Most people think that the toughest part of learning Welsh (or any other language) is getting started.
It ISN’T the worst part, though.
Getting started can be tough emotionally – but neurologically, it’s pretty clear what you need to do – learn some words, start using them.
A FAR tougher part – in my opinion – is when you can hold a reasonable conversation with other learners, but first language speakers are REALLY hard to follow (and you feel under pressure whenever you try to talk to one of them) – and Radio Cymru still just mostly sounds like a blur.
It’s emotionally tough – sometimes you want to knock your head against the wall – you’ve put ALL this effort into learning, and you STILL can’t understand Radio Cymru, or your neighbour (and it turned out later she was just asking if you wanted a panad, and you feel like an idiot).
But it’s also neurologically tough. What are you meant to be doing next? How do you get through this frustrating block?
When you ask for help, you usually get told 2 things.
1 – oh, but you’re doing really well – you speak it really well – keep going, you’ll be fine!
This helps approximately NOT AT ALL.
2 – you just need to keep listening to Radio Cymru, and get into as many conversations as possible.
This has more detail, but otherwise IT’S THE SAME SUGGESTION.
Now, I’m not saying these 2 things are wrong.
They’re right – and if you can keep on suffering for long enough, you’ll get there.
This is a really dangerous stage – because the prospect of suffering for ages, and never really feeling sure when or IF it’s going to get any better – is INCREDIBLY de-motivating.
I’ve seen good friends get to this level – and then, frustrated by how tough it still feels, give in and STOP – and lose their new language just when it was ready to flower.
There’s a better way, though.
What your brain really needs at this point in the journey is bulk exposure to Welsh – but the more accessible that exposure is (the more it counts as ‘comprehensible input’, as the jargon has it), the faster and easier the process becomes.
In other words, you need to throw a LOT of new stuff at your brain, and then you need to help your brain pick out the bits it’s already familiar with – which frees it up to use its brilliant pattern recognition skills to start making sense of the new stuff.
Listening to Radio Cymru doesn’t do this for you.
It just throws the new stuff at your brain – as if you’ve run out into the savannah and started playing with lions, and then, oh dear, they tear you to pieces.
What you really need – before you can hold your own with the wild lions – is a tame lion.
You need to listen to a big block of natural Welsh – ideally just a couple of people talking to each other – and then (here’s the key) you need to be able to read a transcript – and then listen again – and then read a translation, and listen for the last time.
This puts you right next to the cage door of a tame lion, who’ll let you stroke her as she walks past, without biting your hand off.
If you listen to one new block of content like this every week – and keep getting new conversations every week, so they don’t get old and boring – then you’ll be able to see real, measurable improvement every single month.
You can measure your results easily at any time by going back to the content from a month ago and listening again – and it will always surprise you how much easier it seems.
And when you know without any doubt that you’re getting better every single month, it’s easy to keep going – and you end up breaking out of the cage and surviving on the savannah years before you thought it was possible.
So that’s why we built exactly this kind of content – and why we’re publishing a new 30 minute interview, with transcript and translation, every week.
Do it for a couple of months, and your Welsh will be transformed.
And it’s just a tenner a month.
Any questions, fire away in the comments – and if you know anyone who’s stuck on the plateau, and finding it hard to keep improving their Welsh, do please share this with them – for lots of learners, it will be the final piece of the jigsaw that turns them into real Welsh speakers… 🙂