A friend and I are starting a conversation group here in East Sheen. She is fluent - I struggle at level 1. We’ve advertised for other interested parties but now that we’ve created this I’m wondering how best to carry out a successful group. What can we do to manage an evening of differing capabilities so that we all get to practice speaking our welsh. Any and all ideas gratefully received. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
Interesting question - and I’m a little short on time right now, but I’ll try to come back to this - it’s always challenging with different levels - maybe you could have a range of different activities, some which work for people with limited Welsh, some which make more room for more advanced users…
But fingers crossed you’ll get some great input here from some of the many people who have run successful groups in other places…
The widest variation between people that we find is in the extent of their vocabulary. One thing you can do to help this is to plan the activities well ahead. Then you can inform people of the topics/situations you will be using so they can look words up in their dictionaries before they come.
Many learners of Welsh follow courses where they read and write alongside listening and speaking and there may be some in your group. If you have some people who have learned solely through SSiW you may find that they struggle to read or write Welsh but speak it well with good pronunciation. We try to level this out by using pictures instead of words. There are Web sites for teaching English as a second language where you can find picture stories that you are allowed to download for this purpose.
I expect you will get lots of suggestions and you will be able to choose those most appropriate for your group.
Something that we’ve found invaluable, in a group with widely differing conversational ability, is to have something to do. We play card games every meeting, and that’s been great because it’s (a) an icebreaker, (b) something that doesn’t need too much vocab to be able to do in Welsh but that confident speakers can have fun with and © a great leveller, because with most games anyone can win no matter how well they speak Welsh!
That’s really the main advice I can think of. I’ll add anything else later if I think of it, but the thing that’s stood out to me most in my experience is that the less exclusive focus there is on the actual speaking Welsh part, the easier and better it tends to happen.
Good luck, and have fun!
@Deborah-SSi - good one for the next email?
Hi Sheelagh! Great idea to start a conversation group. We have had ours going weekly for an hour and a half over lunch in Great Malvern for a year or so now. We also have a few fluent speakers and some total beginners and everything in between. What we started a few months ago now, and has been going really well, is to suggest a subject for each week. Everyone is encouraged to think about it in advance, look up any relevant vocab and put together a few sentences while they have time to think what they want to say, and how to say it. We then , after initial greetings, go round the group one person at a time, and they each get to say their piece. If they really want to, and don’t feel confident to speak off the cuff, they can write a few sentences and read them, as a prompt. The advantage of this “topic” idea is that it ensures that everyone has a chance to speak, and the group is not swamped by a few enthusiastic “speakers”. It means the fluent ones can help the beginners, and when they themselves have their turn, the rest of us have the opportunity to listen and understand ( hopefully) to some fluent Welsh on the same topic, but not too fast please!. It is a chance to learn more vocab, and some more fluent or natural ways of putting things.It is also very interesting and amusing. The sort of subjects we have had are such things as “my favourite holiday” or " my favourite book, or film, or place, Or where I grew up, A foreign country where I have lived. etc. A couple of beginners in he group have even got together to prepare their presentations between meetings! That’s enthusiasm for you.We have a lot of fun.
When and where will you be meeting and can anyone join in ?
I agree with all of the above, games, topics, etc. I have also find images useful. The Geiriadur Lliwgar, the picture dictionary, is a great resource and the different pages can be used as a springboard for memories and observations. A series of pictures from a children’s book (without the words) for people to put in order and make up a story. Flash cards I acquired through WJEC have also been useful. I think anything that can distract people from the seriousness of ‘OMG I’m going to fail’ is a winner. When people forget to be nervous they often surprise themselves. If you can get a few fairly fluent people involved to keep things moving by providing words and simple questions, that helps too.
Diolch yn fawr iawn iawn i pawb. I’m just back home and thank you for all these great ideas and for sharing your experience.Next Wednesday is suddenly upon us when we have our first meeting in the Hare and Hounds in East Sheen. I’m both excited and apprehensive - think that’s good. I’ll let you all know how it goes,
apologies for the lack of activity here. We are now running our first meeting this coming Wednesday the 12th October. Del and I will be in the Hare and Hounds on the Upper Richmond Road, East Sheen at 7:00pm. There may be a few more and it will be very ad hoc as we work out what people want but there will definitely be the two of us ie one fluent Gog and one from Carmarthenshire with a limited vocabulary. You can call me on 02083929413 if you have questions. Pob hwyl, Sheelagh
Hi Aran, we’ve had lots of lovely advice and after the summer break we are finally getting started this week. I appreciate it’s too late for this month but, assuming we go ahead, is it possible to get this group advertised through SSI please?
I ran a group for several years where the numbers fluctuated tremendously both in the long term and from week to week.
Sometimes two, sometimes fifteen.
As long as there were two people there who enjoyed talking Welsh to each other through the evening, it was a success and useful for the people who turned up.
I completely stopped worrying about numbers after a time.
I don’t think anyone who came to it found it offputting if there were a large or small number.
We certainly didn’t ring each other at any point.
I cancelled one other group because no one else apart from me and someone I would have seen anyway kept turning up for it, but that’s a different thing.
Have a go! Keep at it! All the best!
Oh, and most importantly, good for you and have fun!
Diolch yn fawr iawn for the encouragement [ is there such a thing as wenglish?]. I was lucky that Del turned up when I advertised on Streetlife for other welsh speakers so I’m confident we’ll be at least 2. I’ll take a welsh book just in case and, gosh, I’ll have to sit there and have a drink. Sheel
That’s a great attitude to have. Two people is plenty when those people have a good attitude. It sounds like you do!
I have been to many such groups, and been involved in running them myself, from when I started learning Welsh through to when I would class myself as able to comfortably have natural conversations in Welsh.
All the groups were different, both as a group and on different days, with differing numbers of people, at different levels of Welsh, with people using both Welsh and English in differing amounts (as can happen with first language Welsh speakers.)
I found all of them useful, and it seemed to me that everyone else found them useful (both through observation and through conversation on the subject.)
The main difference in how much Welsh was spoken was not in how many people were there, or the level of Welsh of those there, but in the attitude of people there at the time (which might change from week to week, even with the same people.)
Whatever Welsh was used was useful, and in groups which were composed just of people learning, it was still useful.
If your experience in the groups you went to was different, that is unfortunate.
But extending that (as you say, limited) experience to saying that you need a certain number of people, and a certain number of fluent speakers for groups such as this to be of use is, quite frankly, incorrect.
And, importantly, counterproductive, which is not good when based on incorrect information.
The more groups like this better. If people set them up, they should realise they are doing a service to people wanting to learn Welsh.
Enjoy them, enjoy the experience, do them for as long as you enjoy running them. They will be of use to people who come to them.
Exactly. Then saying you need a number of speakers or for a certain percentage to be at a certain level for a group to be of use is incorrect.
I’ve been in ‘entirely Welsh nights’ with two or three learners at an early stage, and in large groups with lots of first language speakers where the language switches back and forth constantly.
All such groups are different, do different things, work in different ways and that is wonderful. They all help people to use what Welsh they have.
This needs to be stressed, so people are not put off setting up or keeping going such groups.
Diolch yn fawr iawn - edrychwch am wagle hwn! [ do hope I haven’t said something drwg there!]
I live in Cheltenham when I’m in U.K. I’d be very interested in joining your group.
I think there are a lot of Welsh speakers in Cheltenham but so far I’ve only come across one.