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