My first SSIW Oxford meet up

So this week on Wednesday I went along to my first Say Something In Welsh (SSIW) Oxford meet up. John, who is the organiser extraordinaire of the group, got in touch with me via the SSIW online forum and invited me along. Having never met John before I did think I should have suggested he wear a daffodil to distinguish himself in the cafe but a friendly face and a Welsh magazine on the table did the trick!

John has been learning Welsh for 4 years, has done an Open University Welsh course and a Welsh immersion course in North Wales. As I sat down after saying my opening gambit “Helo. Helen dw i” (hello I’m Helen), I realised I really didn’t have a lot of vocab to draw on to make Welsh conversation with someone I hadn’t met before! But I muddled through for an hour or so and I managed to ask some questions and understand John’s answers. John was incredibly patient with me and helped me move some of my predominately English sentences into fully Welsh sentences. I realised my Welsh past tense was particularly lacking…need to work on that!

It was great to hear his ideas for learning Cymraeg and he also very kindly gave me a copy of a magazine targeted at Welsh Learners called Lingo Newydd. He gets them through the post and the articles are colour coded depending on what level of Welsh speaker you are. Clever!

I also briefly met Richard, another Welsh learner living in Oxford, before heading for my train home; my brain abit of a blur. Whilst the SSIW Oxford group meet up every week, I think what I’ll do is see where my learning is at in a months time and go back for a meet up then. Think I need more vocab and ability to ask questions under my belt to really be able to contribute. But I’m proud that I went, met my first new person via the medium of Welsh and all on a Wednesday evening after a days work…phew!

By completing SSIW lesson 7 today, I’m almost a third of way through level 1. Although today’s lesson went okay, it was the first time I had a real feeling of the learning going in one ear and out the next! Hopefully I’m wrong!

Learnt lots more past tense in this lesson which is good and also learnt some questions starting with ‘when’ which I think is a handy addition. ‘When’ in Welsh is ‘Pryd’ or ‘Pan’ depending on the context of the question…yep never simple!

On DuoLingo this week I have enjoyed learning commands. By the looks of things you just add a -wch on the end of the direction word. That plus a voice infection exclamation mark and you’re good to go! Useful vocab I think for when Hedd and I are on niece and nephew babysitting duty!

I’ve just started learning some more opinions in Welsh too. I shall leave you with the Welsh for ‘pretty’ which is ‘bert’….lol!

Tara am rwan!


Saying “Yes” yn Gymreag / in Welsh

I remember quite vividly the first time I discovered that there was no single word in Welsh that answers “yes” to questions. I was dumbstruck. But I just want to say yes! Why can’t I just say yes?! [add expletives]!

I now come to think of it as one of the many things that makes Welsh unique and heck it’s a challenge why not! I still find myself playing the “yes roulette” when up staying with the V-E’s. The family are quite patient with me as I pause to make my choice from the plethora of ways to be accepting in Welsh. I’m happy to report that the odds in me making the right choice are improving!

So brace yourselves, these are the many ways to say “yes” yn Gymreag / in Welsh…well the ways I’ve discovered so far! (Oh yes I’m sure there are more ways than 9!)

  • Ydw- yes, I am.
  • Ydy- yes, he/she is.
  • Ydyn- yes, we/they are.
  • Oes- yes, she/he does.
  • Ie- yes (to questions that don’t start with a verb e.g. Is this yours?)
  • Byddi- yes, you will
  • Cei- yes, you can
  • Oedd- yes, it was
  • Do- yes, we/he/she/I did (where action completed in past tense)

Annnddd breath! As Hedd said to me this evening, why only have 1 way to say “yes” when you can have 9!

So now to the report of my learning over the last 7 days…well I’ve started my 5 minute a day SSIW listening exercise. Aran now narrates my train journey Kings Sutton to Heyford each morning! He gets around that SSIW producer!

