Writing a booklet about the SSi Method - looking for your experiences

Here on Day 2 of the current 5 day intensive (which is going stunningly well, since all 3 of them had quite a lot of passive Welsh before starting)… I’ve finally found a little time (while they’re slogging away at the lessons) to carry on with a project I’ve been working on for a while… a proper, detailed User Guide to the SSi Method.

I’ve got it pretty much mapped out, and a decent amount of meat on the bones - and now I’m looking for examples of individual stories about using SSiW.

In particular, I’d love to hear your story if:

  • you went through most of our material in about a year

  • you went through most of our material in three or four years (or more!)

Also, if you have either struggled OR found it easy to:

  • go through the lessons without repeating any

  • not use the pause button

  • do the listening exercises

  • get a conversation partner

  • understand different accents

  • deal with words being different from what you remember in school

  • put off reading

  • accept all the different ways of saying the same thing

  • avoid worrying about grammar

  • avoid worrying about plateaus

  • getting used to saying R

  • getting used to saying Ll

  • getting used to saying Ch

The more detail you can give (about your suffering or about how easy you found it!) the better - and if you’re one of the most detailed responses, then I’ll probably be asking for your permission to include your story in the booklet (with some personal details, like what you do and where you live, but I’m happy to leave surnames out).

Looking forward very much indeed to hearing your stories! :slight_smile:

@Deborah-SSi - could we give this top billing for the email? :star2: :dizzy:


Just a quick question… Do you want the responses in this thread?

Yup, in here would definitely be easiest… :slight_smile: Diolch! :star:

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I went through the material in less than a year (not sure exactly how long). I was following the level 2 lessons as they were being published if that helps date it?

At first I start with the old material. Probably because, at the time, it was top of the list. I got to about challenge 5 and decided to swap after reading the advice on the forum. Once I started level 1 I did initially use the pause button. I can’t remember exactly how long for but I found that once I stop, slightly stating the obvious, I went through things much faster. Not just because of a lack of pauses but because the material flowed better without a pause. It seemed to sink in as I moved through lessons.

There were definitely lessons I repeated. They were only a handful and most of the time it was because I’d run out of time the first time through. I used to listen to them in the car park outside work before I started and sometimes I just didn’t quite have enough time.

Gradually I started doing the lessons as I drove. I was initially nervous because I was worried I wouldn’t concentrate on them enough. Turns out, that was a good thing! I started saying things with less thought process. This also meant I tended to finish the lessons in one sitting. I always had the best carry over from the lessons I did in one sitting. I was in the flow and didn’t have to find a rhythm halfway through.

In terms of pronunciation. I’d made a massive effort to learn how to say “Llanelli” a long time before I’d heard of SSIW. So the “ll” was OK. I struggled more with “ch” at the beginning of words. “Chlywes i” didn’t sound right. “Bach” was OK though. To be honest, I cheated and said Glywes I ddim for ages. Now, I can start a word with it but it’s taken me about 18months to get there.

The “r” I learnt by saying the name Elinor and stressing the last r a lot. Is that a bit odd?

The not reading rule really resonated with me because I’d learnt how easy it is to get sidetracked by my native accent. The roadside “Cas-newydd” for Newport was my downfall (or saving grace?). I kept saying “new” like the English not the Welsh because I’d read it so often before learning how to pronounce it properly. That was a valuable lesson and it gave me a benchmark. I had a word I could test my pronunciation against. If I’d jumped into reading before being able to pronounce things consistently my accent wouldn’t have developed. I know get “accused” of sounding like a Gog :wink: (diolch @aran a @CatrinLliarJones mae’n arhydded i swnio’n fel chi).

Finding a speaking partner - I had a head start. I am marrying a Welsh speaker. However, since bootcamp, I’ve really made an effort to start friendships in Welsh. This has made a massive difference. Even with Emma our first language is English and will probably stay that way.

I love this method and I really want to do as much as I can to help it grow. My friend who I recommended SSiSpanish is lovinh the progress too :smile:


Hollol ffantastig - diolch, diolch yn fawr iawn :dizzy: :star2:


Pleser :smile:

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I started the early part of 2016 for a couple of months but switched to Norwegian when I got the opportunity to be there for a while. By that time I was 1/2 way through Level 2. I picked it back up a few months ago. After listening for just a minute or two to the last challenge I had done last year I decided to go back to the begining and start over. Not what was recommended but it felt more comfortable (not a great reason, I know). I’m now just a few challenges past where I stopped last year, however I have also done the first Level of the southern course and most of the first level of the old version of the northern course. I’m on a pace now where I do one or two of each of those a day. I go through fits of using the pause button. Again, it just depends on comfort level.

I haven’t repeated one (on my second go round) in a while, however, after flying through 4 or 5 in a row #17 of Level 2 is a whopper. :slight_smile:

I’ve made my own versions of some of the material, making a huge mp3 of random Welsh phrases (no English at all) from the challenges, separated by 4 seconds of silence, so that I can get practice going the other direction.

I have not yet had a conversation or any verbal interaction with another person in Welsh. I’m tempted to show up my fist day in Wales (in September) without having done so. I think it will be interesting to see how far someone can get in a language without another person with whom to speak or a book (I do use a lot of internet resources).

The big realization about the many variations thing for me was that I only need to learn how to say it one way while being able (and open) to hearing it different ways. And not worrying about it. It’s never the right time to worry. :slight_smile:

In pronunciation R is my main challenge. I can roll fine on most words but something like “ffordd” seems to be impossible, but I hear you guys say it just fine. So, for now, I just just say the same R that we say in “form” in English.

I found Ll relatively simple in the begining but I find now that sometimes it’s like a gear that I get stuck in and after I use it in some word all subsequents S’s, Dd’s and Th’s come out as Ll’s (it sounds hillarious!). Also, at this point I have to put extra thought into saying things like “Ddydd Llynn”.

I’m unsure about words that start with Ngh. Looking forward to finding out.

As an overall assessment I have to say that as someone who has learned a couple foreign languages as an adult I’m enjoying this experience at an entirely different level from methods/resources that are available in other languages. I’ll also note that I chose the other languages I’ve learned based on the fact that I have good friends that speak those languages. This method is outpacing that easily. In fact, for this purpose, it’s better than a friend (and I have really good friends!). This method is the reason I chose to learn Welsh at all and I’m really glad I did!


In particular, I’d love to hear your story if:

you went through most of our material in about a year

Ha ha, no.

you went through most of our material in three or four years (or more!)

This was me, or is me, depending how you look at it.

Also, if you have either struggled OR found it easy to:

go through the lessons without repeating any

A struggle, I’m a serial repeater.

not use the pause button

I never struggled to use my pause button! or more usually I would punch the huge off button on my car player with the excuse that I was coming to a roundabout etc. But on subsequent repeats I was pleased not to use it and played the game of seeing how many times I could say the Welsh in the gap before we’re told the answer.

do the listening exercises

I’m a bit lazy with the listening excercises

get a conversation partner

Not easy outside Wales, but thank goodness for skype and for Ffrindiaith, but how i’d love a coffee face to face regularly.

understand different accents

I’m okay with that

deal with words being different from what you remember in school

easily overcame my initial resistance

put off reading

I’m reading, some books are a struggle, and some just flow.

accept all the different ways of saying the same thing

I get the gist when I am reading, but it’s more tricky to get the gist withe spoken word.

avoid worrying about grammar

It’s about giving yourself permission to avoid worrying about the grammar. Then later when you wonder about how something works you can look it up, like some kind of reverse engineering.

avoid worrying about plateaus

on a plateau at the moment and I am completely unphased about it

getting used to saying R

I can say R in welsh, I remain totally unconvinced about rolling them, as long as I can sound them I’m happy.

getting used to saying Ll

Born and brought up in Wales, no problem

getting used to saying Ch


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Brilliant, thank you very much indeed for that, @Bobi and @pollypolly :star: :star2:

With the list of things I’m interested in - sorry, I don’t necessarily need you to give me your take on each of them - but if any of them stand out as particular issues for you, I’d love to hear about that in detail… :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

I’m sure most of what I may have written has been, or will be mentioned in this thread.
I’m wondering if there’s a place in this booklet for an ‘after you’ve finished the course’ bit, maybe a few thoughts on what will be a potential change in learning style or ideas on how to maintain the momentum?

That’s a very good idea - diolch!

And if any of the points in the first post stand out as having been of particular consequence for you (either positively or negatively) I’d be hugely interested in hearing about your experiences - ideally, I’d like to talk about a different person’s experience for each point… :slight_smile:

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I did the challenges one a day, and I’m now going through the old courses. It’s been about four months. It is insanely gratifying to be able to learn at your own speed and not worry about what everyone else in the class is learning or not learning.[quote=“aran, post:1, topic:8485”]
go through the lessons without repeating any

I’ve always told myself that I can repeat them all if I want to, but so far haven’t repeated any.[quote=“aran, post:1, topic:8485”]
not use the pause button

I have used it, I’ll admit it, but usually I’ve dabbed the pause button and undabbed it whilst I’m saying the Welsh. I probably give myself an extra second at most - and if there’s too long a gap I get annoyed because I’ve wobbled the rhythm of the whole thing! I don’t enjoy speaking over Cat at all - I like hearing her part.[quote=“aran, post:1, topic:8485”]
do the listening exercises

I love these! The most important realisation was that no matter how fast the language is, even if it is artificially quick, your brain picks up the words it knows. That was a massive thing for me. I now don’t feel put off by the speed of normal speech, and almost feel bogged down if it is too slow. Clarity of speech is much more important for my understanding.[quote=“aran, post:1, topic:8485”]
understand different accents

This I find a little tricky. I find the more northern the accent, the more I think about it, instead of what is being said. I think exposure will cure it![quote=“aran, post:1, topic:8485”]
deal with words being different from what you remember in school

This is a relief more than anything. I had already worked out that what I had learnt and what was being spoken were different. Now I feel like going back and having all the conversations I missed out on![quote=“aran, post:1, topic:8485”]
accept all the different ways of saying the same thing

I need more! I love the idea of saying things in many ways. [quote=“aran, post:1, topic:8485”]
avoid worrying about grammar

Patterns first. Why later.[quote=“aran, post:1, topic:8485”]
avoid worrying about plateaus

The only worry I have is that some days seem WAY more English than others. These are less and less. Actually I haven’t had a particularly English day for weeks. I will worry when I come to the end of all the material though.

Other stuff:

  1. As soon as you told me that mistakes are a valid and necessary part of learning, I let go of ‘language guilt’ and cracked on. I am so convinced that this is the key to learning anything new - my kids are sick of me telling them to make mistakes.
  2. I have found that I LIKE the feeling of my brain turning to cottage cheese when the sentences get longer! When it happens, I tell myself that I’m rewiring, and that IS what’s happening. It’s a bit too addictive actually, but it really works.
  3. I will always be a learner. There is no state of fluency that I will reach which will make me feel I’m done. There is always more. I’m no longer slightly ashamed of not having been quite good enough to have cracked it all. I love being in the state of learning this language, and I will happily call myself a learner to others.
  4. The positivity that you get from this method spills out all over the place! The lessons\challenges and the forum, which as I’ve said before is like having a big, friendly, Welsh brain to pick.

Excellent, well done you! And thank you so much for this. I may well come back with a few follow up questions for you about mistakes, if you don’t mind… :slight_smile:

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Anytime at all @aran! Mistakes are my new friends! :grinning:


I took however long the first course took to come out I think i started when it was about half done? I still keep meaning to do the new levels for polish and oh my tenses…

I didn’t repear lessons but did use the pause button a lot.

I went through ‘phases’ with the listening exercises - my regularity with them varied.

Lots of practise in the real world through Ty Tawe and SSIW groups yes - huge help.

No problem with words being different - indeed I found myself becoming something of an evangelist for “there’s not one right cast ins tone version of language”

Edu background so I knew plateaus etc existed so recognised the frustration when hitting one but knew it for what it was which helps ignore it and press on. Indeed it was actively interesting to be a learner with the educator bit of me mentally standing off to one side watching!

I still can’t roll my Rs but have been able to Ll and Ch since childhood from placenames.

Ooh, interesting - but I can’t for the life of me remember how long that was. Definitely years. Can you pin it down at all? :slight_smile:

One small thing you might want to mention is that some people might find concentrating during the challenges impossible if their not doing something else at the same time. This has definitely been my experience with the Spanish course, which I’ve done almost exclusively in the car while driving. On the odd occasion I haven’t been in the car I’ve done them whilst running or painting the housze etc.
I found it impossible to sit down and solely concentrate on the challenges.


I went through all the material (old and new) in something around 4 months, and I’ve found it easy to do most of the things on the list. I started with courses 1-3 then moved on to the levels, which I finished in around half a month thanks to an intensive weekend I did where I got through 35 challenges.

When I first found SSiW, I didn’t really mean to start learning Welsh. I had sort of stumbled upon the website a couple of times through YouTube comments and so decided to listen to the introduction. I really liked the idea of learning a language without reading and writing and grammar and all that stuff since I had been learning Swedish for 6 years in school with very little to show for it. I started with the old courses as those were what popped up when I first came to the website, and so did the first lesson following the old advice about pausing as much as I need and repeating until I get around 80% correct.

I did the first session two or three times in one day and then moved on to two the next day. The second day was when I received the email about pausing, which immediately convinced me to stop pausing. I really liked the emails. I completely stopped repeating sessions as soon as I received the email about that, too. I ignored the one about talking to real people because I still wasn’t meaning to actually learn Welsh at this point (and I was too shy to post anything on the forum, let alone talk to someone anyway). I also ignored the listening exercises because I couldn’t really find them…

I think I used to be a bit of a perfectionist before starting to learn with SSiW - I don’t really know why or how I managed to instantly accept that mistakes are good and that I don’t need to understand and remember everything. I’m pretty sure now, having thought about it for some months, that it might have been a combination of feeling frustrated about school language teaching, being excited about something new, and liking your (Aran’s) voice, accent and writing. I had been thinking about language teaching in schools, since I had just managed to reach quite a high level with my English while at the same time struggling with Swedish. I was pretty sure I wasn’t “just bad at languages” since I could speak English fluently after learning it by myself for a while (and because of this I had to spend the last couple of years of English lessons dying of boredom because there was never anything new).

At some point I realised I was actually learning Welsh; that I had really fallen in love with the language and I wasn’t just going to stop learning it. At around this time I first started considering trying to talk to someone, and so said hi on the forum (in the form of asking to be added to the map!) - something I thought I would never do. I was surprised by the amount and niceness of the responses so I’m still here! I met Susanna at a cafe for what I think was my first ever chat in Welsh. (Diolch!) Asking people to talk to me was and still is the most difficult part about learning languages. The actual talking is really nice - it’s become one of my favourite things to do - but I’m anxious about arranging chats. I do arrange many, though. I normally have at least one chat a week and usually more. I don’t think I’ve ever been scared to use my Welsh. Thinking about it, I wasn’t scared to use my English either. So I guess trying out new languages has never been very difficult for me. I’m not sure why :smiley:

I discovered the listening exercises on my first flight to Wales. I spent three hours listening to them over and over and over… I had already been listening to Radio Cymru and watching S4C so I started to understand the chipmunks pretty quickly. I did the same on the flight back. The chipmunks had started to sound like normal speech by the time I got back home, so I stopped listening to them regularly (well, until bootcamp). I sometimes just listened to them if I didn’t have anything else… Now I’ve doubled the double speed ones. Super intense chipmunks :stuck_out_tongue:

Reading was pretty easy for me to ignore in the beginning. I didn’t know any Welsh langauge books, so I didn’t have anything to tempt me. I think I started reading when I reached the end of (old) course 3 and I’m pretty happy with how that has turned out. I don’t think I have a very strong Finnish/Italian/English accent in my Welsh!

Being fluent in three fairly different languages definitely helped me with learning Welsh. I was already very familiar with things not translating neatly, and, not being very good at any of my languages, I don’t have a “first language” I could compare Welsh to. As someone who speaks Italian and Finnish, R was very natural to me. I started out saying Ll in a weird way but that sort of fixed itself at some point, I think. Ch was the most difficult. I could always say it on its own, and after a while it started to feel natural in almost all situations, but I still struggle with the Ch’s in “eich … chi”!

I think one of the things that made the process easy for me was that I never felt like I had to learn anything. I’ve really enjoyed doing SSiW lessons. Learning Welsh has always been something that I do for fun, and that I can stop at any time if I ever feel like I don’t enjoy it anymore. It has helped me become more confident and social, made me stop worrying about mistakes, and through it I’ve met many really nice people I would never have met or had the courage to talk to otherwise.

Aah, that took a long time and is definitely longer than it needs to be. Sorry! I really enjoyed going through all those memories though :smiley:


The girl is officially bonkers… :laughing:

Now down to business. You already know my point of view on a lot of things so I don’t want to repeat myself too much. :slight_smile: On the other hand I’ll just squeak a little bit, to force you to continue to consider it!

I’m grateful to have been a very successful user of the system, going at it in a very different way from the current recommendations. As you know, I worry about new users getting stressed about the current guidelines. (Some people totally take them in their stride, but some find it really hard. I suspect there may be a huge variation in people’s natural aptitude for this method, which is very imperfectly captured by the visual ‘working memory test’.)

I went through courses 1-3 in almost exactly a year, a couple of years ago. (Does that mean 2-3 lessons a week?) With repeats, that was quite intense - I think I did some most days.

I didn’t even try to go through the lessons without repeating any. (The advice at the time was quite the opposite - not to move on until you were 80% correct.) So I repeated everything, often more than once. I took the whole adventure as quite a relaxed challenge. I wasn’t in a hurry to get through, taking plenty of time to refect on things mid-lesson, stop and play with patterns whenever I felt like, and work on pronunciation in some detail.

I made very liberal use of the pause button. Personally I found time pressure counterproductive. (Maybe because it reminded me of the trauma of times tables tests at primary school, which I always forgot to learn!) I did a large part of the lessons in the car too, which meant I couldn’t get too drawn in. But also I liked to take the time to consider a sentence and turn it over in my mind and make it mine. I didn’t carry on if I was losing concentration.

I accepted quite early that I’d never be able to roll Rs nicely, and decided to live with that.

I speak German, so Ch was never a problem.

But Ll I found terribly impossibly difficult! In the first course, ‘gallu’, crops up all the time, and I absolutely couldn’t get anywhere near at the beginning. I used to use the pause button, even when I knew exactly what I was meant to be saying, just to have time to practise imitating Iestyn and Cat as closely as possible.

I remember thinking at the time, as a classically trained musician, that getting into the car in the morning and pracising pronouncing sentences was similar to practising scales in the morning! It had the same comforting meditative quality of getting your brain in gear, that I rather miss in post-serious-musician life! (And then came course 3 with ‘Gall e’, which was completely impossible…) I think I can do those quite well now, but it needed time. And it’s very important to me personally to be able to speak with a fairly authentic accent.

I don’t think I’ve got anything very interesting to contribute on the other points…

As I’ve said before, I don’t think I would have enjoyed the adventure half as much, or probably been so successful, if I had just run through all the challenges from start to finish without the pause button. But that’s just my personal opinion, based on an unscientific sample of me!


I’ve actually been meaning for a while to work out how long I’ve been learning Welsh, and if you don’t include those couple of days when I was about 11 and tried to teach myself using a supremely unhelpful book (that if I’m remembering correctly, I think decided to lead off with an explanation of the use of “yn” in Welsh – goodbye, book), then the date of that is the same date as when a dear friend put me onto SSIW, and since my original subscription email is 15 July 2014, I guess it would be a little while before then – however long it took me to hurry through course 1.

Since at that time in my life I’d just quit a job and had some medical things to go through before I’d be looking to get another one, I had a lot of free time on my hands, and I found the SSIW method hugely effective and very more-ish, so I just did lesson after lesson after lesson. The two main stumbling blocks I had were the requisite (brief) ragequit over the future-tense lessons 6.1 and 6.2 in the first course and then the deluge of short forms in course 3. I don’t know how useful it is to discuss the old courses, which I’m sure are ancient history by now, but on the point about going through the lessons without repeating any of them, failing to do this and getting bogged down with lessons 6.1 and 6.2 was what caused my ragequit, but I learned from it quickly and I don’t think I repeated any lessons from then on. Knowing I could go back and repeat lessons if I wanted or needed to meant that I was safe to be as ambitious and reckless as I wanted, and I regularly went through a handful of lessons in one go, just because I could. I don’t remember and have no way of finding out exactly how long the three courses took me, but I don’t think it would have been more than a few months. And then for the levels, I’ve just been doing the lessons as they appear, as quickly as possible, as soon as I get the chance. Why change now?

Having a look at the other points mentioned, the ones that stand out to me are reading/writing and getting a conversation partner. Living in Australia, it was both completely effortless to avoid reading any Welsh and extremely difficult to find anyone to talk to. Because I took the ban on reading and writing very seriously, this meant that for a long time Welsh was something quite separated from the world, since all I knew was what SSIW taught me and the occasional dip into Radio Cymru, which I couldn’t make out at all. One thing I did do when I got the urge to actually, you know, say something in Welsh was start up a Welsh twitter where I just tweeted random sentences that came to my head with my own phonetic spellings (eg, “dwee thim un mind e vind ar kee am dro hethiw achos dois gen ee thim kee”). From memory, when I had finished all the courses I lifted the ban and I went through all the vocab lists on the site and set up an Anki deck so I could learn all the spellings for the words I already knew and then, finally, start adding new words and phrases to my vocabulary. That was one of the most frustrating things while doing the course with no external source of Welsh – I had a pretty good grasp of a lot of the grammar, which made it even more frustrating the number of things I would be able to say if only I knew the words. But then of course once I finally started adding in the words, the world was my oyster because I already had the shape of the language in my head and I knew how to speak.

In summary, I guess, being told explicitly not to do a lot of the things I automatically associated with learning a language (rote learn, read and write, sit down and pay attention to things, conjugate) was an absolute blessing, because it meant I had no idea what I was doing, no preconceived ideas about how things should be, and since whatever this was seemed to be working, I was free to just enjoy myself. And as a result, Welsh is now hard-coded into my brain, only three years after picking it up, infinitely more so than French, which I learned in school from age 5 to 18 and am still fond of but has always been a bit distant and theoretical to me.

I do think I benefited a lot from having learned another language before, having studied linguistics at uni and being generally comfortable with words. There was a bit more grammar-speak in the courses than there is in the levels and I did find that useful to match up what was happening in the lessons with things I already knew about grammar and language. I would sometimes try to puzzle out things I’d learned in a lesson, but it was never exactly a worry. If anything, not having things explained made me a better learner, for all the time I spent going through it all in my head.

The listening exercises never really did anything for me. I’m not sure why, I think they were just a bit abstract and artificial. I tried them a few times but the habit didn’t stick.

Oh and one other kind of old-course-specific thing is the LL. The Ch and the rolled R came naturally to me, but I have never and will never forgive you all for throwing “llefrith” at us so early on in the piece and so often, and with no regard for my poor suffering ego. But it did give me no option but to struggle through and achieve the “ll” in trying and difficult circumstances, so you win, I guess :stuck_out_tongue: