Newbie and speaking confidence


Fy enw i yw Sara and I am newbie who really struggling with this learning Welsh lark!

So this might sound a bit odd but it’s not the actually learning words or pronunciations that I’m struggling with but rather actually using it. I have been seriously considering learning Welsh for about 3 years now and I am completely overwhelmed. I have tried various methods (duolingo, TV programmes, the Big Welsh Challenge etc) but I have got to the point where I have realised that the reason I give up after a short while and feel the need to start from scratch again and again is because I know I will never ever actually try and speak it.

Having lived in Wales my whole life (21 years) I can understand some Welsh, probably more than I realise but I have no confidence in it at all. I find it easier to say that I can’t speak it that to try to. I have been in situations before where people have spoken Welsh to me and I literally just panic. It has gotten to the point where I won’t even say diolch to someone who holds the door open for me in case they reply with something I don’t understand. I get so frustrated with myself!

I am considering apply for a Welsh course after I graduate from uni next year but I don’t know if that will be worth it or not (especially with the cost as I’ll be leaving uni with debts to pay off). But learning Welsh would definitely help my chances of employment after graduation. I feel like I’m going nowhere fast!

I found out today that some of you Skype call in Welsh and offer a bootcamp which I think is FANTASTIC but I can’t see myself having the confidence in my Welsh speaking abilities to do that either. Do you know if anyone does Penpal/ emails in Welsh? I think it would be great to practice writing and spelling in Welsh, especially for socially awkward people like me. Is that a thing that people do?

Anyway Diolch for reading all of my ramblings!



In the words of Tom, it’s not unusual.

But while a Welsh penpal will improve your reading and writing, the only way to get out and speak Welsh is…

Well, you know the answer to that.

I have been where you are.

I have come out of shops berating myself for not having a nice chat with the shopkeeper in Welsh, when they were just talking to the previous customer in Welsh. I was much more relaxed about this “failure” when I realised that I don’t have nice chats with shopkeepers in English…

  • I am supremely fluent whilst in the car driving to a Welsh meetup.
  • I’m pretty good if it turns out to be just me and someone I’ve known for years
  • Not too bad if it’s the usual group

But throw in a newcomer? Hello stumbling, my old friend. Hello awkwardness. Hello worry about saying something wrong, or worry about saying something they won’t understand…

But I’m more relaxed about it now, ever since I realised that I’m like this in English too…

As for actually getting out and speaking - from the sound of it, lack of ability at speaking to people means lack of confidence, which leads to nerves and anxiety, meaning Welsh shutdown and frustration.

Address this first in a manner that’s comfortable to you and your confidence will grow.

What about?

  • A Skype call with a single person where you tell them about yourself from a script you’ve written and practiced.

  • Join an existing Skype call to lurk and listen - you’ll soon realise how other learners are just as stumbly has you

  • Uni in Wales? Find a tame speaking partner and use your script with them.


Helo Sara - I think this is all quite normal! If you’re worrying though about someone starting off in Welsh after you say ‘diolch’ maybe you could reply with a mix of English and Welsh (as a lot of people do) e.g. Sori dw’i jyst started dysgu this wythnos and gradually build from there as you get a little more confident

Well, it’s not really that you “know” you’ll never try to speak it, it’s more that you fear you’ll never try to speak it and that’s something that will be overcome little by little - a bit like learning to overcome fear of the water when learning to swim maybe, so hang in there and you’ll surprise yourself how much Welsh you’ll be using in a few weeks time!
Hwyl fawr, John


Hi Sara,
This is something that happens to so many people, so the first thing to remember is - it’s not just you! One of the SSiW mantras is “don’t fear mistakes”, which (we all know from experience) is easier said than done, but it really is the key.

I like to use a swimming analogy to try and help - imagine you want to learn to swim. You could watch lots of swimming events on TV or go to see them live. You could read every book going on technique, and talk to expert coaches in seminars, and of course still not be able to swim if you never actually get in the water.
So, keeping with the theme, ignore your inner voice which tells you you should be able to start by jumping of the high board into deep water. Instead, tell it “no, I’m only going to dip my toe in the water” then do it, dip your toe in, do a little paddling in the shallows - even if you stumble a bit and are splashed in the face, you will not have drowned! Gradually you’ll be able to wade in to your knees, then your waist, your shoulders - then before you know it you’ll find you can actually swim short distances (and then there’ll be no stopping you!).

Away from the pool now ( :wink: ), whatever you say in Welsh at this point really doesn’t have to come out perfectly or confidently, it just has to come out. When you feel yourself start to go into panic mode, take a deep breath and in your head count slowly back from 5 in Welsh… pump…pedwar…tri…dau…un… then at the same speed, start speaking but get some Welsh in there - anything, even if it’s mixed in with English as John suggested above.
Every Welsh word you say out loud is a brick that you can throw at that glass bubble of ‘social awkwardness when it comes to speaking Welsh’. And just think, it works two ways - you’ll not only be smashing your own barrier, but those ‘bricks’ help break other people’s barriers too (remember, they’re glass, so you may not see them, but they might be there!)


