Thinking in Welsh

I have always heard that the sig of true mastery of a language is to be able to think in it.

Obviously, as I am learning Wesh I am thinking in English.

How does thinking in the language occur? Does it come as a natural result of learning? Is there another step? How does one begin to think with what theyve learned?


It may be different for others, but in my experience it just sort of creeps up on you - there’s a time when you suddenly realise you thought something and it was in Welsh. If you can get as much exposure to Welsh in all forms as you can, that will definitely speed up the process.


Yes - it’s not something to worry about, or to try and force - it’s just something that will happen at some stage, and the more time you spend in the target language, the sooner it will happen… :slight_smile:


The thinking in one language you learn just occurs. It’s probably (at least in my case it was kind of so) due to deep wish to get some chat in that target language (in this case Welsh) and you have not yet got the courage to actually go and speak to the strangers in target language. It’s kind of talking to yourself thing just that you don’t actually talk but rather think.

Now that I’ve learnt quite amount of Welsh, I find myself pondering my thoughts in Welsh at 5 o’clock in the morning when walking to the bus station. Kind of great thing me thinks.

You will see. It will just occur one day and you’d not be even aware at first that thiis is actually happening. Some patience is needed also so be patient and tend to learn as much as possible. :slight_smile:


I hope youre right, Tatja. I like to just walk, and think and brood and I’d like a civilized language like Welsh or German to do it in. The longer I speak English the more vulgar it sounds. Maybe its just a personal issue


I’ve been reading and watching a lot of YouTube videos with tips by polyglots in the past two months (by the way thanks a lot to @mikeellwood for providing quite a few names and links!).

One of the more inspiring for me was this, called “Thinking in a foreign language?”

Here it is, if you (or anyone) is interested.


I’ve only been learning Cymraeg for nine months, but this is the first time I’ve heard/read someone call Welsh “civilized.” That’s an interesting concept. What makes a language civilized?

To answer your question that mastery occurs when one begins to think in the language and when does it occur, you have had great answers already. I’m no where near being fluent, but I do consider myself a Cymraeg siradwr (Welsh speaker). For me, I’ve only experienced thinking in Welsh after I’ve had a Welsh speaking session. I live in the United States, so conversing in Welsh on a daily basis is problematic for me. I do run two Welsh speaking groups and we meet weekly. After I’ve spoken with the group, and return to my English speaking family, I find…sometimes…Welsh pops in my head first before English lasting for a few moments.

For me, it’s not been a switch turning on and Dw i’n meddwl yn y Gymraeg, rwan (now I think in Welsh.) It comes and goes, but ALWAYS…at least for now…after I’ve been speaking Cymraeg with a group of people. The more intensively I try to speak Cymraeg, the more likely I am to think in it.


How interesting @delawarejones. I’ve got myself cauht in oposite way. The less I spoke, the more I thought in Welsh and guess what? Yesterday I’ve had lovely conversation on Skype with @brigitte and @BronwenLewis, in Welsh of course but since we’ve talked about my work (my job) I didn’t have all Welsh words at hand so I’ve (just like on Radio Cymru) quickly mixed up the English and Welsh and explained the work I do. However, Bronwen saw I am not that skilled in this field of conversation so she asked me: How would you describe your work in English. To my surprise I’ve all of a sudden used many "umm"s and “aaa”,s and that kind of stuff to hardly compose the explanation in English. All what popped up was Welsh to the level I knew (my job was still mystery wrapped in English though).

The thinking in Welsh is not in any way connected with how much exposure to the language I had previous day or just recently. It just comes. Or I’m thinking about something, i.e. a poem, a song, about the people of this lovely community etc and my thoughts are in Welsh. Sometimes i think bilingually or even “trilingually” - it depends about what I’m thinking. It’s like an undubbed movie sometimes when I think about the things in the language of the origin (If I know to speak it of course). Ummm, well, it’s kind of hard to explain and someone might say I’m insane, but my head is constantly full of thoughts and imaginations also in the languages the things/thoughts (real or imaginary one are comming about and from. :slight_smile:

Especially in the language I’m more or less fluent there’s no translation at all - in English, Serbo-Croatian and now more or less Welsh, some in German too. Only when I’m stuck with the word I’m starting to search it in my head.

A lot of reading, listening, writing all kinds of (also silly) stuff helps enourmously. My English, for example, improved when I’ve set myself to translate Bionicle books for my son. I don’t need to mention I’ve got the dictionary in my hands for almost ever second word when I started but now it’s not the problem to read the whole book not even looking after one single word. What word I don’t really know, it’s more or less the context I’m pulling it out though.

but, as I said … patience is required. This occurs when you least expect it to happen.


Thanks for this. It has made me realise that I spend too much time worrying about getting things right rather than using what I already know to communicate.


