewed pots of coffee and put some wine in the fridge, then set up a space specially for it adding little touches like daffodils. Sounds crazy? My husband was on a choir retreat, which meant I could scoff most of the Welsh cakes myself as ‘rewards’. From Friday to Sunday night I did SSiW as intensively as I imagined folk would do it on a real Bootcamp, even taking my MP3 player (which I bought specially to record lessons) when I went for walks, and went on the Forum to share little successes, breakthroughs or difficulties. That weekend made the world of difference because of the rate of progress I made, so I can only guess (with envy) what a huge leap folk make on the real thing.

Mari, by finding your way on to this Forum you have already demonstrated your determination to learn and discovered the joy of finding friends to cheer you on. Maybe horse-racing is not an image that helps—for you perhaps it is a ‘hero’s journey’ or some kind of trek or cultural pilgrimage—find an image that will draw you into the story and help you visualize the progress you are making despite the obstacles to be tackled.

All the best,


I also mix “dweud” and “siarad” and in the same way mix up “hablar” and “dicer” on the Spanish course and also “querer” and “necessitar” (want and need).

I have found the course difficult, having done Welsh in school, albeit fifty five years ago. Some sounds seem to have changed as well most notably “cymraeg”.

I went through the first ten challenges on Level 1 and restarted again at challenge 5. It worked a lot better. I did the same with Spanish a number of times at different levels and found it worked. Also I remember that the Spanish course was difficult at first despite having done another course just before SSi.

Keep at it - I hope it works out for you


You absolutely can do it! I have experienced all the above apart from true deafness, My ears are just as old as the rest of me and I really am an old dragon! So eyes and ears and memory not what it once was but impatience just as strong as ever! Also, I am relearning and expect more from self! I have tried both current challenges and the old course of lessons. I found the old more tne sort of structure of learning that I had been used to. But clearly the challenges work! Try, try and try again. Don’t repeat until you have at least 5 to repeat and do it all in batches of .5. Yell for help when needed!


Welcome to the forum.

It’s supposed to be difficult. The important thing is to keep going back to it. I found a lot of the course was learning how to deal with your frustrations and just let things happen, just stick with a strategy until you can think of a better one. 60% is amazingly good. I probably went through the entire course up to now with a similar percentage. Once you can manage your expectations and frustrations,often then, the Welsh is easy/


That’s not bad at all! Anyone getting over 10% right is actually making genuine progress - so my first comment here is that part of your frustration is just about not knowing how normal this is for the process… :slight_smile:

Having said that, the dyslexia indicators are a bit of a flag - there is evidence that dyslexia and a weak working memory are correlated, and one of the key issues we see with people who find the approach more difficult is working memory (although it’s not the only one).

That makes me feel that you might be well-advised to do two things - one, shift your expectations slightly about what is ‘doing well’ (I’m serious that 60% is nowhere near worrying) - and two, be kind to yourself with repeating lessons - just make sure that you don’t get caught in the ‘stuck on one lesson forever’ trap. Maybe give yourself a limit of 3 runs-through before moving on, and only coming back for (say) a fourth once you’ve got through a set of 5 lessons. So you might do 6 three times, 7 three times, 8 three times, 9 three times, 10 three times - and at that stage you’ve earned the right to go back to 6 once or twice more - something along those lines.

One other question - how long has it taken you to get through the first five challenges? :slight_smile:


It has taken me about a fortnight to get this far. I’m unsure about how many revisits and partial sessions I have done in this time. I think I should keep a record of what I have done so I can try a few things out and see what works best for me. I assume the challenges are structured to have similar levels of ‘challenge’ for the learner.

Thank you all, I am glad I asked.


Hi Mari, I had to repeat lessons too. Some I just seemed to fly through and others just would not stick. I think when I started I was doing one or two a week practicing each day and then others I got straight away. Still mix “need and must” constantly and miss out “have” a lot but think this is to do with how I listen to English. However, it does work and I do enjoy the journey.


In which case, you are cantering along at a fair old pace - at that rate, you’d finish Level 1 in about two and a half months - and people who’ve done Level 1 consistently turn out to be capable of surviving for a week without any English - so compared to any evening class, you’re going ‘whooooooosh’!.. :slight_smile:

Keeping track of what you’re doing is a good idea - just for your own confidence - but from everything so far, I’d say that even with the slight query over the dyslexia markers, you’re doing excellently as is… :slight_smile:


Hi Mari,

I experienced similar things to you when I started. For the first fortnight I really could not stop myself getting “I have to” and “I need to” mixed up. I really didn’t know what was causing it. I was convinced it was my head playing tricks with me because the difference between the two sentence meanings in English is so subtle that maybe my head was stopping me from learning them…

After all, when would you ever say “I need to”, accidentally instead of “I have to” and not be understood?

SSIW has a very clever way of picking up stuff a few lessons down the road. I’ve done loads of lessons in my time where I’ve come to the end and my wife says to me “So, what did you do in today’s lesson?” and I reply “Um… no idea - can’t remember a single word of it!”

…then 3 days later, I’m pulling the words out of some distant long forgotten part of my brain - somehow.

You’re doing great, enjoy the process. Try not to worry too much about it.

Start walking around your house and talk to yourself in your new language - tell yourself that “I need to make a cup of coffee”, “I have to go to work” etc etc and you’ll surprise yourself!


Hi @MariHughes,
Best of luck in your new venture! There have been a few discussions on what is meant by success. It is closely connected to what we mean by fluency in a language. My take of the matter is that the more you use a language, the better you will get. The same is probably true of one’s mother tongue, so “success” is ultimately a relative term here. If you are able to say or understand a single spoken phrase in Welsh after learning on SSiW (or via any other medium) then you have already succeeded. And you also have room to improve, which lasts a lifetime. So best of luck for the future and well done for what you’ve done.
One strategy that I use for learning new words is to do some of the vocab courses on Memrise on the Internet. It’s not for everyone, but a few minutes here and there works for me after a while: meaning that it expands my vocab. There are also good vocab lessons right here at the end of ‘old’ Courses 1 and 2 in SSiW.
And if you live in Wales you should get right out and use what you have.
Pob lwc!

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Thank you for taking time to respond and encourage me. I’d love to view that thread but I can’t get the search function to work on this forum, perhaps because I am using a chromebook. Please could I have a link.

Thank you to all respondents; I do feel encouraged. I’m going to try a few things out to see if they help. Diolch

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Must be something else - I’m on a chromebook - but here’s the link:



Must be my broadband then. Anyone would think I lived in the mountains. Diolch.


You should try living in Vancouver Mari–we are really ‘behind the times’–8 hours to be exact :slight_smile:

Good luck–persistence even with computers seems to pay off too!


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