I was also on the course and here are my thoughts and general ramblings:
I came to the course knowing very little Welsh: I had managed to get through the first couple of sessions of the older SSIW material before, learned (and forgotten) a few nouns from a language challenge I did last year where you had to learn some numbers, colours, countries, basic phrases - really not very much from a different language each month) , what I have picked up from road signs in the 2 months I’ve been living in Wales, some incidental Welsh (bendigedig!, Ffantastig!, Da Iawn, Ty bach, Bore da, barod, etc…) that I’ve learned in the 3 weeks I’ve been working in an English medium primary school in Cardiff, and the ability to sing most of the national anthem at the rugby and the nursery rhyme Gee Cefl Bach.
Day 1, I found the first three sessions fine - I was keeping up with the Welsh and felt OK. Then at sessions 4 and 5 I began to seriously want to repeat the sessions because I didn’t feel like I had got to grips with anything. We weren’t allowed to do that, so I had little choice but to press on. To be honest, I found day one really hard - couldn’t talk to anyone, the house was VERY quiet and I didn’t feel like I was really learning very much. I did manage to string a few words together during the speaking session at the end of the day though, so that was a little encouraging.
Day 2: By lunch time I was thinking “This is ridiculous and stupid and I’m not learning ANYTHING!”. You really do need to be determined to get through one of these courses, because I’m not one to give up on a challenge, so I was going to finish it if it killed me. I also had a phone call to say that my son needed picking up from school so had to speak English to school and then my husband. This was supposed to be forbidden and Aran thought that if we spoke English it would harm our Welsh, but actually I found that having a 10 minute conversion actually made me feel better emotionally, which I think actually aided the process for the rest of the week
Day 3 Now this is interesting. By day 3 (doing the latter stages of course 1 by this point), I discovered that there were great swathes of material that I had NO IDEA about. Huge long sentences where I was lucky if I could get one or two words out. Things like: ‘I met someone in the pub who said that he worked with your brother’ where I said "pub…brother’. HOWEVER, also realised that some of the things I couldn’t get and wanted to repeat sessions to learn on Monday were now no problem. This gave me the confidence not to worry about what I wasn’t learning and press on anyway.
Day 4 By now I was an SSIW machine. I wasn’t sleeping well, so started at about 7am and packed in as many sessions as possible. I took a drive to get out of the house and did a session as I drove around (cabin fever was setting in). In the evening I discovered that I was able to understand most of what Aran was saying and even what Catrin said when she popped in briefly and could also communicate (if in a rather limited way) in Welsh.
Day 5: Finished course 2 by lunchtime. Yay!
I wouldn’t say that I was really able to speak that much Welsh, but I do feel that I have enough of a basis to start having conversations. I DEFINITELY need to go back and look at the he/she/we/they stuff because although I can talk about myself and to one other person reasonably comfortably, I find it incredibly hard to find the words if talking about someone else!
My general thoughts and tips on doing an intensive course:
- You really need to be comfortable with your own company because you will, essentially be on your own for 10/11 hours a day, and when you are with others you won’t really be able to communicate, so it IS very isolating
- Understand that there WILL be lots that you don’t get, but keep going.
- Recognise that even if you don’t get it now, you may well do so in a few days time.
- Occasionally, you will get a section in the middle of a lesson that is nice and easy - enjoy those bits!
- I took some crochet with me that I could do whilst learning or during down time. Personally, I found having a sort of displacement activity helped me to concentrate (because I can do the crochet without thinking - maybe something like an adult colouring book would work, or something else that doesn’t need thought. Might not work for everyone, but seemed to work for me.
I hope that is helpful to anyone thinking of doing two courses in a week (you mad fools, you)!