New learner, finding it hard

You say you’re doing the challenges Mari (@MariHughes ) . When I first started I did lessons then, after a break, in error went into challenges, and just thought the course and title had been revised. I thought wow! the course has got harder but then realised there were challenges and lessons (found by clicking the triangle thing at top of main page I think) So now I’m firmly back on lessons and so maybe try them instead (starting from as early a lesson you feel makes sense for you at your stage). Challenge 7 for example is far harder than lesson 7 and probably assumes you’ve had practice at the words being used. All the best

First of all “Da iawn” for learning Welsh!

I know that the SSi method is focusing on pushing ahead and not getting stuck in the repetition bog, but you need to give yourself some time to digest and get your head around new concepts. Learning a language takes time and especially in the beginning even small steps can require a lot of effort because it is so many new things all at once. Take your time and enjoy the small victories!

You’re going to get words mixed up and you’re going to have to settle for using words that are approximately right because you can’t think of/don’t know the right word. You’ll have moments when you manage to get every single tense of a single verb into the same sentence. But it doesn’t matter, because you are communicating and your improving. It’s amazing how much arm waving and a sympathetic listener can help.

Also try to figure out exactly what you’re struggling with and how do you learn best/fastest in other areas? I can’t remember a word if I don’t see it written down. I’m a word image person and it really doesn’t matter how many times I hear a new word, unless I see it written down it just won’t stick and in new languages I won’t even always hear it “right”. I used to do flash cards when I started out learning Welsh, with colour coding and little drawings, as that helped me remember the image of the word.

If you too need visual cues but don’t want to mix in the written words that you struggle to remember (as more in keeping with the SSi method) you could for instance draw pictures and use them as to trigger your memory of difficult words. It doesn’t really matter what you draw since what you’re doing is strengthening your associations to that word to make it easier to recall when needed. For phrases, you can imagine/do little pantomines that illustrate what ever it is.

Are you using your Welsh outside of lessons/challenges? Mumbling/thinking “Dw i eisiau coffi” as you go to put the coffee on, “Dw i’n gyrru car” as your driving to work etc is perfectly normal if it helps you get more familiar with the language! :slight_smile: And you have the benefit of trying repetedly until you figure it out.


Hi Mari,

Congratulations on making it to five challenges! I agree with previous commenters that it sounds like you’re pushing yourself quite hard, and have a possibly unrealistic idea of what good progress is, and are kicking yourself because you feel you’re falling short.

A large part of your problem appears to be a lack of confidence rather than a lack of natural ability, so I’m going to describe a strategy that has helped boost my own confidence.

When we are learning something new - knitting, juggling, cake decorating, playing the piano, doing cryptic crosswords, learning a language, anything at all - we tend to compare ourselves to those who have mastered it already, and that’s usually the person teaching us. But if we do that, it means we are always going to feel inadequate. OK, then, so maybe we should compare ourselves to our fellow learners instead of the teacher. But that doesn’t help much either. If we’re learning the new skill in a classroom, we definitely compare ourselves to them - we look around and have a peek at what others are doing, and we notice they seem to be picking it up so much faster than we are.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I was learning some kind of practical skill, such as craftwork, I was always among the slowest learners in the class. Here in SSiW, the equivalent is this forum. We skim through a few posts, and notice that even relative beginners already seem so much more competent and confident than we are - asking grammatical questions we don’t even understand, or dropping Welsh phrases in to their comments. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking: what’s wrong with me? Why am I getting so few answers right? Why am I forgetting things almost as soon as I learn them? Why am I so slow? And that mindset of “I’m so inadequate” just makes things worse, and is hard to climb out of.

What helps me is to imagine myself in a different role. For a short time each day - maybe ten minutes or so, whatever I’ve got time for - I’m no longer a learner of Welsh. I’m a teacher of Welsh. I know more Welsh than anyone around me, and I’m going to teach them.

Now, you may think this idea is ridiculous - after all, you’re only five challenges in! But that’s five challenges more than many people have ever learned, including people who have lived in Wales for decades. You are equipped to teach somebody five challenges’ worth of Welsh.

You may also be thinking - who can I teach? - I can’t teach another adult, it’s too embarrassing. I’ll feel silly. Fair enough. Is there a young child in your life - your own child or grandchild, or a friend’s child you can borrow? A 2 to 4-year-old is excellent. They are old enough to copy your Welsh phrases and answer questions, but still young enough to think you’re on a par with a deity and not feel inhibited or make you feel embarrassed.

No child in your life? OK, then, do you have a dog or even a cat? They’re not going to answer you, obviously, but it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to cast them in the role of attentive pupil. (Well, maybe the cat is not that attentive.) No suitable living creature at all? Then you’ll have to imagine them. Imagine you’re standing in front of a class. They’ve never heard a single word of Welsh. You’re going to teach them. You. You, Mari, are a teacher of Welsh. You have five challenges’ worth of Welsh in your head, and you’re going to pass on this knowledge to your imaginary class. You can do it.

If you can fully imagine yourself in a teacher’s role, it will boost your confidence no end. As you carefully explain some grammatical concept or some tricky pronunciation to your imaginary “class”, it will help clarify and solidify the same concept in your own mind. As you push your “students” to repeat back to you the Welsh translation of the English sentence you just gave them, you’re actually searching in your own mind for it.

I do this role playing nearly every day, often in bed if I can’t sleep, and it helps my confidence tremendously. I usually end my imaginary “class” mightily impressed at how much Welsh I actually can remember, that I never thought I could.


Thank you, Matilda!

That’s one of the best posts we’ve ever had on the forum… :star: :star2: :fireworks:

@Deborah-SSi - one for the email… :slight_smile: :slight_smile:


Thanks, @aran, I appreciate that.

I’ve mentioned it once or twice before in this forum, and in fact, the first time I did, I felt a bit of a goose. I don’t have a small child in my house, only a bored and unimpressed cat, so my “class” is imaginary. And let’s face it, telling people that you role-play to an imaginary audience is the rough equivalent of confessing that you dance around in your underwear playing air guitar and miming along to “Old Time Rock and Roll”.

I was also worried that someone might heap scorn on the idea of a student, someone no more than ten or so lessons in (as I was at the time) daring to think she could role-play a teacher of Welsh. What? A student, thinking she now speaks enough Welsh that she can teach it to other people? The impertinence! It takes years to be good enough to teach!

But, I thought, this role-playing-a-teacher method genuinely does boost my confidence and help my learning, and maybe if I explain what I do, it might help someone else.

So I did, and I was pleasantly surprised that no one laughed (well, not publicly, anyway), and no one was scornful. On the contrary, a few people agreed that the best way to confirm you understand something is to try and explain it to another person.

Someone - I forget who - said that in their workplace, they call it “playing dog”, i.e. “I need to think through a problem out loud. Can you play dog for a moment, and listen?” Just having an audience, even if it’s only a dog, or a person pretending to be a dog, who doesn’t understand a thing you’re saying but is listening anyway, can help you clarify your thoughts.


@Matilda I found out when quite young that I learned better if I taught my Teddy! Later, my mother was a better ‘class’ than the cat, as she could react in more useful ways than wondering off to find a mouse! Later, when I had to write a dissertation or a paper, I had her read it aloud as I spotted the errors at once! Between times, I helped neighbour’s kids with their schoolwork. Later, I taught a friend’s daughter maths! I also told ‘stories’ to small kids, friends’ children, who knew all my stories were true. I know the Rebecca Riots was one. I forget now which, but one friend told me her daughter’s history teacher had mentioned how ‘Aunty Jackie’ was becoming very well known to her class! It had never occurred to me that my stories were being passed on! Showing is also the best way to teach something that involves doing! Oh, I wrote comic book stories for the Coastguard’s son in our village when my ‘Auntie’ was helping him with his reading! She was a proper teacher, by then retired, and I taught her astronomy. She had taught French and German, but, when on Supply had helped out with Geography, and whenever we met an ex-pupil, it was her Geography lessons they seemed to remember!


I think it’s a genuinely excellent idea - I also think it’s one of the things that makes the forum so special, because people can see that they genuinely have valuable help to offer earlier stage learners - much sooner than would normally be the case. But I love your idea of making it a daily, personal thing as well… :slight_smile: :star2:

I am so glad I posted here. Your replies have helped so much, boosting my belief that I can learn, and making me think more about how I learn. I am on challenge 9 now, and having fewer ‘mute’ moments when I fail to say something; I’m not always right though, and don’t always complete longer sentences, but I do feel like I am making progress. I am trying out many of the suggestions here, and have also started an exercise book where I write down the English phrase I couldn’t get out in Welsh to review later. Taking time to review the vocabulary before having a second try seems to be helping.


Another thing…

Mari, you said you need some strategies to get the Welsh vocabulary to stick in your head.

I have the same problem. Memorising vocabulary has always been my weakness when it comes to learning languages. Trying to memorise vocabulary lists, or using flash cards or sticky notes on things, just doesn’t work for me.

The only thing that does work for me, that does make the vocabulary sink in, is to use the Welsh I know, in real-life situations. But immediately I come up against a problem: I simply don’t have enough Welsh vocabulary yet to say everything I want in Welsh.

For quite a while, that meant I was reluctant to say anything at all other than sentences made up entirely of words I’d learned in SSiW supplemented with Duolingo. But that was terribly restrictive and artificial. The SSiW sentences are a lot better than “the cat sat on the mat”, but still, they are the SSiW creators’ choice of words, not mine. And as for the Duolingo sentences - I really can’t see myself needing to say “The cat’s harp is in the car”!

Finally I decided to be brave and make a leap. If I wait until I have enough Welsh vocabulary to say everything I want to in Welsh, then, frankly, I’m never going to say anything at all - because I’ll never be good enough. I’ll never have that much vocabulary.

That was the point at which I decided I would say whatever I could in Welsh, with English plugging the gaps. I checked in this forum, and was told it is perfectly OK to do that - that even fluent Welsh speakers throw in a bit of English here and there.

These “conversations” largely take place in my own head, because I don’t personally know any other Welsh speakers. Sometimes, as I’m doing things around the house, I’ll have a little running Welsh-and-English commentary going in my head about what I’m doing.

But fortuitously, at around the same time I made the decision to cram as much Welsh as possible into my everyday speech and thoughts, two separate Welsh speakers on Twitter reached out to me, and we started sending direct messages (DMs) to each other.

Both claim to be not fluent, but they both clearly speak much better Welsh than I do, which is good, because it stretches me a bit. I’ve been exchanging DMs with them both, and when I do, I use every scrap of Welsh I can dredge up, supplemented by English.

This is a snippet of a DM I sent one of them recently, in which I’m talking about the weather. It’s the height of summer here in Australia at the moment, and we’d had some stinking hot days of around 40C. My Welsh correspondent said that it was below freezing in Wales, and asked if I was jealous. I replied:

Note how there’s a LOT of English mixed in. So much that you’d probably call it “Wenglish” rather than Welsh.

Note too how there’s probably a lot of mistakes in it. The mutations, for instance, are probably all over the place. And I see now that I wrote “ddeg” when I meant to write “ddydd”, i.e. I wrote “twenty ago” when I meant to write “two days ago”.

I don’t much care. I did look up a word or two that I knew how to pronounce but needed to double-check the spelling, such as “bydda i’n”. But I tried to use only the Welsh vocabulary I knew rather than looking up words I hadn’t been taught yet, and I also just tried to push it out, mistakes and all.

The more of this I do, the more I find I can do. In fact, looking over what I wrote above, I recognise another couple of words I know in Welsh and could have substituted for the English. “Very”, for instance, is iawn - I should have written that. I know “need” as well, although that would have required some rearranging of the word order, because the “need” construction that I know isn’t a verb.

Linguistic purists will probably hate this Wenglish. That’s OK; I’m not doing this for purists. I’m doing it for me. The people I exchange messages with don’t seem to mind, and it helps me learn. I intend to keep doing it, and hopefully over time, the Welsh bits will become longer and the English bits will become shorter, and maybe one day I’ll be able to call myself a Welsh speaker.


I like your style Matilda. My dyslexic tendencies mean I am a hopeless proof reader and understood ddydd when I read ddeg without spotting the mistake. I am fortunate that I have Welsh speaking friends and colleagues who don’t seem to mind me using my Welsh with them and I am going to take inspiration from you and support my language acquisition with a little Wenglish as it is so much better than feeling tongue tied. An early hurdle for someone who grew up in Wales is the feeling of having already failed to learn, when I really aught to be able to speak it. Thinking back to travelling after my degree, I felt no inhibitions about how little of the local language I spoke, and bravely bought fruit and veg in market places without a second thought about sounding right (in-fact I know I usually didn’t, but I did get by with pointing etc).


Good, that’s normal…:slight_smile:

If you were always right, it would mean that we weren’t challenging you enough, and that you should be on a more difficult lesson… :slight_smile:

Hi Mari.

Like you I’m a new learner, only slightly ahead of you. I’m currently on Challenge 8 right now, but taking much slower than you are. I’ve been averaging a Challenge a week with additional listening practice every day. I listen to the challenge once or twice, then on the way to work do the speaking practice. This works out to about 6 times or so for the speaking practice before I feel comfortable to move to the next challenge.

I find that I don’t get all of the challenge, there’s usually some part that I miss. But what’s amazing is that in a lesson or two later I suddenly get it and am missing some of the new lesson. It’s perfectly fine not to get all of the challenge. And as for mixing up words, I do it all the time, I just don’t worry about it and keep on. I’m now going to add English in when thinking, rather than not saying or thinking in Welsh at all.

You are doing great and this forum is a great place to get help and encouragement. There are a lot of great people here that want to help others.


It’s lovely to see new learners making friends and helping each other!

I did not program this little chap but I use him and friends as appropriate from time to time! :wink:


It’s only fair after getting so much friendly and helpful advice that I give you an update. I have reached challenge 16 of level 1!. I have found it helpful reading threads of other people’s experience of the SSi way, and taking my time I am surprised by how much I have learnt.

Aran, I don’t know what your thoughts are on how I have been going about things, but rather like someone taking trial run-ups before clearing a hurdle I have stopped some challenges part-way through. After a couple of goes at the first 10 or 15 mins I feel brave enough to go from start to finish. I usually take a break after not getting anything out in response to the English sentence. I find writing down the vocabulary and examples helpful, and try to hear them spoken in my mind or speak them myself.

I’m enjoying learning about learning too.


The key thing is your emotional balance - if that approach keeps you going, then it’s the right approach for you… :slight_smile:

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