Yikes! I'm finally doing it!

After fits and starts since – 2010? 2012? A long time – I’m finally getting somewhere. Which is to say, I’ve finished Northern Challenge 4, having never gotten farther than halfway through challenge/lesson 3 before. The encouragement that “if you make it to Challenge 5, you can really do this” is about to be relevant, and I’ve got to say, it’s freaking me out a little. I’ve always enjoyed learning languages, but my high school French and college German teachers will tell you I’m not great at them.

I don’t know anyone who speaks Welsh, and I live in the US. I’m learning so I can understand Welsh music, mostly, and to listen to rugby in Welsh. (Also because I’ve always wanted to learn one of the non-English languages of the British Isles, but Irish & Scots Gaelic are even harder than Welsh. :slight_smile: Besides, we know I have ancestors from around the Welsh border, though whether they were Welsh or English is lost to history.)

I guess I just need to reassure myself that I can do this. If I can get through Course 1, I’ve sworn to myself that I’ll subscribe and keep going. Now that I’ve gotten my feet wet, it feels like an awesome goal – and an extremely daunting one.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest… Onwards to Challenge 5!


Wooohoooo that’s excellent news Sarah :tada: Dal ati! [Keep it up]


If your ancestors came from that border, I’d put money on them being a mixture! Partly due to rape and pillage, partly due to moving borders with time, invasion, grab-back etc! In Hereford, definitely in England, many accents were more like Welsh than anywhere in England!
Well done with your learning!


Welcome to the forum, @sarahravely! Don’t be freaked out - you can do it! I’m in the US, too, and I don’t know anyone here who speaks Welsh either. I’ve recently finished the older Courses after two years of learning, and now I’m doing the newer Levels. If I can learn Welsh, so can you! SSiW is a great method, totally unlike the language courses I took in high school or college. Come on the forum and ask any questions you have, any time - loads of friendly people here who are happy to help!


And we’ll tell you that school systems that actually teach languages well are remarkably rare things - so it probably wasn’t your fault…:slight_smile:

Tell me a little about not getting through challenge 3 - how are you going about it? What is the ‘hit the wall’ moment for you?

I’m guessing you might be demanding a little too much perfection from yourself, and if we can get you to let go of that, it might help you to find it all a bit easier… :slight_smile:


There’s a point when I start learning a language where I hit a brain wall, and upon learning a few new words, I suddenly have trouble remembering half the earlier vocabulary, quite suddenly. The several other times I’d started, I’d gotten stuck there because I just tried to do 3 again, but this time, I backed up farther and did 2 and 3 over again. That seems to have worked brilliantly. :slight_smile:

I’m trying very hard this time to not be too perfectionist about it, also. You’re right that that’s a struggle. :smile: I don’t think that was the problem earlier, because I’m quite aware of that in myself and work hard not to let it get in my way, but I’m sure it couldn’t have been helping!

(In defense of my language teachers – well, yes, my high school French teacher was, to put it politely, not great. I started in 8th grade, though, and that teacher was brilliant. In college, I had two German professors, and again, one was very hard to learn from, and the other was very good and quite patient with me. I managed to get in the good one’s class for 3 out of 4 terms required, but without her, I’m sure I wouldn’t have managed the C+ I got in the fourth course! :nerd:)

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Hello from the hard self beaten perfectionist @sarahravely and welcome to the forum first (as I’ve seen you’ve joined on here just about an hour ago. Good choice to join our great community!

Now to the perfectionism. If there’s still some of it, let it go. As the introduction to the course says, making mistakes is invitable so go ahead and make them! In connection to that: let go the thinking that you’re not good at languages. I’ve seen many on here saying this just to find out at the end that they’re learning and speaking the language greatly if not brilliantly. So what you’ve thought regarding learning languages about yourself in the past, this guilts no more. You’ll see that when going through some more material.

Ooo, yes, beware, you’ll hit many walls and (if not let go that previously mentioned thinking) you’ll be at the edge to just let all go many times, but don’t be lead into that temptation. That’s why making mistakes and laughing about them is so important. We all do them all the time and even I have learnt with all help of this community, to let them just be and go further, correcting previous ones and making new ones (or repeating old ones sometimes too).

Forgetting instantly. ooo, yes, i have that all the time. Iestyn says sentence in English and I should repeat it in Welsh but when English version finishes I don’t know what the sentence was all about at all. Then if I can remember some of the parts of it I all of a sudden forget the most common words I should know long ago and which should be stucked in me already. That’s how it goes. Forgetting and remembering happens all the time … Nothing unusual, unnormal or something what should put the wall into your brains.

And now … Here are many people from USA who might have or might have not encesters in Wales and they’re doing just brilliantly. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d find out all of a sudden that one member here from USA lives just next door to you. You never know. :slight_smile:

I have practically zero chance to speak Cymraeg to someone live either as I live in totally unrelated to Wales country - little tiny Slovenia - but this doesn’t stop me from learning at all. So you should do nothing less then succeed in your learning.

You’ve done brilliantly so far and you’ll do brilliantly in the future too. You’ll hit the wals and smash them with determination and non-self beating aproach (which I just have learnt to go with recently). You’ll become a Welsh speaker!

Chiers to that!
Tatjana :slight_smile:


Thanks, @tatjana! I appreciate the reminder not to dwell on thinking I’m not good at languages. That is tough for me. I suppose I should keep telling myself that I wasn’t good at learning languages the way it was taught in school, but this is a totally different thing! :slight_smile:

I have learned to laugh at myself for mistakes, and also to congratulate myself when I succeed! I generally study at a time when I’m home alone, but it must be hilarious to watch me. I’ll tentatively spit out a sentence in Welsh, and then pump my fist and cheer when I’ve found I’ve done it right, or groan and smile when I’ve done something wrong, just the same way I do when watching ice hockey, for a goal or a closely-missed goal! I guess turning my own struggles into a sort of spectator sport has helped me take it a little less seriously, and do better in the process. :clap:


Well done! :slight_smile:


If only I could press LIKE more than once!


@sarahravely Keep going and Welcome to the forum :smile:


From Wikipedia I remember reading this in other places too “Welsh origins in Herefordshire are evident in the survival of the Welsh language in parts of the county until the 19th Century, the survival of many Welsh place names and the historic Welsh commote of Archenfield.”
And this from.Transactions Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club, 1887, page 173 " Archenfield was still Welsh enough in the time of Elizabeth for the bishop of Hereford to be made responsible together with the four Welsh bishops for the translation of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer into Welsh. Welsh was still commonly spoken here in the first half of the nineteenth century, and we are told that churchwardens’ notices were put up in both Welsh and English until about 1860."


You can do it!! You’ve come so far already! Remember, learning a language is about finding a way that suits you. So your college experiences of French and German are not a predictor for how well you’ll do here!

Pob lwc (good luck)!


Yes! This, a thousand times this… :slight_smile:

You’re doing some brilliant things here, Sarah - laughing at yourself for mistakes, turning it into a game kind of approach - this are very consistently the things we see in our very best learners, so you’re very much on the right road there.

Now, this thing about forgetting earlier vocabulary - I think you’ve fallen victim to a common misperception about learning, which the school system helps spread…

Memory isn’t on/off.

Memory works on something much more like a very long sliding scale.

It seems like a picky detail, but it’s really, really important.

On/Off means if you do a test and get 15/20, you haven’t learnt those other 5, and you need to go and revise them. It’s easy to see why schools end up strengthening this misperception.

On/Off means when you get some new words, and lose control of some older words, you think you’ve ‘forgotten’ them, and that you need to go back and revisit those lessons again.

But here’s what’s really happening:

Memory gets put down in layers.

No word is a single item - they are a highly detailed mash-up of phonemes and syllables that we retain partially. The first time you hear a word, you might only ‘remember’ that it starts with a particular letter, or that it’s quite long - and then each time you hear it again, your brain will encode a little bit more, until eventually you have the whole word encoded - but even then, you might not have produced it often enough for the elements of production to be working smoothly - so you go through a stage of recognising it but not being able to say it (and call that ‘not being able to remember it’ too!).

So when you think you’ve ‘forgotten’ a word - that isn’t what’s happened.

Technically speaking, I mean, at the synaptic level.

If you’ve ever produced a word, you have the vast majority of the structure of that memory in place - when they blink in and out of being accessible for you, all that means is that you need a very little extra exposure.

Here’s the thing - you’ll get that exposure in subsequent lessons - we revisit EVERYTHING on a very deliberate pattern, precisely because of this.

So the next time you feel that you have ‘forgotten’ a word - instead of repeating sessions, try trusting the sysem, and moving on to the next lesson.

You might find your entirely approach to language learning changes if you decide to do 10 lessons in a row with repeating any of them… :slight_smile:


I’ll take that as a challenge, and not repeat any of the next few!

That’s fascinating stuff. The way our brains work is just amazing. I read earlier this week that scientists just learned something new about the way short-term and long-term memory are encoded, that rather than short-term memories being formed and then slowly moved to long-term storage, both kinds of memory are made at once, and your brain slowly turns down how much it accesses in short-term and turns up its long-term, until the short-term is erased and long-term is all that’s used. I suspect this phenomenon is related. :slight_smile:


Oh, that’s interesting - if you happen to remember where it was, I’d like to read that - there’s huge uncertainty about the molecular short->long term process (apart from knowing that the hippocampus is involved, er, somehow!) - so that sounds as though someone may have found some interesting new evidence.

It’s always made sense to me that they need to be effectively the same thing - a lot of our understanding at synaptic level turns around the process of strengthening or weakening the individual synapse - it’s never made much sense to me that we would then effectively recreate that synapse somewhere else, so I’ve long suspected that there’s some sort of ‘tipping point’ process in the strength of the individual synapse which leads to semi-permanence of a kind that looks like ‘long term’ memory…

Excellent. I’m always delighted to see people willing to throw themselves into a challenge! Try and get through 10 new ones before testing a revisit of the first new one… :slight_smile:


BBC Science had the article: http://www.bbc.com/news/health-39518580


Oh, thank you - that is a really interesting step forward, which appeals enormously in terms of the underlying concept. Still plenty of interesting uncertainty around it, of course - if they’re using shock as their memory stimulus, we already know that emotion has extra impact on memory (probably with involvement of the amygdala) - it would be extremely interesting to see a similar study done where the memory formation was more closely connected to less emotional training events…

But a genuine significant step - thank you so much for sharing!

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I absolutely adore that I can now hear about serious steps forward in one of my main areas of interest right here on the forum… :star: :star2: :heart:


So… yes. I’ve done 5 and 6 without any backtracking, and even though I’m doing them in 15-20 minutes chunks and not on any regular schedule, it is definitely sticking differently. Fascinating to observe, really. I appreciate the tip, @aran! Just one more wonderful thing about this program to thank you for. :smile: