Progress Report after 13 Months of "Slow Welsh Language Study"

Waw, mae'r amser yn rhedeg...time flies (or runs, as my dodgy translation implies).

I have been learning this new language for about 13 months now...so let's have a look what the middle ground looks like!

Before you read the post, download your copy of the free "Teach Yourself Toolkit" in the Fluent Cool Kids Club. It's got links to all the resources I use.

I Spoke Lots of Welsh in Wales!

welsh study update

Back in August, I fulfilled one of this year's language goals and spoke Welsh at the Eisteddfod, the National Festival of Wales. The festival was one week long, with a big site located in Abergavenny, South Wales.

I pitched up my tent for 4 days at one of the official campsites. What a total delight! Immediately, I was hearing people of all ages speak Welsh around me and everyone addressed me in Welsh. In fact, I was surprised, because turns out..

Welsh is real, mae'r Gymraeg yn go iawn!

It's not a postcard language, and it's not even a dying language. Not when you hear and see it all around you, witnessing thousands of people as they celebrate their art, music and identity. Even though I had been learning the language for a year, this was my first experience of feeling how truly alive Welsh is in this world.

In terms of culture and enjoyment, the Welsh festival was amazing. Wales is such a small country that you can make friends with everyone in just a week. From meeting the bands I love (Plu, Candelas) to hanging out with the creators and learners of Say Something in Welsh, every conversation evolved naturally. I often found myself invited to film screenings and discussions (lots of gwin am ddim - free wine!), quickly forgetting I was attending the festival on my own.

Language Immersion is Easy

The Eisteddfod visit showed me that it doesn't take much to create an environment where you learn this new language. Simply go where people speak it. Hearing the language spoken around me was a boost even before I opened my mouth. Yet I also worked on creating speaking opportunities from the start by volunteering as a steward so I was forced to get involved and talk to people from the minute I arrived. It was the perfect Welsh immersion environment.

Impressions from Eisteddfod week

I liked having English as a backup. It was very reassuring to know that I can stop or ask for a word when I need to... I would have never remembered the word for "self-employed" (hynan cyflogedig) if it hadn't been for so many reminders from my conversation partners.

The Fight For Welsh Language Rights

One of the groups I want to highlight is Cymdeithas yr Iaith, an advocacy group for Welsh language rights.

Cymdeithas is an activist group founded in 1962, promoting the right of Welsh citizens to live their lives in two languages. Without them, there would be no bilingual road signs. Old Welsh people may not understand official letters sent in English only. And there would be no education in Welsh. In other words, the language would be dying a lot faster.

Find out more about language rights in our podcast episode with Wikitongues.

If you want to join me at the next Eisteddfod, here's a helpful guide for English speakers.

Speaking and Understanding Welsh After 14 Months

The benefits of visiting Wales and speaking and hearing my target language took hold right away. I was myself having a 15 minute Welsh conversation with an old man in a tiny village, just one week after.

Since returning from Wales, it's been tough to maintain this immersion but I continued to practice. Back in October, I booked a tutoring session with Mererid and my range of conversation was HUGELY improved. It's really great to know that you're impressing your tutor!

I continue to work through the Say Something in Welsh lessons and switched from the old to the new course system back in September. Yes, so I started at the beginning again but that doesn't feel like a setback at all. I loved the opportunity to consolidate my language skills so far. In fact, I got through the first 8 lessons at 1.5 speed, and am now halfway through the course. Say Something in Welsh is intense at times, and it's making me feel like a very confident speaker. I'm also reading a lot of Welsh as I subscribed to the learner magazine Lingo Newydd.

Grammar and Vocab in Welsh

My system is to practice WLCR (Write, Look, Cover, Repeat) using my own notebook. I also maintain a personal Memrise course with the 30% of words that are the hardest to remember. So overall, my vocabulary in Welsh has now grown to about 500-700 solid words - maybe 1000? Who's counting! Studying vocabulary is never going to be a walk in the park when you don't have classes or conversations every day.

--> Learn more about WLCR techniques in my Vocab Cookbook

I'm very happy with my grammar progress, finding that I'm able to say and describe more patterns (he says mae o'n dweud...he said naeth o'n dweud...he was saying oedd o'n dweud ...and so on). Everything still seems to have lots of extra rules and dialects, but I've not had to study many tables at all.

Being an experienced language learner is a big advantage for me here. I find myself seeing patterns and recognising the rules a lot more quickly, and I am confident when I make new sentences out of these structures. I always loved how language can be so playful when you get a pattern.

My Welsh Language Level After 13 Months?

I'm not performing to a set standard, however I've recently downloaded the Mynediad (Beginners) exam guidelines. I'm planning to work through these materials with a tutor. I am pretty much there, meaning I've reached the end of level A1 by studying "little and often" for a little bit more than a year.

Is this impressive? No idea. I don't feel that I would be able to share this on YouTube as a major polyglot win, but at the same time this is something I know I've learnt for life.

The thing about studying for 13 months is this: My time is not wasted just because I've not learnt everything yet. It is time well spent, moving forward, step by step to conversation levels. When you think about how quickly you can learn a language, it's easy to consider any slow periods as "wasted time", but I believe that the long-term commitment is what counts when you want to progress and grow your mind.

What's Next?

In terms of listening, I wish that I had more opportunities to hear real people instead of TV or radio characters. I feel ready to graduate from TV subtitles, but the radio and TV are still too fast for me. What to do?

As a podcast junkie, I would love a slow Welsh news podcast like News in Slow French, or perhaps a learner's story show. I have heard that there's some useful stuff on YouTube, but it's not enough. Give me more Welsh!

My biggest goal is to speak and eavesdrop more. I want to be able to witness conversations in Welsh easily, so that means the following practical goals for December:

  1. Book another tutoring session
  2. Speak Welsh at Polyglot Pub on 6 December
  3. Spend an hour every week listening to the language, ideally spoken by real people around me (failing that, BBC Cymru and S4C will do)

I'm also planning a social media project based on my friend Lindsay's new Social Media Course. More about that in the next blog update!

How Are You Getting On In Your Language?

Are you learning lots, or struggling to find time? Let me know in the comments below!

The Story of Bilingual German-English Live Training

One of the worst moments I've ever experienced in German teaching was the time I tried to introduce a class of lunchtime learners to the Akkusativ case. Armed with whiteboard and sample sentences, I walked into the class, and I felt so ready and so excited to be teaching this (what I thought) awesome system in grammar.

"So when you have an object in your sentence, here's what happens..", I explained to them, with colour-coded underlining to illustrate. I thought I was doing well..until I saw everyone's face. In this classroom, at 12:45, in the middle of a busy workday, something clearly wasn't working.

That's when I realised that language teaching and language learning are not the same thing. And even worse, that what I was explaining didn't make sense to half of these people and they didn't care either.

Relevant Teaching

I came out of that class feeling absolutely defeated. I think I even cried, feeling like I'm failing myself and my students. And the experience always stuck with me and built part of the philosophy that is behind my actions now: The LEARNER is in charge of learning a language. And the learner, that's you right there reading these words.

When you're taking classes with me, you can get the solid and important explanations at your own pace in my online courses, but in live lessons I avoid explainers and I never lead with them.

Instead, the key to the Fluent Language method is relevant teaching.

For you as a German learner, that means experiencing language immersion at a good pace, making your own conclusions, and answering questions regularly. It's important to speak or write early, but it's also important that you're learning relevant and well.

Action: Bilingual Live Training

In my most recent teaching venture, I created a bilingual webinar - the first one I ever taught, and a successful one too.

Thank you so much if you were among the lovely people watching on Saturday. It was a challenge for me to teach in this way, but an incredibly rewarding experience to know that the viewers were following along, answering questions, and understanding the immersion concept.

Do you want to try it out? Catch up with the webinar today, and make sure you also download your worksheet and follow along. Click here and find all you need at the webinar live page.

Did you watch the webinar? Did you learn something new and use the worksheet?

Tell me how you enjoyed it in the comments below, and make sure you sign up for my newsletter to learn about the next one.

Language Update: Speaking Welsh After 8 Months (+ Free Toolkit)

Welcome to my third update on how I'm getting on with the Welsh language! I can't believe how much time has passed, and I'm excited to share what I've learnt in 2016 so far.

Before you read the post, make sure you have downloaded your copy of the free "Teach Yourself Toolkit" with all my resources in a handy format.

8 Month Progress

First of all, let's accept it's always tough to assess your own progress. I have a bit of a self-critical streak, and like every other language learner I remember the failures more than the successes.

But there are successes to report. I've closed some basic vocabulary gaps like numbers, days of the week and all that. I added around 150-200 new words in the last months (that's around 7-9 each week, if you've got to count).

I'm halfway through the first Say Something in Welsh course - not bad!

Check out this video to see how I'm speaking Welsh at this stage.

What I've Been Doing

1) Following Say Something in Welsh and the BBC Big Welsh Challenge, and Creating Vocab Lists and Memrise Courses

My core routine has not changed. I add new words to a hand-written list. When I'm not near my notebook, they go straight into Memrise. You can read more about the exact process I use here.

2) Writing Practice Typed and Hand-Written

The great thing about writing is that you really have nowhere to hide. No matter if I'm on Hello Talk or writing by hand, it's obvious where my mistakes are. I share my writing and get corrections online, which helps immensely. Applying the corrections and reading the improved text creates an extremely effective learning process.

3) Finding The Community

It's been tough to attend my Welsh class on a regular basis, but I got involved in an online community. The Dw i'n dysgu Cymraeg group on Facebook is a cool place to find more learners and get help with questions.

Understanding Welsh

Back in February I started watching a Welsh TV drama called Byw Celwydd. After this finished, the next show for me was Ffasiwn Bildar, a reality TV show.

Each source of natural language is a bit different

Going from scripted drama to a reality TV show means that I get to hear more “real language”. But the spontaneous talk is harder to understand, so I still use subtitles. And when I listen to music (indie band Candelas are great), I can repeat, listen again and translate the lyrics. But of course they're more poetic and make less sense!

