Your experiences - speaking confidently - problems, victories

As we’ve been trying to get to grips with how we help people see that it’s worth their while to try out our Spanish materials, I’ve had to think more and more carefully about how we can help people apart from just providing the sessions.

We do a lot of suggestion-making on here, of course, but apart from trying to put a booklet or two together ages ago, we’ve never really tidied it all up to make it accessible.

So, I’m in the middle of trying to organise my thoughts about the best ways to speak more confidently - and I really want to include as many example stories about real people as possible.

If you’d be happy to tell me about what’s worked best for you, how the sessions have (or haven’t!) helped, any key watershed moments or tactics you’ve developed, or what the biggest problems have been for you, and if you’re happy for your story to go in the final report with your name and a photo, then I would absolutely love to hear from you…:smile:

Just for clarity - there’s obviously a lot of overlap in terms of what makes a difference for your speaking and your listening skills - I’m particularly interested at the moment in stuff that has helped you express yourself more confidently, whether or not you understand what comes back at you…:smile:

Honestly, the biggest watershed moment for me was Bootcamp. Thing is, I’d never been in a situation where I actually had to use my Welsh before, and almost all of my friends are English monoglots, so my Welsh didn’t see much “out in the wild” use, aside from occasionally ordering a pint in Welsh. Being forced to use it for a whole week took me from being a learner to being a speaker with a limited vocabulary, as after a few days I actually started thinking primarily in Welsh (now I tend to think in both languages, with regular unintentional codeswitching).

Maybe it’d be worth trying to set up something similar in Spain (if you know anyone who lives there and would be willing to run such a thing)? It’d have to be somewhere in Spain that isn’t a typical tourist destination, but still has enough local history and places to visit to make the trip interesting.

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S’mae Aran,

I’ve said this on the forum before, but for me, my speaking confidence stepped up a level when I stopped trying to say things in Welsh the way I would in English (that is, as if I was translating from the English), and started using the Welsh that I knew to get the same ideas across. This may mean that I use simpler language when I’m speaking Welsh than I would do when using English - even down to using child-like or rather roundabout ways of saying something. As long as the idea is about the same, then I’m fine with it.

This approach has really helped me, alongside the realization that mistakes are just learning opportunities - and I want to grab all the opportunities for learning that I can! The popular artist Bob Ross used to say of painting: “We don’t make mistakes, just have happy accidents!”. This is really true in speaking another language too. Embrace your mistakes, they are your key to improving; but most important of all, speak to other people in the language you are learning, right from the start - even if you only know a few words.



I’m enjoying the Welsh course at the moment as I hadn’t spoken a word of Welsh since I was at school. My Spanish is already conversational level but I intend to try the SSi Spanish course. My one reservation is that there appears to only be one course, whereas the Welsh course has several levels. Any plans to do more advanced courses for Spanish?

And to answer your original question, nailing the pronunciation of sounds which are distinct to the language you’re learning is a big boost in confidence. Speech-therapy-esque exercises are sometimes the only way to do it but it’s worth it.

Easily the best thing I did was to get on Skype and have a real conversation. I spent a long time just doing the courses so I had built up a bit of confidence that I could probably say something in Welsh - a few things, really - but there was this strange, wibbly wobbly transition period where every time I opened my mouth in those first conversations it was like “wait - you can’t actually just put the right words together in the right order and expect to be understood. You’re trying to do the most impossible thing on earth. There be something more to speaking a language than this.”

Turns out, putting words together kind of is how speaking works, and getting feedback from a real listener that most of the time I was making sense was definitely a “flip” moment. I wish I’d learnt that a lot sooner - like in high school Italian, for example - but I’ve almost forgotten what that wibbly-wobbly feeling is like now that I’m trying to learn another new language and I know that speaking doesn’t have to be this crazy abstract thing that takes a lifetime and a birthright to achieve - I can just learn a few words, stick 'em together, learn a few more, and hey, I’m speaking :slight_smile:

oops, too late to edit, but I should add actually I think you have to go through that wibbly-wobbly phase with every language, because I’ve just remembered my first day on holidays in Germany and how I could barely get out a “sprechen Sie Englisch?” or even “hallo” for fear it would be somehow fatally wrong. But it did get better, and I spent the rest of the week confidently putting vaguely German-sound words into all kinds of incorrect word orders, and the thing was, people understood anyway. So that was cool :slight_smile:

Turns out, putting words together kind of is how speaking works


Thank you all very, very much indeed - this is really fascinating…:smile:

I completely agree with everything Stu says, especially speaking from the start and trying not to worry about mistakes. Even the smallest interaction with a shopkeeper/stallholder is a massive confidence boost. Sometimes I’ve thought ‘I probably could have attempted a longer chat there’, but in hindsight, those were the conversations where the fact that I’m a learner didn’t come up, and I was hugely boosted by a little interaction where the other person would have just seen me as another normal Welsh speaker.

Also, I find the weekly meetups to be invaluable in raising confidence. They provide a safe environment where you can try out patterns learned during lessons in a conversation without fear of offending anyone if you get it wrong! Misunderstandings raise laughter instead of fear, and that encourages you to speak at the limits of your Welsh.

Jon: …I find the weekly meetups to be invaluable in raising confidence…

This is very true, and I would encourage everyone to get along to a meetup if possible - or start one up in your area if there isn’t one. Meeting up with even just one other person down the pub is a fantastic way of getting practise in and building confidence. FfrinDiaith is great if you can hook up with a first language speaker, but I accept that that is not easy of the majority of people.


The main thing that did it for me was “coming out” as someone who spoke some Welsh. When I did my ‘no English’ day at work, that was it and there was no going back. It also surfaced mixed reactions from people I’d known for ages. One reaction was, well, you’re not Welsh ( born and brought up in England but my Dad’s family all Welsh) so what use is it. I’ve always managed to explain that since nearly all that side of the family is dead, the language is all i have left. That usually knocks that argument off. What it boils down to is me saying to me I’m a Welsh speaker (tho probably a bit crap) that’s what I do and I’m fine about it. Once you’ve given yourself permission, it’s all a lot easier.
Louis was the person who pushed me in the deep end on my No English day and it really helps to have someone saying, “go one, why not, there’s nothing unusual about it”.

I would just like to echo what Stu has said. For me the most important thing was realising that I should stop thinking of a sentence in English and then trying to translate it into Welsh. I just simply don’t have the vocabularly for that. So, when I am talking to my ffrinDiaith I often go ‘all around the houses’ to say what I want, but it does mean I get what I want to say across in the end. Child-like sentences are the key really when you are starting out.

Second thing for me was insisting on talking to my ffrinDiaith on the phone, mainly because of my totally illogical aversion to skype, face time etc. Lots of people have told me that talking on the phone is the hardest thing to do because there are no visual clues etc. But, talking on the phone has made me learn to listen very carefully when I am being spoken to in Welsh. It was really hard to start with but I am getting there. The record we hold for no English is 45 mins by which time my brain is always completely fried…

Another tactic I have used quite succesfully is to start off any conversation with someone I don’t know, with the words, “I want to try and speak Welsh”. This has several positive outcomes. First, you ellict a certain ammount of respect/empathy from the other person. Second, you get loads of encouragement and praise and lastly, it is quite hard for that person to revert to the English because in effect if they do they are saying, “I am not going to let you try”.

Andy Lowe: when I am talking to my ffrinDiaith I often go ‘all around the houses’ to say what I want… The record we hold for no English is 45 mins by which time my brain is always completely fried…

That will stand you in good stead on bootcamp!

Your last paragraph needs to be etched on the heart and mind of every new Welsh speaker. Let your victim know that it is not a help for them to turn to English, and that they are not being polite by changing the language for you, quite the opposite!

This is all extremely interesting and useful - diolch yn fawr iawn iawn iawn…:seren:

One of my initial big problems was thinking and rehearsing things too much in my head: though I guess that’s normal. It became much easier when, like others have said, I no longer worried about making mistakes or falling flat on my face and cast everything to the four winds. I continually remind myself “You’ll never be perfect …” laugh and move on.
It really helped when, on SSIW advice, I put reading and writing aside during the first course and concentrated on listening and repeating only. The biggest jump, speaking wise, was when Iestyn drew my attention to the fact that I was stressing my words in the wrong place; that and not using lots of Welsh vocab that no one knew. Those two corrections paid massive dividends. Oh! Constant, constant, repetition as well.

As to tactics:
I never ask people - “Do you speak Welsh?” - but dive straight in and use whatever I have. This has been very illuminating: instantly, the number of people who responded in Welsh was much higher. If I hav’nt got the Welsh word I’ll use an English one in order to keep the flow…

I put myself into situations where I can use the language from using local buses, shops; to finding pensioners to chat to in the pubs and cafes. Old people are a real gold mine: they have time on their hands and are usually very patient, encouraging…Some are friends now.

Just had another thought prompted by this week’s Welsh conversations. I think one’s expectations of conversations have to be realistic. If you listen critically to your own first language conversations when out and about in shops, pubs etc. then you have a good reference point to measure what you do in Welsh. So, as a live example, I was involved in a shop conversation this week that went roughly. " It’s bloody hot again today but I’m on holiday so I’m trying not to complain." O, I know, we lost all the chocolate this morning. Just the papers is it?", “Yes”, Three pounds then", “Right, thanks, bye”, “Tara”. That happened in Welsh but it could have happened in English or anything else, the point being that a lot of functional language is probably of that order and doesn’t involve one’s life story, the history of the trombone or particle physics (sorry Huw).

So, lessons learned. To be confident in getting through the daily workload, you should not beat yourself up for not being poetic or using wonderful grammar and complex vocabulary etc. It took me an age to realise that and before that realisation, it was limiting my opportunities to use some Welsh. So if you’re doing that. stop it :slight_smile:

Sounds good @Andy.

@Dinas: As to tactics:
I never ask people - “Do you speak Welsh?” - but dive straight in and use whatever I have. This has been very illuminating: instantly, the number of people who responded in Welsh was much higher.

This has been my potential problem - not knowing whether people are likely to speak Welsh, combined with a lack of confidence in my own ability. If I were to plunge in willy nilly, subconsciously, I’d be expecting them to be thinking - “why are you speaking to me in Welsh when you don’t even know it properly yourself”, sort of thing.

Out and about on Bootcamp, it’s less of an issue, because you’ve been in a Welsh bubble, so it just seems natural, but in other circumstances, it hasn’t been so easy.

From my albeit limited experience using welsh, I would have to say that weithiau mae’n anodd i gadw y Cymry ar dasg (treigliad cywir?) o ddefnyddio iaeth. Perhaps, because they are worried about making you feel uncomfortable or yn wir, y dau ohonochi’n sylweddoli bod saesneg yw’n iaeth chi’n wir rhannu. So it just may seems odd from a Cymro’s perspective to watch you struggle.

Funny as it sounds, starting a friendship/ acquaintance in a particular language is pwysig iawn yn fy marn I. O fy safbwynt i, how you start may determine how you move on together from then on… I have come to associate welsh speaking ( or my attempts at it) with individual people. Ac wi’n credu fod y un peth yn wir amdanon nhw hefyd.

SSiw is a relationship of sorts too. You come to associate your time with it as welsh time…rwy’n ei garu hynny!.. Shame we do not see more attempts to use it in these posts… Efallai orherwydd yr un rheswmau we so often see welsh conversations revert quickly back to English. Hynny, ac y faith fod yn ystod ein holl gyrfa ysgol, ni’n wedi Cael ein dysgu i ddatblygu ofn o fediant. Someone said earlier in the post that mistakes should be embraced/laughed off… Who gives a flying bats anyway…

It’s not a test, it’s a conversation!

Cyngor felly?

Pick specific people who have some welsh and start off speaking welsh with them and don’t look back… Ever.

Train welsh speakers to stick with you and your welsh during conversation, Try not to let them off the hook for any reason.keep coming back to Cymraeg.

Use your welsh daily during a specific activity (running, breakfast,walking your dog whatever)

When you think you are at the top of your game don’t be afraid to press reset and go back 1 whole SSiw course and start over. Babies spend years picking up a language…SSiw fast forwards this process. Accepting this is tough, but we have become largely a diaspora in our own country, let alone outside. Practice will become your end. Hoping for more maybe worth thinking about but what does that reality really look like( outside some parts of gwynedd).

Forget learning vocab lists and complex phraseology…pick words up one at a time as you need them.

Don’t beat yourself up over mutations symleiddio dy iaeth.

Figure out why you are doing this and do not let anyone pass judgement on that motive.

With our monoglot population gone (apart from babies I guess) the very future of our language may depend on the efforts of our learning community to support native speakers.( ironic maybe, but worth thinking about)…that is what is so awesome about SSiw…it keeps the spoken language alive! Dalwch ati gyfeichion!
Wow, I said way too much here… Apologies!

symleiddio - gair newydd defnyddiol, diolch yn fawr Simon!


For me it was when the fluent speakers in work found out I was learning then wouldn’t speak English to me anymore, then I had no choice, got used to making mistakes and now any opportunity I just jump in, what was also helpful was another learner in my office, we practise all through the day etc, have a new word every day etc