Our shot at helping NAFOW *and* breaking the Million Speakers target

I was thinking in Washington about how we help children acquire words.

Not how we teach them a whole language - just how we give them a few words.

It was because of what Donna Lloyd Jones said about the NAFOW age profile. She was right - it’s not a young crowd. But as I looked around the tables while she was speaking, I could see a different crowd - the people I’d met who were there because they’d learnt some Welsh.

It was a much, much younger crowd.

And I thought - the language isn’t an add-on - it’s how to get people involved in the first place. And it doesn’t go: learn -> fluent -> NAFOW, it goes learn a few words -> NAFOW.


I’ve been thinking about how to teach children for years.

I spent a couple of years volunteering at Angharad’s old school to teach bits of French and Spanish - a huge learning curve.

But all my thinking about teaching Welsh to children has been in the context of Wales.

I’d never wondered how to give children a few words and a spark of interest when there might not be another Welsh speaker for hundreds of miles.


So here’s a new idea - and it’s thanks to NAFOW. There’s no way I’d have had it otherwise.


Picture this:

You tap on a smartphone.

An app opens up.

It’s a dragon - a photo-realistic, CGI dragon. It’s looking at you.

Its eyes widen. It starts to breathe in, threateningly. You say ‘Paid!’ and it deflates slowly.

Or you don’t say ‘Paid!’ in time, and you get fire-balled.


It’s rocking from side to side, digging its claws into the ground.

It’s about to jump at you.

You say ‘Eistedd!’ in time, it flops down, grudgingly.

You don’t, the last thing you see is teeth… game over.


This is the SSi Method with the English taken out, replaced by visual prompts.

It means anyone, from any language, can use it.

And if they find it playful and entertaining, we can take them all the way up to dialogue interaction with the dragon itself.

I don’t know yet if we can go far enough for conversational fluency this way - I haven’t mapped the entire journey out - but I know that we can get to a wide range of conversational interaction, and that would be more than enough to spark a real interest - a real sense of belonging and involvement.

And the more complicated the language gets, and the more development money we can raise, the closer we get to being able to turn the higher levels into a multi-player game, where you need to be able to talk to other dragons - and, eventually, to other Welsh speakers - to co-operate and organise.

In other words, to become small but highly distributed pop-up Welsh speaking communities.


Now, imagine we have an entertaining app that turns people into functional Welsh speakers - or into people with enough Welsh to want to finish the job with SSiW - and that app is globally available, and (IT’S A DRAGON!) globally appealing to children.

Can that take us past the million speakers target?

Could it even turn Welsh into a kind of cult classic global language, with millions of new speakers?


I think it could become self-financing for the development - that players could pay tiny sums of money for things like adding colours or different kinds of skin or larger wings (or super-powers - Angharad says the dragon has to have super-powers!) - while all the actual learning could remain free.


But before we get to that point, we need a demo.

I’ve spoken to one of the front line speech recognition developers at Bangor University - he says this would stretch them, because the ideal lives-on-the-phone speech recognition tech is not yet available as a developer kit - but they’re currently working on exactly that with Mozilla. But they could do a lives-on-the-internet solution for a demo (and, of course, they could inevitably prioritise it a little more if we could make a financial contribution).

I’ve spoken to a nephew of Catrin’s who does animation - he could build an initial demo - we can’t put Ifan’s time into it right now (plus he’s not an animator) without slowing down the next round of beta testing for the SSiBorg, and I don’t want to impose on either Jeff or James until we have cash-flow for it (although I’m hoping very much that they’ll be part of it if we can get it to fly (bwm-tish! ;-)).


So I’m thinking two things.

I’m thinking a Kickstarter/IndieGoGo to try and raise an initial £5k or so - that should get us to a workable demo.

Then I’m thinking a Patreon set-up to allow people to become monthly contributors, plus follow-on Kickstarter campaigns to aim for key milestones. The further we build it out, the more chance of income from users and possible grant support.


Two questions to finish.

  1. What do you think of the idea?

  2. Would you be willing to chip in to a Kickstarter fund-raiser?


That sounds like a great idea, since on one hand, it’s not only relevant for children - a lot of language learners those days use speech recognition software such as one that’s part of Google Translate to get a confidence boost when speaking/learning a language that is hard to casually practice where they are (e.g., Korean learners do that a lot, if the program “writes down” exactly what they were trying to say, it means their pronunciation is recognisable, and it’s less intimidating to start with that than with a native speaker). But on the other hand, gamifying the process would make the same thing accessible to children (and children learn fast when there’s positive reinforcement, so the dragon sounds marvelous).


I think it sounds like a great idea too and I’d certainly chip in to a fundraiser.

If you want, I can run this past one of my colleagues who deals with our digital operations and has been involved (though to what extent I’m not quite sure) in apps and games and similar stuff - and he’s also learnt Welsh (he lives in Felinheli - you may have read his open letter to his idiot cousin recently :wink: ). I’ll wait for a go-ahead though.


Ardderchog! (A word I learned from a dragon-game a loooong time ago!) And yes, of course, I would chip in on a kickstarter, which I am fairly familiar with. Though I might suggest using indie go-go because with that one you can choose to get whatever you raise even if you don’t make the target. (With Kickstarter, you don’t get anything if you don’t make the target.) https://www.shopify.com/guides/crowdfunding/indiegogo-benefits-drawbacks


I like the idea!
And with this I mean both the game-like app and taking English out of the picture - because it would definitely give a chance to many more people to learn Welsh and other languages with SSiW method.

