‘Watch out for that tree, Ifan! Now, back to the code…’


I was looking forward to writing a post this week.

It was going to be full of shiny things, of news about all the stuff that Ifan and I were going to have done in the course of his week staying with us.  The new social layer, our algorithm for new courses, all sorts of shiny things.

But, of course, as some of you will already have sensed, the whole idea was predicated on us having some electricity.

Silly of us, really.

There’s been a bit of a storm here, you see, and trees falling down all over the place, including one blocking the street just outside our house.  It’s been lying gracefully against the power lines, like a respectable matron doing her best to hide how much she’s been drinking at the local charity ball.

So here’s the news for SSi, fresh from the cutting edge: we’ve been on holiday.

A duffel coat and woolly underwear, candle-lighting, telling stories about how much we used to love lights and central heating kind of holiday, but a holiday nonetheless.

In true SSi style, though, we have actually managed to get a few things done during this holiday!

We’ve talked through some of the initial tricky points of the new algorithm in fairly rigorous detail (and I more or less had to restrain Ifan from starting to code it immediately, which he’s not allowed to do until we’ve sold some Spanish lessons!), we’ve got a clear line on what needs to be done before we publish the new social layer (which should be about two or three weeks) and what we need to have another round of tests in terms of advertising those Spanish lessons – and Ifan got some bits of coding done in the day or two before the storm.

And inspired by my mother-in-law’s internet connection and laptop, I managed to get around to publishing the first ten sessions of our new Course 1 for Welsh, a mere six or seven months after getting Lleuwen’s permission to use some of her music as the intro and outro (in the belief that I was about to publish them!).  We should have another five sessions ready in the fairly near future, and then it won’t be long before we can run our first tests for one day and two day immersion sessions.  Interesting times ahead!

And in the most holiday-ish part of the week, Ifan took us all out for a meal on Tuesday night.  We agreed on the grounds that we wouldn’t let him pay for the children, and then we carefully left all our cards and money at home, so he ended up footing an absurdly large bill, on a salary that’s much lower than it ought to be.  Ahem.  He’s extremely kind, so we’re planning on taking shameless advantage of him for years to come…:-)

Anyway, next week will be a little more productive.

I say that with confidence, not least because we’ve just heard that some insane engineer from Scottish Power has been dangling from the top of the relevant telegraph pole, in what looks like about a Force 10, clearly suffering from a dramatic lack of common sense – and has managed to reconnect us.  Blessings upon him!

23 responses to “‘Watch out for that tree, Ifan! Now, back to the code…’

  1. “we’ve got a clear line on what needs to be done before we publish the new social layer (which should be about two or three weeks)”

    Again… sooooo exciting! I’m really looking forward to the updated spanish course as well, (keep telling myself that’s when I’ll really dive in to it :D)

    Thanks for all your amazing work, never thought it would be this easy and fun to learn new languages. May I dare confess that I used to think it was too late to really get in to any more languages properly :O And I looooove languages so wi’n hapus iawn!

    Take care ♥

    • Comments like this are such a wonderful source of inspiration and motivation – diolch o waelod calon i ti…:-))

      Maybe you’d like to guinea pig the new Spanish material for us – I’m particularly keen (as soon as we’ve got 20 sessions available) to see what happens if you try to do 10 sessions in a day for 2 days running…:-)

      Ifan and I were talking the other night about fine-tuning the intensive approach and seeing (when we’ve got our algorithm for new courses working) how many languages we could get a decent, usable grasp of in a year – maybe we could have a group game with it…:-)

      • “I’m particularly keen (as soon as we’ve got 20 sessions available) to see what happens if you try to do 10 sessions in a day for 2 days running…:-)”

        Of course you are…Dr Frankenstein! Meltdown? 😨 😉
        A Northwalian at heart eh,…well you just never know…;-)

      • Hey, I’m just trying to ease you all into it nice and slowly, instead of frightening you off by talking about five days in a row at 15 sessions a day…;-)

      • Hey, I’m just trying to ease you all into it nice and slowly, instead of frightening you off by talking about five days in a row at 15 sessions a day…;-)

        I’m still waiting for the moment you can plug my brain straight into Ifan’s laptop! 🙂

      • Aww… 🙂

        And how do you suppose I’ll be able to turn down a challenge like that!? That would be amazing to try, Even my boyfriend supports it, but only if he gets to do it with me I think (learning spanish is one of his major goals and he had it in school, so he would be a bit jealous if I surpassed him in 2 days I think).

        Yours and Ifan’s idea is much better than my thought the other day, that was that I hoped you wouldn’t launch more than 1 new language per year cause I wasn’t sure I could keep up with more. The handy thing about some of the other languages as opposed to Welsh is that they are related either to each other, like Spanish or French, or to languages I already speak, thus making them slightly easier to learn!
        So yeah, I’ll join that game 🙂 We should have a hang out at the end of it and talk in 10 different languages to each other! 🙂

      • Hooray, more guinea pigs! 🙂 🙂

        I particularly love the idea of having a group hangout at the end of the year, superb. We’ve just got to make that happen.

      • Marie – regarding the thing about languages like French and Spanish being related to one another…

        …just you wait until we get courses for the other Celtic languages on the go 😀


      • Ifan – that’s indeed exciting, although I’m under the impression that they are not so similar to one another?
        Anyway, any language course SSI* publish, I will neeeed to do! *sigh* 😉

        Aran – Do we know any film makers, I’m sure it would make a good documentary; “The Polyglot Club” 🙂

  2. I am amazed by the work you managed to get done even in the midst of a winter power outage. Just… floored.

    OMG, the new Welsh lessons are AWESOME! I’ve developed what I’m euphemistically calling “mush brain” (which in my case means I have real difficulty retaining anything new, not just language), but the “block” structure of the new lessons seems to be helping me get around that. Of course, it’s certainly helpful that I’ve gone through the old series, but there are only so many times you can repeat it before the law of diminishing returns sets in.

    You are fantastic, Aran. Period.

    • [blushing] Diolch, diolch. Really, that kind of enthusiasm is SUCH a boost, such an inspiration. But really, I’ve got a lazy streak a mile wide – the only reason we’re building such momentum is all the incredible amount of work that our fantastic volunteers keep on doing – take that away, and I’d be lucky to bring out a lesson per month, seriously.

      Thank you so much for sharing your first thoughts on the new stuff – such an exciting response, and I’m particularly delighted to hear that it’s turning out to be valuable even to people who’ve done the other stuff – I hoped that would be the case, but hearing that it’s happening is seriously wonderful…:-))

    • I think you must be a north Walian at heart, Vaughan. I remember my grandfather laughing himself sick whenever he saw someone else suffering – the more dreadful the suffering, the more he’d laugh…;-)

      • More to do with the way you wrote it than the subject matter… saying that though, the image inside my head of the chap up the pole in a force10 Gale had me in stitches! 😀
        Northwalian at heart… Interesting…;-)

  3. The intensive sessions you mention are really exciting and have huge potential to help/(save) the language if successessful. THe whole idea of language aquisition taking years of hard work (usually by an elite few who have a supernatural abitility to learn languages) is one of the main barriers to tackling so many of teh issues that face the language. What your planning is relatively cheap in terms of both time and money. Exciting times!

    My wanderings in to other methods of learning Spanish since completing all the SSIS lessons have given me a bigger and bigger appreciation for the SSI method. I recently took a book and accompanying CDs out of the local library but had to take it back as I found it too frustrating. The whole course had been written around rules of grammer which although on the face of it may seem logical?? It most certainly is not natural. I still play around with duolingo but find I really have to keep on top of it or I soon forget what I’ve learned unlike the amazing sticking power of everythiing I’ve learned with SSIS. Also as everything is written rather than the 100% audio SSIS I find it quite difficult to say what I’ve learned as when I try and say it a picture of the words seem to come in to mind which I then have to audiolise (is that a word?) rather than with SSIS where the sounds come to mid which I simply repeat (having said then loads of times before so feel quite natural). It does make me wonder whether you should almost ban written material of the target language at least until your a reasonablly confident speaker. It seems to almost be a hinderence otherwise.

    Which also got me thinking. A lot of what is taught re. Welsh in class based lessons relies on the drilling method. Which although largly oral based is quite different to the SSI method – it’s far more limited in my opinion and doesn’t really lend it self to contructing ad hoc sentences, but can work quite well as far as memory retetion of those stock phrases if done well. Was wondering what your thoughts were of that method?

    Sorry, that was more of a ramble of random thoughts than I intended before I started writting!

    • Interesting stuff, Dai – I’m glad to be able to say that we’ll have new stuff out in Spanish in the very near future…:-)

      Re: drilling – I agree that the ways in which it’s usually done can be a bit limiting – the biggest problem is when people are encouraged to drill verb forms, like ‘I do, you do, he does, she does, we do, you do, they do’ – which isn’t a pattern they will ever, ever use in conversation. I think it’s very important to give enough repetition to get new material in, but then it’s equally important not to overdo it when you could be moving on. It’s also very important to get students mixing and matching – we all start to try new constructions out eventually, which I suspect is part of how our language instinct works, but it seems to me that it happens much sooner if people are used to trying things out in different contexts from the very beginning…:-)

    • What’s interesting is that the SSI method *is* all about drilling — at least, that’s how it struck me as soon as I happened upon in in 2009, and that’s part of why I love it. Too many courses, including the all-audio Pimsleur, teach too many things too quickly and don’t make you use them over and over in varying combinations until they stick. I understand why SSI doesn’t advertise the drilling aspect, because the word has a bad rap and is associated with the kind of “parroting” nonsense that Dai is talking about from school — but creative drilling, boy, that works.

      Dai, I’ve been trying to learn Spanish, too, and the best-available material that’s audio-focused beyond SSIS is Pimsleur (advantage: lots of it; disadvantage: price, though check libraries & MP3 discounts) and Michel Thomas (advantage: less dull; disadvantage: not enough drilling). Assimil is also handy, especially for vocabulary (and it has audio), but it would make me crazy if I tried to start there because it’s too much ‘throw you in and make you swim.”

      My biggest problem with Spanish so far is not having fallen in love with it. I don’t know, maybe you can only ever have one first love, and for me that’s Welsh, and everything else will look pallid thereafter.

      The other thing that Pimsleur (especially) makes me miss like crazy from SSI is sentence complexity. It’s amazing what a difference to being able to make *simple* sentences of my own it makes to have been required, in SSI lessons, to make *complex* sentences. There’s definitely something to the phenomenon of something that was hard becoming unconsciously easier when we move on to struggling with something new and hard.

      • HI Diane,

        Thanks for the info re. Spanish. I’ve also stumbled upon “prospanish” and am considering purchasing their lessons. The 1st five are available on youtube as tasters. They seem to offer a similar method to SSI only at a somewhat frustratingly slower pace and they also seem to lack the complex sentences that as you mention are there from the start with SSI (although I might be being unfair as I’ve only looked at the 1st five lessons so far, so they may come later).
        Re. drilling. I totally agree in its own way the SSI method is all about drilling. But it is quite different to the classic “classroom”method which is still a backbone of many Welsh classes.
        From my experience (in no way scientific!) the classic drilling method, when done well, gave me quite good retention of set phrases but not the ability to cut these up and make new ones as the SSI method does so well. I’m sure the counter argument would be that there are then other exercises and activities in the class to help with this skill once the drilling has committed to set phrases to memory. However, I never felt that they really achieved that.

  4. Bore Da Aran. I’m kind of new to the SSIW newsletter and just saw you were from Mynytho. I spent some of the best days of my life in Mynytho and Llanbedrog as my Gran and Grandad lived there all of the time I knew them. So much so that the main thing I wanted to do when I brought my boys back across the pond to visit the UK the Jampot and Llanbedrog beach were the top of the list for our visit to the Llyn.

    • Hi John! What an interesting coincidence! It means your grandparents were probably there when mine were, too…:-)


    Sorry about the capital letters (Which you once told me was like shouting!) I merely pressed the wrong button.

    • Hi Margaret – actually, there is already a discount – to go from one language to two you only pay £3 a month for the second language, instead of £3.95, and that also gives you access to all our other languages for no further payment. We hope you’ll think that is a fair approach…:-)

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