When should I start reading?

We’re encouraged (or forbidden! if you like) from reading and writing at the beginning.

At what point should we start reading? I occasionally find that seeing a word written down in the course notes can help me remember it, although I only tend to do this if I’m struggling to remember it without. I think I would probably find it difficult to recognise a lot of what I know so far if I saw it written down.

S’mae Dave?

Your mileage will vary. Opinions vary across the scale depending on who you ask on the forum. All I can say is that personally, I began reading somewhere between Course 2 and Course 3, but during Course 1, I was very strict with myself about the “no reading” advice; I did not even look at any course guides. I will add that I did try other methods of learning Welsh before I found SSiW, which clearly involved looking at the written language (in course books, on the whiteboard, ayyb); however, I look Aran’s advice at the start of Course 1 very seriously, and wrote nothing down, and refrained from any reading. Personally, I believe this helped me with my accent, but as I say, others may/will recount their experiences, which you should take into account when weighing up the answer to your query.

Pob lwc!



Hi, Dave! My experience was similar to, Stu: I held off till the end of course 1. Good news though reading came rapidly and in a short time I was doing so without stopping to look up every other word in a dictionary.

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It’s pretty much impossible to do the “not reading and writing” thing if you are doing any sort of formal course (or any other sort of course, come to think of it!) at the same time you are doing SSiW. More common in Wales than outside, I would assume, simply due to the availability of courses - I certainly came across SSiW during a formal course, like a lot of people.

I, personally, haven’t noticed that people who are doing a formal course as well as SSiW [that is, they were doing it at the time they started SSiW, and thus “reading and writing” in the earliest stages] speak Welsh less well than people just doing SSiW but two important caveats-

  1. My Welsh is not good enough to make such a judgement a reliable one, and

  2. I don’t know enough people in those situations to make the sample a scientific one!

Three! Three important caveats.

3 People doing SSiW, in whatever combination or not, seem to me to be in a much better position than those not doing it at all. Always important to remember that one.

I do think there is a lot of “horses for courses” on this one.

If the main effect of “Don’t read!” is to get people to concentrate on their spoken Welsh, well, that’s a good thing. As I say though, people I know doing SSiW and formal courses seem do just that anyway - but, well, concentrating on your spoken Welsh is a good thing, and should always be stressed.

Honestly, when I started (the second time, at least), I had a Welsh speaking girlfriend and wanted to send text messages to her in Welsh. I waited until I’d done a given lesson before reading the lesson guide to that particular lesson, and I’m fairly sure it didn’t hurt my accent much if at all, but there’s a lot of wisdom in the recommendation to avoid reading until you’ve at least started the second course - I found myself mispronouncing a lot of words that hadn’t shown up in the lessons by that point, and it took a fair while to correct my pronunciation…

Just thought of something-

If the way you are going to start reading is just “looking at stuff” :wink: , that is, not through learning the alphabet and spelling first, going through simple words and how they relate to the spelling, [i.e., not through a formal course (or informal course! Or good teach yourself book, or stuff like that] then I would say definitely hold off.

In other words, if you are just doing SSiW, it probably is best to hold off, as there is no guidance for alphabet, spelling, etc, and that would probably (definitely) mean pronunciation will probably be right off!

So yes, if you are purely asking about should you look at the SSiW guides before you hear the lesson, and the SSiW guides are your only exposure to written Welsh, then I would say (for what it’s worth) definitely hold off until you are comfortable with the lessons!

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As others have said, it’s horses for courses. I naturally veer towards reading over speaking so, for a change, I took the SSiW mantra very seriously and avoided reading reading for over a year (I think I was in the middle of course 2 when I finally gave in).

The net result was excellent for me. I ended up with the ability to pronounce things pretty well and had a massive head start in reading when I tried it. One year on and I’ve just finished reading my first proper grown-up bit of Welsh literature which has made me feel about ten feet tall.

I’d say hold off as long as you can, but enjoy it hugely when you give in. It didn’t take me very long to relearn proper spellings versus the way I’d imagined spellings to be during my early SSiW days, perhaps it will be the same for you :slight_smile:


One year on and I’ve just finished reading my first proper grown-up bit of Welsh literature which has made me feel about ten feet tall.

Sorry to hijack, but could you tell us what that was, Steve? I’m still on young-adults stuff, but recommendations for the future could be really useful.

With reference to the original question, I had started trying to learn with books before I found SSIW but wasn’t getting anywhere. When I started the course I found myself seeing words in my head to begin with but found that dropped off as I went on. Occasionally now I’ll see a word in Welsh that I think I don’t know until I’ve worked out how to pronounce it, at which point I’ll realise that I learnt it some time during the SSIW course. That doesn’t help with the OP’s situation, but I think there’s been enough sound advice about that above.

Thanks to everyone for the advice and experience. It would be useful to be able to communicate in writing, mostly for the extra practice it would provide, but it would have to take time away from learning to speak, rather than me being able to find extra learning time to add on top. I’m happy to stick with mostly just speaking for a while yet. It’s just that with everyone writing it on the forum (and I realise it would be a touch difficult for people to use the forum without reading and writing) I wondered if I’d managed to miss an instruction to begin.

It was Blasu by Manon Steffan Ros. 408 amazing pages charting one woman’s life and friendships through the recipes she collected. I have to say it was a pretty emotional experience finding myself successfully reading it (albeit with help from a dictionary),compunded by the fact that the book itself is a bit of a tear-jerker in its latter stages.

My favourite line was about half way through, when the narrator was talking about a new recipe that had been introduced to the village. It went something like “it was like a new colour had been added to the world”. Which is pretty much how I’ve felt while reading the book which opened the door for me to a completely different literary tradition. (If that makes sense).

Manon Steffan Ros has also written books for young adults, including “Hunllef” which is also pretty amazing, and there was quite a bit of noise about her latest book “Llanw” which I’m dying to read but will try to save for a time when I can read dictionary free.


I’m so glad this is a good read. Its on my e-reader awaiting a less busy time of this year…



I can second the recommendation for Manon’s books, I’ve read hunllef and am half way through inc with blasu, llanw and Al waiting in the wings. When I’m reading I have google translate (I know, I know) open on a device next to me which makes it much quicker than flicking through a dictionary thus keeping the flow more natural.

My view on when to start reading is whether you think it will influence your pronunciation. Looking at this from a personal stand point, I grew up surrounded by welsh place names and a welsh speaking father so I have never had trouble with the pronunciation side so would look words up in dictionary without feeling guilty. If you find that you can’t naturally and easily pronounce welsh words correctly then I would leave the reading for as long as you can stand it.

Manon’s response to your comment:

Manon: Hwreeeeee! Diolch, Aran, dwi 'di gwirioni



And to think my post barely scratched the surface on how important reading her books has been for me. If I’d known you were going to forward it on, I’d have said a lot more to thank her. :smile:


Hi Dave!

The “when is right” question is a bit of a “how long is a piece of string” situation - hitting the exact right spot will vary from person to person, often due to prior experience with Welsh.

We recommend not reading because it does a number of things:

  1. If you have no or little experience of spoken Weslsh, then reading too early will play ahvoc with your accent. There will be lots of words in your vocbulary that you mispronounce, and the vowel sounds will often be pure English, or worse, cod-Welsh. There appears to be a further difficulty that what you learn by reading is taken by the subconscious as fact, whereas what you learn by hearing is more open to change. If you learn a word wrong by reading, in my exoerience, it takes a lot more effort to change it than when you learn a word wrong by hearing it. Odd. but seems to be true!

  2. Understanding writing is easier than understanding speech, which will give you a false sense of progress. That’s not a problem if you want to read lots, but if you think you’ve got loads of Welsh, but can understand nothing, it will destroy your confidence. Even SSiWers who have done all the listening practices and worked really hard at listening / speaking can take a knock when they first try to use their Welsh, especially if they do that later in the courses, when they’ve learnt so much, but real life Welsh is another step up. For SSiWers who stick at it, it passes quickly, but if you’ve got a lot of your progress from the written word, you mauy have to take a few more steps back when you get into spoken situations.

  3. Reading is less frightening, less pressured, less challenging than speaking. You have more time, more pick it up and put it down-ability. This means that when you struggle to read, and then succeed, you think your struggles are over, but you’ve got another struggle still ahead of you. If you do the tough bit first - speaking and listening - then the reading challenge will be easier (still a challenge, but you’ll see it as “learning to read” rather than “learning the language” which will make things easier.

  4. It’s how you learnt your first language. You spent ages learning to understand stuff around you, and then started using words yourself, making lots of mistakes, getting corrected, more often correcting yourself as you got used to patterns and realsied you were mis-using some of them. Then you learnt to read, and then to write. Do it that way round as an adult as well - it seems to bring the language into a more natural place in your subconscious.

  5. Reading takes time. Until you’ve finished course 1, you should be using all your spare learning time doig lessons - they’ll be far more beneficial to you in the short term, by increasing the number of patterns that you have to hang all your new vocabulary on. Use your time wisely!

Here’s a quetion - how far are in you into the course? If you are already into course 2, and are desperate to start reading some books taht you’ve seen and think are fascinating, then why not? On the other hand, wherever you are in the course, if you just feel that somehow you’ve not learnt the language until you can read as well, then keep on learning to speak - reading is fun, but it’s not what learning a language is about!

That was a bit longer than I’d intended - I hope you got to the end of the post. I expect someone has posted exactly the same but in two or three lines as I’ve been typing - it seems to happen quite often… :wink:

Oh yes, and enjoy the challenge of speaking your new language. It’s a real achievement!


Thanks, Iestyn. Those are some very good points that I find myself in agreement with. I remember when I tried Russian my reading got pretty good (for my level; not good in any absolute sense) but I was almost completely at sea (dim hwylio ar a mor) with listening and speaking. At the time I was spending most of my commuting time reading and writing, but now I spend it all listening (and speaking in my head).

I think point 5 is the one I’d mostly identified by myself. I don’t really have enough spare time to do all the lessons/exercises I’d like to do, so trying to fit reading in as well wouldn’t work well.

I’m currently on lesson 10 in course 2, although I haven’t done the new level 1. My listening isn’t really as good as my speaking, though. I should do Vocab10 of course 1 more, to keep course 1 better alive in my mind, and I should do the listening exercises (daily ones, as well as the ones from new level 1) but I always find myself preferring to put level 2 lesson on instead.

Nothing wrong with that - you’ll have plenty of time to focus on listening exercises once you’ve worked through all the spoken production - and once you’ve done Level 1 as well, you’ll be able to use the accelerated listening exercises, which are several steps ahead :sunny:

Brilliant! Thanks very much, Steve - I will add to my ‘to read’ list (as well as noting her as an author to look out for in the library).

And many congratulations - 408 pages of a proper grown-up books is … well … amazing.

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I didn’t want to even look at this topic until now but the title of it was inviting and when reading @dave_5’ post it reminded me I was wondering the same.

Now here’s one more thing as far as concerns me because of which I’m in desperate need (or wish if you want) to write (not that much read then write). One of the reasons is just mentioned above in @dave_5’ post and the other is the fact that I’ll maybe be able to really speak Welsh once a year or maybe even once in 2 years who knows getting into concern that I have actually no chance to meet any Welsh speakers and even if they pass by they talk Englilsh.

Since I (hopefully) write English quite well (I hope you all can understand me so far) I have one confession to make: even English I speak only maybe once a year occassionally if someone asks me for direction in the city or something like this. Otherwise I don’t speak English at all. If this is happening regarding English where should I be iwith Welsh then? Maybe I should challenge people on the bus to Bled (with which I drive regularly every day) in the summer when there are full of tourists from UK and find out if they speak Welsh- :slight_smile: On the sirious note, basic English I was taught at school, that’s true, but I came to the level I’m now with writing, lots and lots of writing through messenger (written) conversations until I one day dared to take a book (it was choldren’s book though) in hand and started translating it. O, yes with glosary in hand stearing into it every second, word, pushing myself to the highest limits (as always) but that’s how it worked.

And besides, some sentences I can compose now I really understood only when saw them written down mostly when in speach two words are practically composed into one and then you see them written you realize there are practically 2 words.

However I believe we’re those who can choose by ourselves when we would like to start to to write and read. I’d like to tell you million things in Welsh writing them down so I’m eager to write aswell. :sunny:

S’mae Tatjana?

Of course this is true. But the “no reading / writing thing down” advice applies to the early SSiW course because its a speaking course (for all of the reasons set out by Iestyn above) rather than a reading/writing course. Learners will know at which point its best to do these things according to their own personal circumstances, bearing in mind the advice given above, which (as I said originally) will vary according to the experiences of those making their comments.