Reading & Learning Styles

Having recently posted in the thread about reading Welsh books, I have realised something.
One idea behind SSiW is to learn in a similar way to a child learning their first language. I’ve always loved books, as a child I always had a dictionary by my bed (geeky or what!), I learned to read before school. So, I’ve realised that I’ve actually part of me wanted to learn Welsh in the same way as I learned most of my English, by reading. So, really I’ve needed to learn just enough about sentence grammar and enough basic vocabulary to be able to read and only have to look up the odd new word. This is a stage I feel I am almost at.
I have just completed reading my first Nofelau Nawr book, the first half of the book I only picked up the gist, but towards the end I was picking up much more detail (with the help of a dictionary), without gettign frustrated that i wasn’t understanding everything
However, what I really want to do is learn to listen and speak in Welsh, which for me seems to come after being able to read (well in a ‘grown up’ way anyway)! Nonetheless after finishing the SSiW courses, the most efficient method of progressing for me may be just to read and keep seeking opportunities to speak and listen.
When I was a teaching assistant in a primary school, I spent a lot of time helping children read books, I was realising that the children weren’t reading the same way I do, I struggled to understand them because I had no memory of learning to read myself. So, I did get assessed for learning styles, to discover that I am a musical learner (which is why listening to childrens songs works really well for me), I look for temporal patterns predominately, so actually I do struggle to pick out words from speech amidst the cacophony of sound, I focus too much on the rhythm and not on the specifics of the ‘notes’. This may explain why I find reading easier than listening. So learning a language has been a very interesting process in learning something new and is changing the way I listen to people speak for the better!


I think I was initially a slow reader. I didn’t read before I went to school. I was happy to be read stories by my mother and told stories (either from memory, or that he had made up, or a mixture of history and story) by my father. I can remember being shown flash cards in class at school and publicly confusing “yes” and “say” and feeling horribly embarrassed. Was I dyslexic? (not a word used then). Probably not, because once I “got” it, reading became second nature, and before long, I was considered at school to be an advanced reader for my age. My father read a lot, so I had his example, but then I’d also grown up with the “oral tradition”, and I still love a good story, told by someone who tells it well.

This could well be it. I loved hearing stories, I would refuse to go to sleep until my parents had at least got to the end, then demand more and probably began sneakily trying to read after lights out! If you’re determined to do something you tend to find a way! Thetrick is not to be intense but allow yourself to pick it up.

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A lot of people instinctively feel that’s the case, but it isn’t - pretty much everything we do is fairly dramatically different from how children learn their first language… :sunny:

In passing - on learning styles - the science doesn’t seem to back them up, although they’re a very popular concept:


Well, SSiW focuses on listening and speaking before the written word which is how children learn, furthermore SSiW is billed as a ‘word game’ rather than an academic exercise. This is perhaps where the idea of it being like children learning stems from, that it is a game, even though it isn’t actually how children learn!

Yes, I did read a lot about learning styles at the time and I agree with you about it’s practical application, but I think it remains useful for individuals to think about. The point is that everyone learns differently, you can lump people into boxes, only to find as much diversity in each box as you started with!

Learning a language is such a fascinating thing to do and I am rather side-tracked by interest in the process rather than just learning more efficiently. so much so that I am interested in learning a language in which I don’t have prior experience of the written form first just to see what that is like!

The thing about reading and SSiW is both can be done at your own pace. In SSiW some lessons fly by, others less so, but you are in control of how quickly you go through the material. The same with reading or learning a musical instrument, you go very slowly at first and pick up speed with practice. Whereas with listening, you can’t control the pace of the speaker most of the time and classes everyone learns at different speeds.
Anyway, I always compare everything to music and language is very much the same. On a first listen you might pick up a little information and pick out things you like or understand. But with repetition and practice you are able to pick out more and more each time and understanding of the structure improves. So I’m learning to listen to Welsh the same way I listen to music. What i like about SSiW is that it stops me over thinking and just try to blurt out the sentence before Catrin gets in (whilst an inner voice curses that I’ve used ‘hi’ instead of ‘ni’ at the beginning of the sentence)


You can introduce as much reading as you wish into the mix at the stage of your choice - whether it be motivational, enjoyable or aligns with one’s own preferences. Reading is also one of the reasons we learn languages - it is one of the spices of life - isn’t it.

I’m guessing that it takes a minimum vocabulary of about 300 words to be able to read, realistically. With little vocabulary or understanding of the sounds it would be nigh impossible to interpret those squiggles on a page at the beginning - so for many of us the joy of reading very early on would be very frustrating. Each to his or her own path though.

Now as you ascend from about a three hundred word vocabulary toward a 750 word vocabulary, the world is your oyster and the joy of reading becomes enhanced as you spend less time leafing through a dictionary or can “guesstimate” meanings from the context (this latter is my favourite as when I am engrossed in the story I hate to look away from the page).

I think that in practice, and without counting (as the exact number of words doesn’t matter so much as the concept), that through Level 1 of SSiW you learn enough about the sounds, through listening and repeating, and essential vocabulary too that you gain enough of the essentials of the language to be able to introduce whatever mix of reading is your preferred choice thereafter.

I adore reading and am tempted to do it as soon as possible. I am somewhat influenced by my initial experience of learning languages years ago - through learning grammar and reading - where I had a truly horrible time translating that into conversing. So for me now I give up a little pleasure from early reading in order to accelerate and improve the ability to converse.