Croeso i’r fforwm, Sara! :slight_smile:

I am also a relative newbie to learning Welsh and have yet to speak any Welsh in the wild. However, I do have experience of having a ‘speaking fear’ in other languages – German (which I am now fairly comfortable with) and Spanish (in which I am a walking, talking disaster…) so hopefully I can help you out a bit!

If I may add another analogy into the mix – think of speaking like skydiving: Before you jump is the most absolutely terrifying part. You don’t want to do it; it would be easier just to stay in the plane. There are only two ways of then ‘persuading’ yourself to jump out the door – do it before you think too much about it, or get someone to push you!*

Once you jump, you’re on your way and maybe you’ll realise it’s actually quite fun, and not so scary at all. (My analogy falls apart when it comes to the deployment of the parachute / reaching the ground, so I’ll just leave that bit out) :wink:

There is no way to prepare for actually doing a skydive (other than learning the safety procedures – which, in this now very tenuous analogy, can be stock phrases like ‘I don’t understand’ or ‘Can you repeat that please?’ etc.) – you’ve just got to take the plunge and do it. It is impossible to gain speaking confidence before you start launching yourself into real-life speaking situations – so all you can do is dive in at the deep end (oh dear, I’m mixing up metaphors awfully now!).

But the main thing is: yes, it’s scary and yes, it’s difficult – but that’s what makes it worthwhile. Yes, you will come away from some situations feeling like an idiot (I’ve been there many times…) but other times you’ll come away completely elated! And those moments will propel you forward and give you more confidence. Better to have some cringe-worthy memories of trying to speak Welsh than to never have tried at all. :slight_smile:

*If you find that you do want to be ‘pushed’ into speaking in the wild, you could use this forum to help – e.g. post a mini report every week of where you have spoken Welsh, so that you start to push yourself to do so instead of falling back into the English ‘safety net’.

Some suggestions for putting speaking into practice:

– Build Welsh-speaking habits into your lifestyle: if your local shopkeeper speaks Welsh, for example, build up the habit of talking to them in Welsh. The first time will be totally nerve-wracking, but it will get better after that, and after a while it will become the norm for you to speak Welsh whenever you’re in that shop – your brain will build up the association so that eventually, speaking English in the shop would just seem strange.

– Join a club or a fitness class or something else that is run in Welsh. Very scary to begin with, but hugely rewarding! Again, your brain will build up these associations so that speaking Welsh truly becomes a routine. (Plus you’ll learn impressive specialist vocabulary!)

– Being upfront about the fact that you’re a learner can help, because as soon as you make that clear, you’re taking the pressure off yourself to say everything perfectly. To use my Spanish as an example: even though it was completely obvious to everyone by my accent and my general stumbling awkwardness, mentioning the fact that I’m a learner (e.g. ‘Sorry, I’m still learning – could you repeat that?’ or similar) was helpful to ME because it reminded me that it didn’t matter if I was speaking like a three-year-old child, as long as I was understanding and being understood.

– Find someone you are comfortable with talking to one-to-one. I’ve had a number of speaking ‘buddies’ over the years with German and Spanish (slightly different in these cases because we would also switch to English so that they could practise in turn) and some partnerships have worked better than others based on shared interests, expectations and levels of correcting that went on. So I’d suggest putting some feelers out and finding someone who’d be willing to help you to practice regularly – and be clear to them what would be most helpful in terms of correction. Find a balance on the scale between from just letting you speak as much as possible, regardless of all mistakes (other than those that impede comprehension) to stopping you every time you make a mistake and explaining in detail what you did wrong. The former is the most useful in terms of building confidence, the latter is really not ideal in most circumstances. What I’ve found best is fairly ‘free-flowing’ conversation with occasional gentle corrections of mistakes that I frequently make.

– Talk with other learners. This can be a fantastic way to practice and gain confidence, because there is absolutely no pressure to express yourself elegantly!

– Also, a final (slightly unorthodox) tip: if arrangements allow, choose to meet up with your language buddy / group one evening in a pub and have yourself an alcoholic drink. Slight inebriation does wonders for making you care less about mistakes… :wink: But only in moderation: full intoxication just means you make no sense at all, in any language! :smile:

Pob lwc – you can do it! :star2:


This is very true – speaking in a second language is often as much as a challenge for these social reasons as it is for linguistic reasons. Being a fairly shy person, I have found it very difficult to push myself into speaking situations like this, but again it boils down to confidence. Being forced to communicate badly in another language has actually made me more open and confident in English because I suddenly realise: hey, I can say anything I want to and be understood! I’m more willing to chat and make small talk with people than before – and in turn, this has made me a little bit more confident when similar situations arise in a different language. Speaking confidence seems to be a ‘virtuous circle’ with benefits for the language you’re learning as well as your mother tongue! :slight_smile:


Hi Sara, and welcome to the forum! :slight_smile:

You don’t actually mention if you’ve tried any of our lessons? You might find them helpful, particularly if you’ve got a certain amount of passive Welsh already :slight_smile:

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Hello! :slight_smile: Thank you for replying!

