Tips for building up vocabulary

SSIW is great for building up sentence structure but how do you go about supplementing that by building up the range of your vocabulary? Do you have one of those books where words are broken down into different categories such as food, the home, sport etc etc or do you just pore through a dictionary trying to memorise stuff? Be interesting to know other people’s techniques.


I found the best way to get more vocab was to have as many conversations as possible, have Welsh TV (especially children’s programmes) and radio (and podcasts too now - they didn’t exist when I started!) on as often as possible (even if not particularly listening/watching) and to read basic books (written in sentences, not lists). I also found that just trying to memorise lists of words rarely works - things are much easier to remember when there is a context to them.

Putting sticky notes on objects around the house can work. As can choosing an object or an image and talking about it (even if just to yourself or a pet!), but talk in sentences, not just a list of adjectives - you can still use a dictionary to look up words you want to use and then use them out loud. This way the objects will give you context and the vocab is more likely to stick.


If you’re far enough through the SSiW material then I would say …

Read! Read anything and everything. Read magazines, books, leaflets, posters, road signs, menus, everything.


Soon after starting SSiW, I really wanted to add words in my vocabulary, so I tried a few techniques. Since we’re all different in learning, so I’m going to list also the ones that didn’t work for me, because they might work fine for other people!

Yes, I bought “Y Geiriadur Lliwgar”. It was actually meant for children, but seemed quite appropriate for my level and needs.
I focused on a different topic each day, trying to repeat the words, for a few weeks. Then I noticed that I was able to describe the images on each page, better and better (for example: one lion in a cage, one outside the cage; one kid drinking a glass of orange juice, one a cup of hot milk or tea). But I couldn’t remember the Welsh words at all! :laughing:

So I stopped, and tried using Duolingo again - that had been my first attempt of learning Welsh. I was a bit more motivated, I guess, so I was able to go on for at least a couple of weeks (instead of just a few days, like the first time). But I soon realized I remembered all the English words and sentences I had been practicing, but …not the Welsh translation, except for a handful of words. So why bother? :neutral_face:

Then I tried picking S4C programmes on Clic. Anything that inspires me. Sometimes I watch it all, with or without subtitles. Sometimes just in chunks, a few minutes at a time: first, without subtitles. Then with subtitles, switching from Welsh to English back and forth, and copying the sentences that seem more interesting or useful.
This is working very well!

However the one that works best for me is listening to songs and following lyrics, and then look at translations - after a while I got familiar with the sounds. Words and sentences just stick in my mind effortlessly.
I don’t know if it has something to do with the fact that the first foreign language I learned was English, and I started learning it from records since I was quite small, because we didn’t have it at school until we were about 10-11.
So maybe my brain has developed a specific efficient learning technique from that, and recycled it now - I can’t tell!

But this is to say…I think it’s good to experiment a bit, and just see what works best.


Definitely television and radio for me. And then taking part in hangouts on Slack with other SSiWers, to start using the vocabulary.

@siaronjames has been too modest to mention it, but her Dangos a Dweud (Show and Tell) hangout on Friday evenings (7pm UK time) is great for this, because you choose an object to show, prepare what you’re going to say ( which usually involves new vocabulary) then have to respond on the fly to people’s questions, and follow what they are saying about their objects. Great practice!


yes, far too modest :flushed:

and now you know the method in my madness :wink:


Yes, all of the above for me. After the Challenges I moved on to podcasts (mainly SSiWs own Beca a’i Bobl), but I also listen to any others that I can find. Also social media.

I love to dip into dictionaries and guides, but generally check words out if I can before using them.


I try and listen to as much Radio Cymru as I can, usually from podcasts, on my commute to and from work. I find this way I hear words used often that I don’t know yet and I try them to make a note of that word and look it up.
I’m just at the end of level 1 so have many more words to learn, but find this method helps me pick up v useful word used in everyday speech.

Also watch S4C. I’m now a Rownd a Rownd soap addict!


I found this on Facebook. Advice for Welsh Learners who are unable to sleep? :point_down:

I couldn’t sleep last night so I ‘invented’ a new game to help me practice my Welsh. It’s basically an adaptation of the alphabet game. I am obsessed with learning a-z of various things, but now I do them in Welsh! So far I have food, animals and countries. It also allows you to learn words outside the scope of doulingo. Last night I went for random ie. any Welsh word I could remember at stupid o’clock. The twist was I had to put it in a sentence! This was excellent revision as I realised which words I couldn’t pronounce, or had forgotten and allowed me to say some Doulingo favourite sentences. It also gives practice in remembering the Welsh alphabet.
Eg A = Afal
‘Dw i eisiau afal coch plîs’


Duolingo has really worked for me. I’ve been doing it pretty much daily since October and my vocabulary has really expanded. Then Radio Cymru on when I’m in the car (if nothing else, you learn Welsh words that are identical to English ones, which isn’t cheating, honest!) The brilliant beginners’ magazine, Newydd Lingo, to which I’ve just subscribed. And being brave enough to go on to the Google Hangout. You always learn something there (even if it’s by surrenptitious google translating when someone asks you something you don’t understand!)


From my vocabulary book I try to learn things like food and transport that are going to come up quite often in conversation. I flick through some of the more obscure topics and usually pick up the odd word that I think might be useful at the moment.


I have found that since starting to read books as much as possible I am broadening my vocabulary quite a bit. Sometimes only one or two words out of hundreds of newly introduced ones stick but it’s a slow process. BBC catch phrase stuff is useful too.


Reading is more useful for most people as most of us are nowhere near other Welsh speakers so conversations are very rare animals.
online - Golwg360 ( headlines and relatively brief news items with a useful vocab button that s meaning of most of the words. - parallel Welsh English text, some with audio. - Welsh limericks with line by line English translations
Books - esp. short stories. Modern Welsh writing is relatively simple, skim through without trying to understand every word. I highlight new words so they stand out when I do a quick read through afterwards.
A word learned in context (eg in a sentence) is easier to remember/use. The more you read the more familiar all words become.


Forgot to say - read out loud to the best of your ability. If you can follow a text like Becas’ try and match the speed or (sorry) use some audio software to slow things down and bit when you re starting off. If you hear, see and say a word/sentence they ll stick much better.


If you think something in English try and think of it in Welsh afterwards and if there are missing words look them up in your dictionary.

Doing things like shopping lists in Welsh are also handy.


I used this method. It’s really good for finding gaps in your vocabulary. I remember spending a day out in Bristol and describing things to myself and making mental comments. This really pinpointed all the words that I use a lot but didn’t know the Welsh equivalent. I looked them up afterwards.

Otherwise reading is good for broadening vocabulary or having chats either face-to-face or via Skype/hangout. That’s another good way to find the words that you need but don’t know. But both reading and having conversations means that you learn words in context. I don’t recommend trying to learn lists of vocabulary.


On line dictionaries could be your best friends - they are all different. Often what is in one is not in the others. So they all need to be used. Welsh-English Welsh-English/English-Welsh Welsh-English/English-Welsh (gives complete verb conjugations) English-Welsh


Love that vocab button.


Last year i recorded the Welsh text of the first 100 lessons of Catchphrase - just the Welsh read straight (I ve got a S.Welsh accent) If you think the recordings might be useful -even as just as listening practise let me know I can email them (mp3 files)


That shopping list tip is good for me. I’ll start that straight away