Writing a ‘better’ course, and my love affair with failure…

Right, where were we?

Oh yes.

Writing a better course.

I’d love to say: I realised that I needed to write a better course, so (ta-daa!) that’s what I did.

In fact, after realising that I needed to write a better course, I sat down and wrote 3 or 4 WORSE courses.

I had a bunch of ideas about how to solve the problem, and they were all WRONG.

Mathematical models, frequency charts, corpus search tools – each new idea seemed enormously promising, and each new idea was deeply and utterly wrong.

It was a long, miserable time.

It was never obvious that a course was JUST RUBBISH until I’d pretty much finished it.

With one of them, I actually got as far as starting to record it – and it was only as I recorded the first few sentences that I thought ‘Oh swear swear swear, I KNOW what this nagging feeling means…’

I think it is a fairly safe bet now that I have written more ABSOLUTELY RUBBISH Welsh courses than anyone else on the face of the planet.
I am the secret (up until now, anyway) Master of Writing Rubbish Welsh Courses.

My one saving grace is that I’m also honest enough to look at a finished course and realise that it’s rubbish, and NOT publish it.

I’m so glad the story didn’t finish there, or you wouldn’t be reading this now, and I’d probably be teaching English to international smugglers or something.

In something close to despair, I kind of smushed all the previous courses together.

And – yes, it really was pretty much desperation – I spent some time writing little dialogue stories to myself about how I *wished* our learners were talking Welsh on Bootcamp.

And, with a weary sigh, I thought ‘Okay, great, this looks promising again, so I’d better write 25 [swear swear] lessons before I put it in the bin.’

But suddenly writing the lessons was easier.

And each time I looked for signs of RUBBISHNESS, they didn’t seem to be there.

When I got 25 scripts done, I didn’t look at them for a week – and then I braced myself to put them in the bin.

And then I read them again, and got a tentatively tingly feeling that they might actually be what I’d been trying to do for the last year or so.

The little dialogue stories turned out to work as a kind of filter for all the other stuff.

Whatever had gone wrong with mathematical models or frequency lists or so on just couldn’t fit around the dialogue stories – so it got cut right at the beginning.

Those little dialogue stories pretty much saved this project – and the new Level 1 (which seemed stranger and less comforting than the old Course 1, because in the meantime I’d also travelled further away from grammar and tradition) was immediately successful.

And when we got our first Level 1 graduates coming to Bootcamp – the most painful gaps had all been filled in, and they did MUCH better.


I love a happy ending.

But that wasn’t it.

Some time previously, some lovely folk from Cornwall had got in touch and asked if we could translate SaySomethinginWelsh into SaySomethinginCornish – and we’d said sure, fine.

And they’d offered us actual MONEY.

One. Thousand. Pounds.

And Iestyn went all hard-nosed businessman on them and said WHAT ABOUT TWO THOUSAND.

And they said yes, and we thought we were about to become an actual company with money to spend and things like that.

Naturally (like most of the other courses I’ve done), It. Didn’t. Work.

We’d send a script down, they’d translate it, I’d look at it and realised it was broken sixteen ways to Wednesday, and then I’d have to learn enough Cornish to fix it.

Slow. Going.

So the next part of the story – and it’s kind of my favourite bit – is what happened when the little dialogue stories met our guilty lack of a finished Cornish course…

Both the dialogues and the Cornish course started to change…

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