That’s what’s making it so frustrating! To actually be able to speak Welsh confidently, I actually have to start trying even if I make mistakes. In truth, I’m not scared of making mistakes. I’m scared of being laughed at (which has actually happened to me before). I think Skype calling would be beneficial, I didn’t think of writing a script! :slight_smile: Honestly I think my main problem is that when I think about what I already know how to say it Welsh, I think I can say this, I can say that, but when it comes to actually saying that to someone I think Oh God I literally don’t know how to say hardly anything. So then I just use English so becuase it’s exactly what someone else described it as ‘my safety net’.

Yes my uni is in Carmarthen, which I thought would be beneficial to me as it is a bilingual university and a lot of people speak Welsh there, but from my experience (so far at least) Welsh speakers that I have met are not very encouraging of new speakers or not very patient with people who are not as confident. (Which is why I am so happy that people on here are so encouraging! :grin:) I even had a woman shout at me for not being able to hold a full coversation with her in Welsh which definitely didn’t help either.

Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that - people like that do real, active damage to the future of the language.

Very sorry to hear that you’ve had negative experiences so far - the overall feedback we get from our learners is that the vast majority of speakers are happy and supportive when they meet learners, so I hope you’ll have some much more positive experiences in the future… :slight_smile:

Hello! :slight_smile:
That’s a good point! I think my excuse is that it’s easier not to bother that have to deal with the awkwardness of not understanding, (Not a good excuse at all really!) The problem I have is not necessarily choosing to speak Welsh over English but actually having someone to speak Welsh to. None of my family or friends speak it or want to learn to. I’m from Bridgend and I honestly don’t think I’ve heard anyone speak Welsh there ever, and in Carmarthen (where I go to uni) I get too overwelmed because I’m not used to people speaking it. You’d think a bilingual uni would want to encourage mixing Welsh and none Welsh speakers but they don’t, they are put in different classes and accomodation!

Thank you for the encouragement! :slight_smile: I’m sure I’ll get there eventually!

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Thank you! :slight_smile:

I think it has definitely given my confidence a knock. From my experience the most supportive people are the ones who understand what it’s like to be a new speaker. The handful of people who have been rude about it have spoken it all their lives and are impatient to people just starting out.

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Thank you! :slight_smile:

I have tried them and they are very helpful! I’m just not consistant with it so I keep starting over because I feel like I’ve forgotten everything. I need to work on not getting discouraged! :slight_smile:

This is a common experience, and often leads to people getting stuck - but if you keep pushing on with a new lesson each time, you’ll find that the spaced repetition built into the lessons gives you the revision of the earlier stuff that you need… :slight_smile:

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Quite likely there are at least a few others at Carmarthen Uni starting to learn Welsh or wanting to (even if they’re keeping quiet about it :slight_smile:). Might there be the posssibility for you to use the noticeboards to try and get a beginners’ Welsh conversation group started?


Oh, Sara foch, it is very hard if anyone is a little bit shy. I do not seem at all shy and never did, but some of that was over-compensation by talking much and often! (in English). Mind. having a persona associated with confidence meant that I was the ‘volunteer’ to try out my French in France, Italian in Italy etc… It is amazing how sweet people are - in most cases - when you try to use their language! Maybe the woman who was so unkind in Cymraeg just got out of the wrong side of the bed? Maybe she just isn’t a very nice lady? Don’t let her put you off! Find a shy Welsh speaker and support each other! How? Lurk and watch. Whenever, as a kid, we moved and I changed schools, I would watch and notice the quiet, shy one who nobody much talked to, lurk near her (went to girls’ schools!) and say a quiet “Hello”. Try it with “Shmae, Helo, Sara dw i!”

Like Aran said, it’s Spaced Repetition. In other words, the SSiW lessons work on your subconscious mind, which is always going to be a few steps ahead of your conscious mind. So feeling like you have forgotten everything is totally normal - we have all been there. And, when you feel that way, you have NOT totally forgotten everything at all, it’s just at the “back” of your memory. The way stuff is repeated at intervals in later lessons will tease the hidden memories back out of their hiding holes, all in good time.

It takes some getting used to, but “trusting the process” and moving forward with the lessons really works. This forum is full of people who can testify to that.


Helo! There’s lots of good advice here. All I can do is reinforce the fact that you just have to take the plunge and say something in Welsh to someone that speaks Welsh. See where it takes you and enjoy.

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There is a Carmarthen SSiW group for term time. It only exists in spirit at the moment, I believe - perhaps you could raise back to life.

And there’s also a regular monthly Bridgend meetup. Try asking here if anyone is up for an impromptu chat…

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And Kidwelly. We’re not far from Carmarthen.


Hi Sara,

I didn’t see this mentioned before in this thread, and apologies if it has been: have you considered attending an SSiW bootcamp? This would give you a real “off the deep end” kickstart, without any risk to your physical or mental well-being :slight_smile:

BTW, there are many here among us who are quite envious of someone like you who lives in Wales! And in my experience just this week, there are more people than you think who speak Welsh, its just that they don’t speak it if noone else does…