This is an age old question which you may have answered before - 'If you are currently learning Welsh with SaySomethinginWelsh (not Duolingo ), please tell us why you’re learning Welsh, what brought you to SSiW and how is your learning journey going?
SSiW’s new website has a Learner’s Stories page where we would love to add your story and your picture! So on that note…
Did you start to learn because the language hadn’t been passed down and your grandparent was the only Welsh speaker left in your family?
Did you close your eyes and stick a pin in a map when contemplating the challenge of learning a new language?
Did you fall in love with a Welsh speaker?
Did you start to learn in order to join a Welsh speaking choir?
Did you find out you had Welsh ancestors when exploring your family tree?
Did you just think our flag was cool?
If you have an interesting/inspiring/quirky/unusual/emotional story to tell about your Welsh learning journey (with SSiW and not Duolingo ) and would be happy for it to be part of our new website, then I would be very grateful if you could either post your story in this thread, or send me a private message. Oh and don’t forget the picture/selfie!
I was raised in Wrecsam by Welsh-speaking grandparents, originally from Aberffraw. They spoke Welsh with each other, but only English with the children (this was decades ago when Welsh was regarded as being backwards and of no use).
I’ve lived in the U.S. for over forty years now, and lost virtually all the Welsh I ever picked up, but two years ago I started learning Irish in anticipation of my retiring there next year. And somewhere along the way, it started to feel weird to be picking up Irish while letting the last of my Welsh disappear.
So I’m going to give SSiW a serious go, and see if I can’t pick up the conversational Welsh I wish I’d learned as a child.
Forgive my long windedness. If any of the following is of any use, feel free to cut and edit as you see fit.
I was born on the original VE day (8/5/45) in a coal and steel “valleys” town to a Welsh speaking Llangadog mother and an English speaking Ebbw Vale father. When I was about 2, the family moved to the North East of Scotland where I had the benefit of an Aberdonian school and university education. I spent the next 20+ years in England and came to Aberystwyth in 1990 to establish the European Office at the university. Until I retired in the early millennium, there really wasn’t time to learn Welsh.
In Aberdeen, there was little opportunity to talk Welsh (although I became proficient in the local Doric) but my brother and I spent all our idyllic childhood summers divided between Ebbw Vale and Llangadog. I still remain grateful to our childhood friends in Llangadog who generously included us in all their conversations and games without hesitation. This goes against the oft-repeated and unfair urban myths which portray Welsh people using their language to exclude people. “I walked into this shop in Ulan Bator where everyone spoke English (as I could tell from the microphones I had planted there the day before). As soon as we walked in, they all broke into Mongolian”
My work involved using English and French but little Welsh. On retiring I started to put that right. I attended a number of formal classes at different levels and an intensive month long summer course at the university. These courses were all excellent and well delivered but, although I have some proficiency in languages, I found they didn’t stick. I found Say Something in Welsh in its early days and quickly built enough confidence through its method and many bootcamps to use my Welsh most days. I often talk to my son, who works locally, in Welsh and love talking to my granddaughter who goes to a local Welsh medium school provided she is in the mood . My English wife understands an enormous amount of Welsh (perhaps too much). The biggest and most rewarding milestone for me, however, was being able to converse with my Cymraes Cymraeg mother in her mother tongue before she died. I will always owe a huge debt of gratitude to SSiW for that. (People who knew her will understand my enjoyment that, even on her death bed, she would correct me on my Welsh )
I have now reached a sort of complacent plateau far short of fluency, especially in reading and writing, but I am confident that, if and when I am ready to progress, SSiW’s resources are there to help. I will continue to encourage and support family, friends and the online community to learn Welsh and other languages not because they ought to but because languages are key to communication, mutual understanding and are, above all, great fun.
I love trying to understand and get to know different cultures and the only way to do that is through the language. My wife’s mother was from South Wales but was only taught English, as her father, a head teacher, said that you had to speak English to get anywhere. She was 100years old when she died in 2020 and insisted that Welsh was the most difficult language to learn and virtually impossible. So that was it!
When my wife and I were looking for a house to retire to, after years of living in Church houses as Ministers, we found our ideal home in North Wales. A beautiful small village which is somewhere that we both love, having both been brought up in small villages.
On visiting my new GP in Bala (a Welsh speaking area) my doctor suggested that I learn Welsh. I can’t resist a challenge, and the prospect of proving my mother in law wrong was too good to miss .
I looked around for courses, but few were convenient and required evening classes - which during winter would have been challenging for me. I discovered SSiW and took up a special offer!
It’s been brilliant: before the pandemic I was able to meet like minded learners and listen to talks in Welsh (not that I understood much then); I also engaged with my neighbours in the village who were very helpful.
At my mother in law’s 100th birthday party I spoke to her in Welsh - to prove that it isn’t impossible to learn the basics. She was surprised. The pandemic demonstrated that the SSiW process is resilient and accessible and I continued to work through the course. Instead of in person chats I chatted online.
Now I find myself reading the Roadsigns and notices in Welsh first and then the English if I’m stumped! I love Welsh folk music and feel like I’m more inculturated in my adopted homeland. I have attended Welsh speaking Chapels and we even have an online Welsh Methodist service once a month. These days I try to think in Welsh and sometimes, though not yet often, do it without realising! I feel so much more connected with the people and my home. I feel that I owe it to the lovely, welcoming people of Wales to honour their history and their language, and I have gained so much from the experience.
I wanted to learn a language for fun. I tried out a bunch of languages and always kept coming back to Welsh. I think partly because it was the one I was most connected to - my mum is Welsh and learned some in school - but also because I just love the way it sounds and works.
Hi Catrin! There is no conventional reason for me to learn Welsh. I’m from Northern California and I have no Welsh ancestry as far as I know. HOWEVER, I’m a huge language nerd and a bit of an Anglophile… well all things British, really. Right, just looked it up, and the term that defines my life these past two months is… “Cambrophile” : a lover of Wales and Welsh culture.
I suppose I got my foot in the door early last year when I began studying Scottish Gaelic. This led my curiosity to other Celtic nations. However, it wasn’t until May of this year that I somehow became hooked on Welsh. After discovering yours and Aran’s SSiW method, I realized quickly how effective it could be. Dw i wedi bod yn mwynhau dysgu Cymraeg yn fawr iawn! (Hopefully I didn’t butcher that ) but it has been a real, genuine joy discovering the Welsh language and culture. All I listen to these days is Welsh music and I hope to attend the Eisteddfod next August! Diolch yn fawr iawn eto!!
Hello Catrin! (Are you the Catrin we hear reading the sentences? If so, I have a question which I will leave to the end.)
As for why I’m learning Welsh, there is no one answer but rather a combination of several. My father and grandfather were Welsh, but neither could speak the language. This bothered my father terribly, and he had just started to learn Welsh when he sadly passed away. Now, in addition to doing it for myself, I feel I am also learning for him.
After the war, my father entered the colonial service and chose to work abroad in Hong Kong which, obviously, was a British colony. There, he met my mother who had come from Beijing. Therefore, I am half Chinese, too, though I was never taught that language either. After retiring in the mid 70s, they both came home to North Wales. Meanwhile, after graduation I chose to live and work in Japan for 30 years and so I speak Japanese. After my own retirement, I also returned to the family home in Wales. But all of this travelling and living abroad has made me feel a bit like a fish out of water. However, I would never choose to live anywhere else, and so it is to show my love, respect and committment to this place, its people and their culture that I am now learning Welsh.
Another reason why I am continuing to learn Welsh is that the ‘Say Something In’ method and the course itself is absolutely brilliant. It’s both enjoyable and effective.
Now, if I may sneak in a cheeky question, there is sometimes a discrepancy between how the lady (you?) and the gentleman pronounces words that we hear. E.g, “Wnes i ddim” can sound like “Ness i ddim” or “Nesh i ddim”. I’m presuming that both are okay, though it’s never explained, and when I asked a native Welsh friend he said that he would say “Nesh i ddim” and that he’d never even heard the other option. It couldn’t be gender dependant, could it? (That would be important in Japanese, but surely not in Welsh.) Sorry to bother you with this here.
In this case it isn’t gender dependent, but more of a case of formality vs informality and possibly some dialectical stuff going on.
So at it’s most formal and in written form, it would be ‘wnes i ddim’. In conversations you’ll hear ‘nes i ddim’ / ‘nesh i ddim’ / nesh i’m / neshi’m / nesi’m and so on. All are good, all are acceptable and all will be understood. Some variations depend on the dialect of the area, some depend on how fast someone speaks…
Sometimes these variations in the recordings are natural mishaps sometimes they’re deliberate, in order to show the natural variations.
Diolch @paul-griffith for sharing your learning story - it’s absolutely fascinating!
I moved to North Wales a long time ago and I’ve been busy with raising a family and work and never made the time to learn Welsh. I’m keen to know what my Welsh speaking daughters are saying about me and hopefully SSiW is going to help me achieve that. I’m loving the teaching method so far x
So, I was born in England to a Welsh father and an English mother, my father stoked my interest in Welsh Rugby in that great era in the 70s. Dad never spoke Welsh because he was of that generation where Cymraeg had been eradicated from education. My dear Nan bought me a Welsh song book when I was very young and it inspired my interest in the language along with the interesting unpronounceable place names I saw on our regular visits to Wales. My love of Welsh Rugby and all things Wales has never waned and I feel a strong affinity to my Welsh heritage. Fast forward to 2019 when I was trying to brush up on my German in preparation for a motorcycle tour of Bavaria, my daughter (who was brushing up on her French) drew my attention to Duo Lingo. She commented, ‘it’s got every language on it’. I replied, ‘I bet it hasn’t got Welsh’. Guess what? It does. There is where my real journey with this beautiful language commenced. After a few months of Duo I was looking for some more learning aids and stumbled across a YouTube Vlog by NickySydd (I think is his channelname) in which he made me aware of SSiW. I downloaded some of the Level 1 lessons and became hooked and I signed up. After the 1st 2 levels, there was a meet up organised in Caernarfon by the lovely Nia. Although it’s a serious hike from mid Hampshire to Caernarfon and I was not at all proficient enough to conduct a real conversation I went for it and thoroughly enjoyed it. I promptly booked onto a Bootcamp and a Weekend summer school with ColegGwent only to have it all scuppered by Covid 19. The new bootcamps are eluding me as a holiday and my daughter’s wedding are happening when the September and October camps have been scheduled. Maybe I can catch one in November or next year. I recently sat the Mynediad and Sylfaen exams in Casnewydd and have signed up for Canolradd because I find emersion from lots of sources helps my learning.
I one day I was sitting in my dad’s cousins house listening to my Dad and my cousin speaking Welsh. My Dad was a fluent welsh speaking but my mum was not so me and my brothers were brought up speaking English. My Dad loved going back to his home town and speaking with people there. Well afterwards when I was at home I thought I will learn welsh and hopefully hold a conversation with my dad. Unfortunately my dad fell ill shortly afterward and sadly passed away, and I never had that conversation which to this day makes me feel very sad. But I am happy to say that I do have conversations with our cousin In Newport Pembs and did so this week…