Thank you.
I watched the YouTube video and he is probably quite correct. I know when I learned to speed read one of the skills to develop was to learn to read in chunks rather than individual words, a technique apropriatly called Chunking. I suppose we do that as well in spoken communication by speaking in idioms, a form of chunking,

Another thing I notice in regard to my speaking English is that Im not fully automatic in that although its my first language. In other words I can have basic colloquial conversations in English. But depending on my purpose I must give it more thought. If I am trying to sound colloquial my responses are automatic. But if Im trying to be more formal or fancy I may have to think about whether to use the words :agreement" or " concord" .“suck up” or " obsequious"." snotty" or “supercilious”," everywhere" or " ubiquitous", etc.

Im thinking it is probably the same in other languages. Which then makes me wonder what “native fluency” actually entails as there are varying degrees of fluency even among native speakers. The man in the street with a High School education and the speech writer for the President are both fluent but not in the same degree.


That’s really interesting, Tatjana! I wonder if that’s because you are multilingual? As a younger man, 13-18, I took French. I never became fluent as there wasn’t much demand outside of school and I didn’t care enough to generate enough internal interest. I even had a girlfriend at the time who was fluent and we spoke English. Surprisingly, I still remember a fair amount of French. I think I can converse very well with a two year old. HA! I know when I first started to learn Cymraeg, and if I didn’t know the word I wanted to say in Cymraeg AND I didn’t want to say it in English AND if I knew the French equivalent, the French word would POP into my head. Could that be the same thing you are experiencing?


It looks like so. But, interestingly enough we in one group on Facebook started to find out that French is in quite some phrases very similar to Welsh, especially phonetically so it looks like you’ve already had a knowledge of some Welsh and if even you weren’t aware of that. :slight_smile:


I hadn’t thought about it, but it’s definitely true. In Italian, I have a few automatic standard registers (mostly family and friends, and random people in shops, street etc). But with in unusual situations, different people and often even just at work or if I need to write rather than speak…I need to stop and think a lot!

It was interesting to read your experiences. Now, comparing it to my own, when I can’t find Welsh words that of course still happen very often! - I noticed that:

For me it’s just English that automatically pops up to fill the gaps. Never my first language Italian nor French, even though I’m a pretty fluent speaker and do happen to use it from time to time.

By the way I’d like to read those posts on Facebook where people compares Welsh to French, cause well…I keep on finding similarities to Italian - to my surprise - but never felt any with French, so now I’m curious to hear other opinions.

However the more surprising thing for me is that every time I tried to say something in German recently, it’s always Welsh that pops up instead. Even when I had just started, and basically without previous knowledge at all while German - even though I’m far from being fluent, is the first foreign language I heard consistently and even started learning a little bit when I was 4.

It seems to contradict a bit the idea that anything you start very early will always be easier and more natural than what you learn as an adult, but I’m sure there’s many more factors in it…!

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I have experienced this soooo many times, like when I was living in China trying to figure out how to communicate - French and Spanish words would pop into my mind to fill the gaps when the Chinese word wasn’t familiar or took to long to “respond” when my brain called for it. I think it is pretty natural.

It came in quite handy one day talking to a Brazilian friend who didn’t speak much English, but spoke some French and Spanish along with his Portuguese and Chinese. Having some knowledge of French and Spanish too, as well as Chinese, we met in the middle. That was the most interesting conversation I have probably ever had. We spent two hours speaking a beautiful combination of French, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, and English - using whatever it took to get the point across, switching back and forth rather seamlessly after a while, even using all of them in a single sentence in order to be able to talk about all the deepest things we could think of related to the meaning of life… mind blown.


Oh I am sure you are not alone, I’ve got a degree in panic and worry! I often have/had Welsh words, phrases what ever pop in to my head when I walk across my fields with my dogs, even at the beginning, and then started to talk to myself in bits of Welsh. I lost heart and interest in my previous learning, but since starting this it is coming back, hurray. Unfortunately other languages, especially Italian, want they say too :woozy_face:


Yes I know exactly what you’re talking about. I recently spent a lot of time learning Norwegian and find that this often comes into my head before Welsh and even English.I do know, however, that if I keep at it, it will begin to become easier

Yep that’s the spirit. Norwegian, interesting, only know one person that studied Scandinavian languages, apart from you. Looks hard to me. Love the support in this group!!! Just noticed can’t spell either, sadly in any language, Welsh is better, more logic in a strange way

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I’m sorry. I’ve tried for an hour to find that post which was very interesting to me too, but I just couldn’t find it anymore.

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A similar thing recently occurred to me as I’ve been trying to improve my reading in Welsh. I’m reading Cysgod yn y Coed by Lois Arnold right now, and while I can understand it pretty well, I’m still aware of my brain translating the words into English before I get the overall meaning. I look forward to the day when my brain will automatically skip that middle step.