And wow, for me, emphasising listening and speaking early on using the SSiW dialogues has worked in spades,



I think the fact I’m not ‘competing’ with all those clever people who ‘get it right’ helps me get on with the SSi approach. I still recall the pounding heart when it was my turn, in class, to say something in French with words I’d forgotten and in a terrible accent and feeling crushed by the ease of fellow learners.
I also respond well to the praise element of SSi, because it is hard work and I have always associated language learning with very negative feedback (wrong word, wrong pronunciation, wrong tense).
I like that someone actually respects my struggle and tells me not to worry and makes it feel such an achievement to get to the next lesson :slight_smile:


I have always noticed how many people seem to think that first language acquisition is somehow better or more natural. I think it is somehow connected with the myth of the golden childhood:) But people who are learning their second language, unlike children, have a fully functioning first language system in their heads which is helps enormously to “install” the second system (or sometimes just to understand it, like the Italians and the Spanish understand each other). Adults can make connections, compare, deduce, understand abstract concepts and do so many things little children can’t do:)

I think the SSI might be making its small revolution here. I’m a notoriously harsh teacher, but just on Wednesday I went into my beginner class and said happily: “You all made the same mistake in your homework, this is absolutely fantastic”.


I love this post! I think I want it on a coaster on my desk…


That’s absolutely true, fair play. :sunny:

And fair points about people learning in different ways (despite the lack of robust evidence for ‘learning styles’) - to me, it’s an emotional thing more than anything. I don’t really believe that anyone learns a language better/faster by (for example) reading initially instead of focusing on speaking/listening - but I do believe that there are plenty of people who strongly prefer a written approach, to the extent that they wouldn’t keep working on an audio-only approach… etc…

Most of what we do is based on the central idea (which steps slightly out of the main stream of thought in language acquisition theory) that languages aren’t actually a special case - that they’re just a variant on the (much better understood, for my money) ‘how do we create memories’ problem. So we get to strip away a lot of the extra work that most courses do to ‘help’ the learner ‘understand’ the language, and just focus on building strong memories for the key structures, in the confident belief that once a learner starts communicating in their new language, they’ll (rapidly, in most cases) fill in the gaps. :sunny:


One of the most refreshing things about SSiW was that feeling of being given “permission to make mistakes”, in contrast to traditional approaches which leave people tongue-tied, not because they don’t necessarily know what to say, but because they are terrified of making a mistake. And then later feeling guilty because they have done, especially with written work (which traditional approaches are also very heavy in) when seeing almost more “red pen” corrections than there was original writing.

To borrow and mutate a line from a once-famous film: “Being an SSiW learner means never having to say you’re sorry”. :innocent:


I was just wondering where music might play in this mix, if at all - people always swear by music as a tool for learning English. Personally I find it very useful and it is obviously a tool used to develop kids language skills. I don’t think it helps with my lack of vocabulary, but singing along in the car to different patterns in folk songs gets my brain working at a higher speed I think and I have sung some of the answers on the SSIW, before Cat comes in and that helps when sometimes it can be a bit of a mouthful, but if you sing it, it suddenly becomes very easy. When wela i di, first came up I switched to almost singing back the answers in the style of Weli di weli di Mari bach. Welais i is a really familiar one now after lots of exposure to mi welais jac-y-do. Hen fewnyw - easy peasy after loads of exposure to hen fenyw fach cidweli.

After a very short period of time the words became as clear as a bell and I don’t have to think about them, but initially I remember thatall of the songs were just noise - Weli di, Weli di mari bach, fuoch chi rioed yn morio, gee cefyll bach yn cario ni’n dau, mi welai jac-y-do etc etc etc - I think it helped - but don’t do it much now and don’t watch Cyw any more either, but would like to…


I think it would be a highly interesting topic,


I think there probably are good ways to include songs in the overall learning mix - I’m not sure if they’re necessarily on the path of maximum efficiency, but they clearly have a lot of soft value around enjoyment and (hence) repetition.

One of these days, I hope to find time to map out the complete lyrics for some albums against the content of our lessons - I think a set of lessons for a particular album would be an interesting addition to the mix… :sunny:


My comment may be in the wrong place; I am not very often here these days, and am not very IT aware.
I want to ask a question, and it is meant to be a very serious one, not a wind up; I find that many people are swearing by SSIW; I see many positive comments on such as Facebook , and so on. For me, though I still pay money each month cos I am keen in principle, I find the format mindnumbing and offputting; " I am going to the town/ I am going to the village/ I am going to the dogs" ( small attempt at humour there) just turns me off, and I do not really think that the research backs up the methodology all that strongly. But clearly many people like it. I like it, I just cannot face it. It winds my anxiety level up to the point of tears . What would help… and maybe there was a way to do this… would be if I could stop at a certain point and go for a sleep and start again from there next time I log in; it starts all over again. That aside, has ANYONE else found the format a massive , context-less, hurdle to cross? How does one face the " brain switching off" tedium? I already know pretty much all the vocab, form way back, it is the just the sentence construction/ verbs that I have no clue about. Can anyone make any suggestions beyond stick at it you fool?

Both the iOS and Android apps remember lesson position so you can start from where you left off before your nap. If you can’t use either of those options then another option is to download the lesson files to your computer or MP3 player. Very often these will also remember playback position, and even if they do not there is generally a way for you to skip to a specific point in the lesson.

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Ahah! No surprise then; it is my inability to do anything IT ish that is part of the problem. Thanks.

I’m glad you asked! I’m new here myself and have been getting a little worn down trying to remember where I left off, since I get overwhelmed too after about five minutes’ worth of vocabulary. I’ll look for the app.

there are links to both apps at the bottom of the lesson pages I think

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I’ll bear this in mind, should I ever get hold of something to download them to. I have a £6 pay as you go phone ( not kidding) and an ancient computer with ancient systems on it. TBH I doubt I will any time soon, as I am clueless, but perhaps it could happen when I get my new house, and have internet connection. Currently I am camping out in holiday flats and so on on the Lleyn.
Does the system know how far one has got? I THINK I did lesson 4 or 5 before my wheels dropped off.