By the way, when I describe my experience with SSiW, many Italians asked if there is the same course to learn English.
Once the app is done it can easily be used for more popular languages as well - that can attract a bigger audience, I guess.

Does chipping in mean participate? Yes, I would.

Besides that, I’ve been doing extensive research in the last few months about Indiegogo and Kickstarter because I have to launch a campaign for another project pretty soon.
If you’d like a few extra info I gathered from various sources (including people who successfully funded or failed in their campaign) …just ask! I’m working on it anyway!


Gwych, diolch folks - Siaron, yes, that would be brilliant - hugely grateful for any chances to talk to coal-face type people at the moment…:slight_smile:

I think the energy in this community can be key for getting a working model up and running, and then we should be able to settle down for the long haul of pushing it as far as possible… :slight_smile:

Top tip, Sionned, diolch! There’s something about the ‘hit it or lose it’ model that I think helps focus minds - but it also seems a little dishonest for some things, because there’s no way we’re going to give up on this idea without a heck of a fight - so IndieGoGo is probably a more natural fit for us… :slight_smile:


I really like the Dragon app idea. While it’s geared towards kids, I wouldn’t leave out the possibility of adults as well. I’m thinking of myself and having an app to talk Welsh to would be helpful to work on pronunciation. Would need to have an “adult mode” to turn the app off so the little dragon doesn’t roar during a 10:30 meeting. :grinning: I can’t be saying, “Byddwch yn dawel, draig bach!”

Yes, it’s a brilliant idea that will help children and adults, too and I’d contribute to a kickstarter/gofundme campaign.


I did not know that about Kickstarter. Thank you, Sioneed.


Your mind is going in the same direction as mine… :wink: At the moment, apparently, we’re a fair few steps ahead of what is currently possible - we don’t have a large enough database of Welsh recordings to do high level voice recognition for ‘anything said in Welsh’, so we’ll need to be a) working from much more precise datasets (which is a better fit for kids than for adults, although I think we can get some useful stuff to happen for adults) and b) promoting efforts like https://voice.mozilla.org/cy/listen for all we’re worth… :slight_smile:


Indiegogo is a fine choice.

However this mindset is perfect for Kickstarter: even if the first campaign should fail - and with these numbers I don’t think it would, by the way - you just see what’s gone wrong, make a few tweaks and launch it again. And again, and again, on kickstarter, indiegogo…anywhere until it’s successful!

The extra value of Kickstarter is a huge boost and promotion that you can get from them with their subscribers, if you do things right (and there are instructions and tips on how to do it). This means potentially reaching a much wider audience, that might be willing to throw in a pound just because they like the idea (I did it several times!) and they’re going stay in your contacts list for the next campaign.

Also, when you finish a Kickstarter campaign you can transfer it to Indiegogo and go on for many more months (while, as far as I know, you cannot do the other way round).


That’s very interesting indeed, Gisella - diolch yn fawr iawn! - particularly about being able to transfer over to Indiegogo… :slight_smile:

I love the dragon app idea, and I’d be willing to contribute as finances allow. I have no experience with Kickstarter or any of those, so I can’t be of help there.

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Ti byth yn stopio, Aran, ndwyt? Great idea, anyway. I’m thinking of my grandson… I’m not sure how big a chip we could contribute, perhaps more of a french fry, but something. I guess every little helps.


I like the idea.

Also I can imagine playing it as an action game with my youngsters. I’ve been thinking for a while it would be great to have some welsh language nursery rhyme type of games. Does anyone else think it could work like that?

I suppose it would need a vocab set to play the game with commands to the dragon? Audio samples . . . I’m imagining I would play the dragon – maybe a few phrases of suggested responses from the dragon, and it could be tried out in a live action version with small new speakers? I guess I get to chase them round the garden if they forget what to say while I’m being the dragon. Possibly, some video clips of it working as a game acted out with plenty of delighted laughter might help in selling it for building the app?

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Wwww, that’s a really interesting thought - I’m not sure it would do the trick in current form, but might be possible to build a variation on the theme… will definitely put that to marinate somewhere…

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c@alice9’s idea and your response, Aran, makes me wonder whether either of you know of/are familiar with/getting fed up with (is that possible?) the physical book by the Ahlbergs… that may or not provide inspiration: namely The Jolly Postman:

I think perhaps I am thinking also of the world of Each Peach Pear Plum. As for assimilating all the details of the world of Ahlbergs’ The Baby’s Catalogue, the attempt makes my brain hurt. Wimmelbücher from Germany/France/Benelux world do the same thing…

I could imagine a combo of gaming + some version of BBC Cymru fyw but with interactive polls & reportage on what’s happening in those parallel worlds where dogs’ lost shoes are perhaps advertised as missing, found in the woods or sold on ebay (?), and there’s a mysterious outbreak of goats of many colours wandering around, and there’s always rhywbeth neis neis i fi… (to be defined/drawn/invented/uploaded as photos taken or images devised)…

I have no idea how child protection issues would be covered. I think in terms of physical books & toys and am just amazed by apps…

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I LOVE this idea. And I’m definitely happy to chip in.

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I’m hoping to put a chunk of stuff together next week for a Kickstarter - pretty much ready to go otherwise - so fingers crossed that gets us to at least an initial demo… :slight_smile:

I think I’m gonna be like Hagrid when this app comes out. :joy:


Hope you’ve got a beard ready to be singed… :smiley: