I have just completed Challenge 13 of the Say Something in Welsh course and am really happy with my progress so far. I am pretty pushed for time so have to take the opportunities to study when I can, but generally get in at least 20 minutes a day. It has helped that I have had a lot of decorating to do recently and have therefore been able to get in an hour or so of study on decorating days, while improving the house at the same time. This has been particularly good as I have been forced to do without the pause button and therefore it has encouraged me to speed up and just go with it. The other time I have been able to study is while exercising, although I have found this harder as the sentences have been getting longer and more complicated. The concentration on both has been too much at times.
I have posted a video on YouTube so that I can see how I am progressing; I have found it quite enlightening to hear me speak. At the moment I very much sound like an Englishman saying Welsh words, so I need to concentrate on my pronunciation and prosody. As the course progresses I think I am getting better at differentiating between hearing sounds that can sound similar such as th (/ð/) and v (/v/), this has meant that I have had to relearn some of the words I had misheard earlier. I’m also not sure if I’m pronouncing the ll (/ɬ/) sound correctly and I need to learn how to roll my R’s.
While my speaking practise has been going well, I can’t say the same for listening. I have rather neglected the daily listening exercises and as I haven’t been doing them regularly haven’t been able to make out all that much coherently. It probably hasn’t helped that the last listening download was in northern Welsh, while I have been studying southern Welsh. I have however taken the opportunity to listen to BBC Radio Cymru in the car and in the background sometimes at home. While I miss most of the listening exercises recorded at double speed, I have been pleasantly surprised at my ability to pick-up on bits of conversation on the radio.
All in all the SSiW course has been excellent. The SSiW relies on frequent intense practise which is important to reinforce the vocabulary and by putting pressure on you to create a sentence it allows you to practise many more ways of using the vocabulary you have learnt by forming lots of different sentences. This also encourages the quick natural response used in conversation.
One thing that really demonstrates to me how friendly and inclusive the course and community surrounding it are is the way they have approached the question of where people are from. When the course taught how to say where someone was from, the first example given was not ‘I am from Wales’ as you would expect, but ‘I am from England’. This was followed if memory serves me correctly with ‘I am from America’ and ‘I am from Australia’, before finally getting to Wales. This really pleased me as I felt a little bit of internal tension when the topic started with ‘where are your from’ as it reminded me that despite some Welsh heritage, I am essentially an Englishman and things have not always been easy between our two nations. The approach taken overcame this and in a way reinforced what I have long thought: that it is strange that Welsh isn’t taken up by more people outside of Wales, with little or no Welsh heritage. I think that the SSiW course could change this and help people view the language as of interest in its own right, in the same way that other minority languages, such as Icelandic, are studied by people with no personal connection. Judging by the forum and the places from which people are studying Welsh, this seems to be happening. Hopefully this will allow more people to enjoy and appreciate the unique and distinctive Welsh culture and raise Wales’ position both in the UK and beyond.
I would like to learn to read Welsh and see more written down as then I could quickly look things up, particularly when phrases are said that have lots of similar sounds close together. There are also times when I can read but not listen to audio and the extra practise would, I think, help reinforce what I have been learning and speed up my progress. I intend to get Colloquial Welsh: The Complete Course for Beginners, which I hope will complement the SSiW course.
I would also enjoy being able to watch videos on YouTube building up from simple Welsh to more complex use of the language and will investigate what is available. I think this would be particularly good to use where I have done my SSiW practise in the day and would like to do a little extra in the evening at a more relaxed pace.
I have found it quite useful recording the video above and putting my thoughts down in this entry and will report back in another month or so with my further progress.