What cyngor [kung-ngorr] / advice would you give someone who’s just signed up and joined the SaySomethinginWelsh community because they’ve made dysgu Cymraeg / learning Welsh one of their New Year resolutions? One of the great strengths of our online forum is the invaluable advice that learners share with each other. So at the beginning of 2024, we would love it if you would look back to the start of your own Welsh learning journey and share your wisdom and encouragement with new learners. Diolch calon in advance for your contributions!
This would be my advice but I’m sure there’s more than I can think of
1. Trust the method
It’s likely that this course will be different to how you’ve learned in the past (it was for me at least), but don’t worry about not understanding everything straight away, about not seeing the text and make sure that you do the listening exercises - yes those crazy chipmunk ones!
2. Don’t worry about making mistakes
I think we all let fear of being wrong and looking silly hold us back, but it’s part of learning and happens to us all.
3. Use what you’ve learned
This is really important for reinforcing and extending what you’ve learned. Having conversations is the best - join a local group or the online chats.
Also watch S4C, listen to music, read books (the amdani series is great) or join the postcard club!
4. Use the forum
It’s a great place to ask questions, find a local group or event and make friends. So many lovely people here.
5. Tell everyone you know about SSIW!
I think @charlie-o is spot on! I’ll try to come up with some things to add (just to show willing), but I think this is a winning tactic from the off…
I would say Enjoy your journey, don’t worry about making mistakes, practice when you can
OK, I’ve thought of one…
Because I was moving to Wales, I wanted Welsh to be part of my life. So really important to me was building it into my daily routine. We know that “little and often” is a far better learning tactic than “sit down for two hours once a fortnight”. But by attaching the language to everyday things (using what Welsh I had on my pets, playing SSiW while I did the washing-up, watching the Welsh-language news with subtitles on, retuning the car radio to Radio Cymru), not only did I facilitate that, but bit by bit it became less strange, less “different”, and more part of who I am.
Couple of thoughts.
Embrace the weirdness. Welsh is a (very) different language to English, and it can be unhelpful (though tempting) to get hung up on trying to map everything back into English and trying to make things work the way they do in English… The sooner you start thinking in Welsh, even a little bit, the better.
Unfortunately there are a few people (still) who have snobby ideas about what is “good” Welsh. Fortunately most of them will be too busy being annoyed that someone said “lyfli” on S4C, but if you do run into one of them, remember that you, not they, are the future of Welsh and you, not they, are doing something positive about it. Ignore them and do not let them put you off. It is far more important that you say something (anything!) “now”, rather than a perfect phrase next week.
On the other hand, most welsh speakers will think it is BRILLIANT that you are learning (even if they aren’t quite sure what to say to you). There is a world of support out there, more than ever online, and the sooner you start to use it (alongside SSIW of course!) the better. Be brave
I love all of these. Particularly number 2. But all of them fantastic advice.
Absolutely love the responses to this thread! Keep them coming! This is really valuable stuff.
I love these comments! So useful for us all. As a not quite as seasoned learner I found the following also important:
- SSiW addresses our hard-wired human skills: listening and speaking, you can’t help but progress, even if you prefer the comfort of the “new” human skills, ie reading and writing (I LOVE Auto-Magic for the reassurance it gives me).
- You are in charge of the speed of your learning, whether you use the Challenges in Levels 1-3, a mix of Challenges and Auto-Magic or Auto-Magic alone. The speed controls are under Settings at the bottom of the page. The wind-back controls send you to the nearest sentence relevant to your current one. I take it the forward one will do the same. N.B. It’s not a set time rewind.
- Enjoy Aran’s pearls of wisdom during the first 10 (?) hours on Auto-Magic.
- Delve into the Forum, there are wonderful threads and posts to be found.
- Be nice to yourself, but don’t celebrate all of your mistakes with a glass or two, you might be sloshed quite regularly, Good luck!
this is a journey, not a destination.
even if you’re a talented linguist, language is not just speaking the words. it is also singing the songs, reading the literature, learning the history and stories, embracing the culture, for isn’t it that out of which the language arises?
understand that, relax, keep stepping forward.
there’s a whole new way of being, and of belonging, here in cymraeg.
If I had to choose just one piece of advice, it’s this - don’t chase fluency.
Chasing fluency is like chasing the end of a rainbow - no matter how many words and constructions you learn, you will still feel that you’re ‘not there yet’.
Instead, set yourself smaller goals and let the colours of the rainbow get brighter.
Oh, and while I’m on about rainbows, you need rain for rainbows so think of your mistakes as the rain - they are an essential learning tool!
One more bit of advice:
The (speeded up) Listening Exercises are not really white noise that’s **good for you, they’re Welsh Noise that’s very good for you.
One suggestion would be if you want to say something in Welsh, don’t get too hung up on trying to translate word for word from the English. There are often several ways of saying the same thing, so, instead of getting stuck trying to remember particular words, just focus on using whatever words come to mind to get over the meaning of what you want to say.
I’d say that the most important thing is not to think you either learn with SSiW or with another method. I started with Duolingo and then discovered SSiW and then decided to take formal qualifications with Coleg Gwent. Throughout all of this I continued with Duolingo and SSiW. I even completed the Duolingo course and the ‘new’ SSiW course and have restarted those too. I do this to keep revising. On top of this using the language is crucial. I got a massive boost from jointing the clwn cerdyn post meeting in Caernarfon after I’d been learning for just over a year. I try to have a regular chat once a week with another learner. I’ve also been very active sending and receiving post cards. All the theory only really makes sense when you have to think how to use the language in real life situations.
Don’t feel you need to rush. I did too much too quickly in the early days and got a bad case of psychological indigestion. Learning a language is a long journey, so stop and look at the flowers on the way.
SSIW is great, but it won’t fully prepare you for understanding rapid spoken Welsh. So start listening and watching to Welsh content early on. My top tip is S4C cookery videos on YouTube. They’re short, and they are basically describing what you’re watching, so they’re much easier to understand than Radio Cymru, Rownd a Rownd etc.
You will need to learn extra vocabulary as SSIW won’t teach you everything. This is one of the things that Duolingo is quite good at, but radio, news sites and social media are also useful. Use an SRS app like Anki if (like me) you’ve got a middle-aged memory. Try and learn a couple of new words every day.
I found speaking to people over Zoom etc. incredibly difficult when I first started. I was surprised at how much easier/less stressful it was in person. Try one of the local meetups if you possibly can.
Pronunciation is important, and some sounds in Welsh are unfamiliar to English speakers. In the challenges I found it useful to listen carefully to the first answer, then repeat it over the second one, trying to match pronunciation and rhythm as much as possible. Recording yourself is useful, if humbling.
Getting started is the hardest part. You’re over the worst!
All of the above are brill in my view ! I would add read, read, read !! It’s amazing how much sinks in via osmosis without you even realising and then one day you use a word or s phrase you never knew was in your brain.
Make friends with folk on Slack. I talk to 5 different people everyweek now on Zoom. Individually we muddle along quite successfully and have a laugh along the way. Such lovely friends !!
Well … now you mention it …
On the Dysgu Cymraeg S4C YouTube feed there are loads of short recipe videos with subtitles, etc. (you can scroll down to the recipes rail): https://www.youtube.com/c/S4CDysguCymraeg
We’ve also got a “Cegin” website, that has a lot of recipes and there are some videos there, mostly with the lovely Colleen Ramsay (who speaks beautifully clearly and slowly): https://www.s4c.cymru/en/cegin-s4c/ (I’m a bit of a Colleen fangirl, I have to say. She comes over as such a lovely person.)
Yes Collen is who I watched -thank you!
I found her very easy to understand.
Absolutely! The Amdani books are great.
I would say don’t be afraid to use what Welsh you have and, more importantly, to use it knowing it is coming out wrong.
To learn to speak with people, you have to be willing to make mistakes. Throw in English or Wenglish if you have to. Just keep going. And if “bore da” is all you can manage in a siop, do that. We are taught in school to be perfect and penalized when we are not. Conversations can get messy even when we’re fluent! My experience with Welsh speakers is that they are incredibly tolerant of my crazy mistakes.
A few years ago when we were in Mexico, I watched a friend of mine with almost no Spanish throw himself into conversations with Spanish speakers willy nilly. I realized I needed to swallow my pride and my fear and my embarassment and everything else that keeps me from speaking Welsh and just try.
You can do it!