I finished level 1 of Say Something in Welsh about five months ago and was pleased with the results. It feels like a very natural way to learn a language and the course is great but left me unsure about the pronunciation of some words. In particular it is hard to differentiate sometimes between f (/v/) and dd (/ð/) sounds. Since finishing the first level of SSiW I have used a few different resources.
At Christmas I got a book called Colloquial Welsh: The Complete Course for Beginners by Gareth King, which is good but relies on my having the book and audio (downloadable from the Routledge website) available at the same time which I often don’t find convenient. I do like the book however as it is quite clear, particularly in its explanations of the difference between North and South dialects. The audio uses a mixture of Northern and Southern speakers which is great for exposure, but it makes it difficult to develop an authentic accent. I find the book most useful for looking up things or for finding greater explanations of grammatical points. I think the book is best when used with other methods that reinforce the new vocabulary and grammar better. I haven’t got very far with this book as I feel the method a bit cumbersome, but think it will be a good reference as I progress with other methods.
While struggling with the Colloquial Welsh book, I started using some of the BBC resources such as the Big Welsh Challenge, which is a good interactive video system and I like the presenter, although the site does have a few glitches. There are some good written notes accompanying the video material, which I found quite helpful. I enjoyed doing this course, but really it just feels like a Welsh taster and isn’t ultimately going anywhere. I also used various other resources from the BBC, but now think that my time could have been spent better elsewhere. This wasted a few months with no appreciable gains.
I have now switched to Duolingo. I have been using this for the last 38 days and am currently at level 10. The system is superb and I’m really enjoying it. What stands out most for me is how good it is at reinforcing what has been learnt, something that SSiW also excels at. The computerized voice is good but it is a little flat and there are occasional audio glitches. One further complications is that the course teaches a mix of Northern and Southern Welsh and I’m not sure what accent the audio is meant to have. This creates the same problems as the other methods, apart from SSiW, as far as trying to create an authentic accent. Overall though I’m very happy that I found Duolingo. It has a nice clear interface and has really helped me improve my vocabulary and my reading, writing, listening and speaking skills. The way Duolingo pushes you to keep your learning up and the convenience of it has increased the amount of time learning with it to about 20-60 minutes every day.
Most recently I have been using Memrise, 5 minutes a day for the last 10 days, to help me remember the gender of nouns. This is text only so sometimes I’m unsure how to pronounce a word which does slow me down a little. But I have found it easy to use, it has a nice interface like Duolingo and is a good addition to my study time.
I haven’t had the time to seek out anyone to practise with yet, but have been trying things out with my children and have begun to describe what I have done, am doing, and will do in Welsh, as I go about my daily life.
One concrete benefit I have noticed from learning Welsh is that I now feel much more confident confirming Welsh addresses at work and from the response I’m getting I seem to be gaining in accuracy.
I want to expand the amount I use Welsh to describe my life and I want to be able to reliably pronounce written words as then I can make greater use of written resources such as Memrise, Welsh readers and the Routledge book. Once I have completed the Duolingo tree I want to do level 2 of SSiW and seek out people to practice with.