Yesterday I completed Challenge 6 of the Level 1 SSIW course. Ooh it was a long one at 47mins. Longest one yet. I struggled come the end I have to admit as the left side of my brain ached from concentrating for so long. But I reckon I spoke 80% + of phrases right so I was pleased with that.
Keeping all my lesson “coins” gold in Duolingo has been a challenge this last week which is a shame because I’m looking forward to getting started on the next lessons in the app. They are entitled ‘commands 1’ and ‘commands 2’…watch out Hedd!

This week I’ve also discovered another learning resource. It’s called ‘Daily Welsh’ on the Pinterest app. There is a vocab sheet for near enough every occasion, including ‘The Face’. So I just gotta find the complimentary ‘The Body’ vocab sheet and then I’m good to go on the nursery rhyme Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes!

Tara am rwan!

My first visit to Wales

This weekend was my first visit to Wales to see the V-E family since starting to learn Welsh. I was a little apprehensive that I would be bombarded with Welsh and have to embarrassingly blink blankly back at the converser. But none of that happened at all and I actually really enjoyed practicing my Welsh in real life. The photo above is of the Vale of Clwyd which I took on my walk this morning. Never get bored of that view.

Wel-ish was spoken in full force by me, encouraged by Ian, Hedds dad, who says that over time there would be less English in the sentences but not to worry about it. It’s better to say half a sentence in Welsh than resorting to English completely because I haven’t learnt or remembered perhaps just one Welsh word.

The whole V-E family were very supportive and I even got a “I’m impressed” which I took with great appreciation. I made the most of being in BBC Radio Cymru signal catchment and had that playing in the car all weekend, so I got a bit of immersive learning as we traveled about. I honed my ‘Wales supporter’ vocabulary during the Wales v Italy Six Nations Rugby game (Wales won 33-7, get in!). And I practiced my weather and animal vocab on Hedd and Awel as we strolled the Welsh hills. So all and all a pleasing weekend on the Welsh practice front!

As per I’ve been completing at least 2 lessons on Duolingo each day. This week I have enjoyed lessons on family and weddings. Bride/ groom / mother in law/ wedding dress- all vital vocab for a priodas (wedding) lover like me! Duolingo is also equipping me to be decisive, completing lessons on “must” and “must not”. Watch out Hedd!

Today I completed challenge 5 of ‘Say something in Welsh’ (SSIW) audio learning course and was met with the encouraging message above. Aran from SSIW promises that if get past level 5 then chances are you are going to become a very able Welsh speaker- hooray! 

I found lesson 5 not too bad. I learnt new words like “I’m not sure” / “dw i ddim yn swre”, “interesting” / “diddoral” and “if” / “os”. Along side recapping on words learnt previously in lessons 1 to 4 but using them in different sentences. All meant to deepen the memory of the vocab by repetition which I definitely  think is working.

Now that I’ve completed challenge 5, I have a listening exercise to do for 5 mins each day until I reach challenge 10. It’s all downloaded on my phone so I’m planning to do it each day on the train during the annoying “wifi black spot” on the commute to  work. Nifty way to pass the time me thinks!
Oh in the my last post I was telling you I couldn’t decide whether to go back and repeat any of the SSIW lessons to embed the learning. Well, with the help of Aran’s advice (thanks Aran!), I’ve decided to press on and not repeat any. So this time next week I will be able to regale you with the stories of SSIW lesson 6. 

Tara am rwan/ Tara for now!

Celebrating Dydd Santes Dwynwen 

One of the many perks of being #welshbymarriage is that I get not 1 but 2 valentines days each year. This week Hedd and I celebrated Dydd Santes Dwynwen / Santes Dwynwen Day which is the Welsh equivalent of Valentine’s Day. Although with more of a back story. It is in celebration of Dwynwen- the Welsh saint of lovers- after all! The picture above is of the card I gave Hedd. It translates to “you are worth the world”…all together now:- awwww! Anyway enough of the slushy stuff, back to the stuff about learning Welsh!

Well this week has been a busy one at work so my plan to do 2 SSIW lessons had to fall by the wayside. However I did complete 1, lesson 4, this savo. It was tough as per but I’m heartened that I am still able to recall words and phrases from previous lessons which means deep down in my brain Welsh is slowly but surely colonising!

I’m following Aran from SSIW advise and cracking on with the lessons. I am determined to get to the end of lesson 5 and then take stock to decide whether to repeat 1-5 to make sure I’ve got all the words&phrases down. Only slight problem is if I do do that, I’ll be lucky if I complete level 1 (25 lessons) by Christmas! Hmm I’ll ponder that over this week.

So opposite and below is the new vocab that I learnt today. See I’m not lying…it’s tricky! I feel very lucky to have a ready made Welsh person to practice on each day and I’ll be trying out this vocab when I can this week in my newly discovered language:- ‘Welish’ (part Welsh, part English, spoken with confidence!)

I continue with my Duolingo each day, at least 2 lessons so I keep my “daily streak” going…yep I get push notifications from the app and all. Duolingo gets particularly upset if I get to about 4pm and not gone any Welsh….it sends me an email! 

This week on Duolingo I’ve completed 7 lessons on countries- some less adventurous places than others (Llydaw / Brittany anyone?). 

I also particularly like the Welsh for Spain- Sbaen. It is pronounced how the character Beverley in the play Abigail’s Party would say it. I played the role Beverly whilst at uni so that lesson had me reminiscing! Basically think Essex dialect and say Spain!

I’ve also discovered the Welsh for ‘Geography’ this week which is ‘daearyddiaeth’. What a mouth full! I did geography as my undergrad at uni where the word geography was said at least 50 times every lecture! If it had been daearyddiaeth this, daearyddiaeth that…crikey I’d have been late for the pub!

Anyway till next time, ta ra!

Keeping my Duolingo coins gold

This week at times has felt like a race off with Duolingo on keeping all my coins gold! You see, once you’ve completed the group of lessons in a category, say animals, the coin turns gold. If you’ve made any mistakes the app remembers and then couple days later will show the lessons as incomplete encouraging you to recap on any weak words. It is clever. I mean who doesn’t like gold coins! But it has meant that It takes longer to progress as I have been recapping a lot this week and doing less new stuff. But it is deepening my learning and as the classic saying goes- it’s not the destination but the journey. 

This week on Duolingo I have enjoyed lessons on colours, weather and telling the time. 

I stormed the lessons on colours. I have endless games of the card game UNO to thank for that where ever since being with Hedd I have taken the opportunity to practice my Welsh colours. So that’s red (coch), yellow (melyn), green (gwyrdd), blue (glas) sorted! Added to that the types of wine I like, white (gwyn) and rose (pinc) and I was pretty set up for these lessons!

This week I also completed lessons on weather. Absolutely vital vocab for us Brits- a staple in any polite conversation! I did alright on weather. Found it tricky remembering the bwrw when you want to say ‘ing’ e.g. Rain-ing / bwrw glaw.

I enjoyed learning the time. My favourite is the Welsh for 12 noon and midnight…12 noon is “hanner dydd”, literally meaning ‘half the day’ and 12 midnight is “hanner nos” or half the night (does quite make sense but hey ho, it’s poetic!). I definitely had some latent embedded memory of the vocab which I took advantage of in those lessons…perhaps from being immersed in Welsh whilst staying with the Vaughan-Evans’ or sitting in the leaders office for a year whilst working at Denbighshire County Council. Who knows! But thanks memories- you helped me ace those lessons!

I managed to fit in 2 SSIW lessons/ challenges this week. Lesson 2 I found blooming difficult. I just felt overwhelmed by the number of words I was expected to say in the right order before Catrin started to speak within the audio lesson. Sentences like…

“I can’t remember how to say what I wanted to say now”

“I better try to say something in Welsh now but I can’t remember how to say what I wanted now”

Dear dear dear! 

SSIW challenge 3 I found much better. I was loads better at repeating the Welsh before Catrin started the speak (the aim of the game) and also managed to remember most of the stuff from lesson 1 and 2 that popped up again. Plus I didn’t feel so wiped out afterwards. 

Hmmm, I’m  thinking doing SSIW may be a bit much in a midweek evening after work. Such a marked difference from doing challenge 2 on a Tuesday evening and challenge 3 on a Saturday lunchtime. But I would still like to do at least 2 audio classes a week…dilemma!

This week Facebook reminded me of my last attempt to learn Welsh, 4 years ago. I cracked a rye smile as I read the post, not dissimilar to my first post on this blog. I hope 4 years from now I won’t need to post something like that again and that I will be deepening and widening my grasp of the welsh language. That is my aim.

Speaking Welsh aloud

This week for me has been about trying to speak Welsh aloud everyday, even just a sentence or two.

Whilst Duolingo is great to help with understanding and writing Welsh, I don’t think it helps with speaking Welsh. So this week I’ve started using a second Welsh Learning app called ‘Say Something in Welsh’ (SSIW). 

SSIW are audio Welsh lessons put together by Aran and his wife Catrin. Aran teaches you the Welsh for a word, then he says it in English and I then have to repeat it in Welsh before Catrin says it, and Aran repeats it. Sounds easy right? Not quite! The sentences get longer but the time you get to say your bit in Welsh doesn’t lengthen to the same extent forcing you to think on your feet and trust your gut. Lots of science behind it, but essentially it gets you learning and thinking in Welsh quicker and sets you up for coping with conversations in Welsh in real life.

Lessons are quite long at 35 minutes and I’ve only managed to fit in Challenge 1 of Level 1 this week. But I’ve started, that’s the main thing. I enjoyed my first lesson but blimey did my head hurt come the end of the 35 mins! A few phrases I struggled to say before Catrin said them but on the whole I did okay. 

Hedd was very impressed with me knowing the word for “practice”- “ymarfer”…I think he’s enjoying hearing some of the Welsh words i’m learning which perhaps he hasn’t heard or used for a while. I’m still struggling to commit to memory the Welsh for “I can’t” “fedra i ddim”, but I’m blaming that on my in-built optimism bias ; ) !

I’m loving Arans top tips for using SSIW….following them makes the whole thing less daunting:- 

1) Make mistakes! 

2) Ditch the pause button! 

3) Don’t repeat sessions! 

4) Do the listening exercises! 

5) And talk to a live person every week.

Thanks Aran! However this is also the same guy that informed me at the end of challenge 1 that after challenge 5 the lessons are going to go at double speed!!! My reaction:- “whatttttt!!!

I’ve also joined the SSIW Forum and found a Welsh Learning Social Group that meets up in Oxford weekly to practice Welsh. Sounds petrifying (!) but I will go and try it out soon (eek!).

I’ve continued using Duolingo daily on my commute to and from work. This week I have completed lessons on numbers. I like the structure of Welsh numbers. For example ’34’ is tri (3) deg (10) pedwer (4). So in that way numbers are building blocks so once you know 1-10 you’re good to go really for all numbers 1 to 100! 

I completed a whole lesson on math, learning the words for minus/add/multiply/divide- don’t know how often I will use that vocab! 

I’ve learnt Places- I particularly liked learning “I work in New York”- “dwi’n gwedditho yn eurog newydd” and giggled learning “do you eat meat in abergavenny?” “Dych chi’n bwta cig yn Y Fenni?”!

The lesson on Past Tense was a little tricky…remembering not to put the ‘n’ in “dw i’n” and the order of words in the sentence structure is slightly counter intuitive. 
However in the same lesson I did learn:- “Dych chi wedi codi eto?” “Have you got up yet?”, which I have preceded to say with delight to Hedd every morning this week as I often leave for work before Hedd is out of bed! 

I completed the lesson on Animals- including “llygodden”(mouse) which I then put in a sentence, saying to Hedd that I had seen a little mouse in the kitchen and he freaked out in Welsh- very funny!

I learnt the Welsh for “She” and “He”.  I can see me make some bluppers there. Mae e (he) Mae hi (she)….very similar to each other that a slip of the tongue could cause a bit of confusion! Just like when I called our nephew Dyfan “hogan bach” (little girl) instead of “hogin bach” (little boy)…hmm, I apologise in advance to all for any offence I will cause!

So 17 aspects learnt and 2 checkpoints past in Duolingo and Challenge 1 of 25 completed in SSIW (level 1 of 2). So loads of distance still to be covered but I’m quietly proud of my first 2 weeks “in the pursuit of Welsh”. Till next time…..

Learning “my sounds”

I have a best friend, Nikki, who is a Primary School teacher and this year I spent Christmas Eve with her and her 2 young boys, Jasper and Farley. Jasper got a new rhyming card game to play with and as I sat playing it with Jay, Nikki said encouragingly “use your sounds”…Jay considered his hand of cards practicing his phonics and picked out “cat” and “hat”, “van” and “man” with great success.

So this week that’s where I started…Learning the Welsh alphabet; learning “my sounds”. I hope that this will set me up for a winning hand just like Jay.

I’ve been using my ‘Welsh on the Wall’ poster to recite “my sounds”. This is stuck up in our hallway…I think Hedd wishes it was up somewhere closer to a sofa as we have spent an abnormal amount of time in our entrance hallway this week!

So an intro to the Welsh Alphabet. There is 28 letters (2 more than in English), including 8 newbies on the block:- ch, dd, ff, ng, ll, ph, rh, th. And not many sound the same as in English! As I stood reciting, I found myself having to resist every desire in my brain to pronounce the letter as I would in English because, I  guess, my mother tongue sounds are so engrained in my lexicon. (Well done Manadon Vale Primary School!) But I’m getting there.

Vowel sounds are different. I’m finding “u” the most tricky. You need to have your tongue forward but contained within your teeth and project the sound from your throat. Hedd and I were in giggles as I ended up looking like I was threatening a head butt whilst making some sort of fight noise/grunt! Hmm…one to keep working on I think!

“R” is another tricky one, to me it’s “rur” (for Ricky the robber) but in Welsh “r” is “urr” (as in bud-wise-urrr). I smile as I acknowledge my learning methods have moved from story characters to booze branding!

“L” is another one. Not “ler” for “Lucy lamp lady” but “url” (as in a mix of “ohhh a unicorn” and “uhh I’ve touched used chewing gum under the table!”)

Another is “Ng” as in ki-“ng” which to me feels like im making a comic swallow of the throat sound.

I think my favourite run of letters is “P” and “Ph”, as in “per” and “fer”, because you know puffer fish (okay okay, small things please me!)

My Learning Welsh App of choice this week has been Duolingo which I’ve been doing it on my commute to work. I have a 20 minute train journey as part of my commute and the 5 minute lessons fit in rather nicely. Although there is the jeopardy that is the internet black hole Heyford-to-Tackley stretch and making sure I’ve completed and graded a lesson in time!

I’ve completed 8 lessons so far and reached the first ‘checkpoint’. I smashed lessons 1 and 2 on “greetings”. There has been lessons on days- remembering Thursday is the trickiest for me “lau”. Lessons on wanting- “eisiau”. I don’t like “eisiau” so much, it makes me feel like I’m bluntly demanding which I rarely do in English. Instead of “want”, I would like to know how to say in Welsh, “I would like…” or “I fancy a…” And to complete the check point I’ve done lessons on the Present Tense, Clothes and Work. 

So I’ve learnt a cocophony of Welsh words this week and I fear I’m confusing Hedd slightly with the random questions I’m now asking him in Welsh using the mix of words I’ve learnt. Yesterday we had a whole conversation about new shirts and ironing! “Dy chi’n mind i swmddio crys newedd heno?” / “Are you going to iron your new shirts tonight?”

Lol, let the random continue…!