All in all, having Welsh language channel S4C and Spotify as language resources is a great help. My next TV show will be "Y Gwyll", which you can watch in English as Hinterland. Who doesn't love a bit of Celtic Noir!

Speaking Welsh

I'm now expecting more from myself when I speak Welsh. My pronunciation is fine, and my spelling has improved in line with it. It's still difficult to have an all-Welsh conversation. I'm lucky that all Welsh speakers are bilingual and speak English too.

Welsh is a tease. It lures you in with simple structures! At the start, I was cheerfully ignoring one of the key aspects of Welsh grammar: the mutations! A mutation is when words change their first letter because of the previous word...or their gender...or some other reason. They're not exactly transparent, and it's impossible to hide your bad mutations.

Speaking Welsh In The Real World

People I talk to have to be patient! A lot of the Welsh speakers I have met have been language lovers who know exactly how I'm feeling. The patience of Simon Ager, Richard Simcott, Mererid Williams and Gareth Popkins has been pretty legendary. At the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin for example, I ran into Richard and was encouraged to speak to him in Welsh -- but I'd just come out of my first ever Indonesian class! That sense of embarrassment when you don't rise up to the occasion was painfully real.

Another cool result: I've found out that some of my Facebook friends speak Welsh. It's amazing how people come out of the woodwork when you are learning their language. And how cool that I can talk to them in Welsh now! I'm so grateful for these connections.

Great Plans For The Summer

It's time to make the 3-hour trip to deepest, darkest Wales and start speaking, don't you think? I'm very excited about a few upcoming things.

1) Eisteddfod

The Eisteddfod is an annual festival of all things cultural in Wales. It takes place in the summer over several days - a must for any Welsh learner! I was particularly excited to find out that there's a gig with several Welsh bands and radio star Huw Stephens. Just the right motivation to go!

2) Welsh WJEC Mynediad exam

Having looked at the requirements for passing an A1 exam in Welsh, I think that I could be able to pass the beginner's WJEC exam by the end of the summer. Exams are a fab way to focus when you're learning a language. So I will take the opportunity and prep for this one.

I'm looking forward to visiting Wales again, and can't wait to document all the language I hear and see.

How Are You Getting On In Your Language?

Are you feeling the progress, or feeling stuck? Let me know in the comments below!

If you're in the UK, are you going to the Eisteddfod? I'd love to see you there!

The Hottest German Lesson in Town: Deutschland 83 and Major Tom (PLUS Free Lyric & Vocab Sheet)

One of the most wonderful things about learning a foreign language is to get to know the country behind that language. What is beyond the flashcards? What makes that place? It's awesome to dive into history and geography, cook a few recipes (like Shannon from Eurolinguiste) and of course discover what they watch and listen to.

If you're a regular listener of the Creative Language Learning Podcast, you may have already noticed that there is a new German language TV show on the block. Deutschland 83 is a spy drama set in one of my favourite periods of German history: the 1980s, right in the cold war. You can catch it on iTunes, on Amazon, or currently on Channel 4 in the UK.

german lesson deutschland 83

German History: Spies, Terror and Economic Miracles

So here's the world at the time of Deutschland 83: Germany lost a world war and then the Eastern part of the country was made into a Socialist republic. The West started a kick-ass economy that went so well it became known for its Wirtschaftswunder, the economic miracle of the 1950s. In the 1960s, youth rebellion and peace movement shook our society, and Western Germany even struggled with its own terrorist group, the Red Army Faction. All the while, the Eastern part of Germany was locked away behind a wall and involved in the hottest army race of the 20th century: the Cold War.

Plenty going on at the time of Deutschland 83 then! The show's premise places a young Eastern German soldier into the West, where he's given a new identity and a bunch of adventurous spy tasks. It shows society in the West and East, the big fear of atom bombs laying waste to all of Europe, and a few hilarious scenes where a confused bunch of high-level spies stare at a floppy disc, wondering what it does.

Discover Germany's Answer to David Bowie

One of the unmissable things about Deutschland 83 is its awesome soundtrack. Let me introduce you to its theme song "Major Tom", Germany's synth driven response to the wonderful David Bowie. I've prepared a lyric sheet for German learners which you can download below.

Major Tom, written by Peter Schilling, was inspired by Bowie's song "Space Oddity", which tells the story of an astronaut abandoning his mission, decoupling from base and going off to live in space.  In Germany, the song became a huge hit and one of the flagship sounds of Neue Deutsche Welle, the biggest 1980s pop music trend which also included Nena and her famous song "99 Luftballons". In fact, if you pay attention in episode one of Deutschland 83, you'll hear the song playing in the background at a party in East Germany (where playing Western music would have been an offence!).

Germans have never stopped loving Major Tom, and today there is no good beerfest without everyone shouting völlig schwerelos (completely weightless) and waving their hands about.

Bonus: Major Tom in French

Major Tom's fame was all over Europe in the 80s, so if you're a French learner you can use the same song for study. Here's the cover by Belgian synthmeister Plastic Bertrand (of Ça plane pour moi fame) will make sure that you don't miss out.

If you're listening to this song and can't shake the feeling that you know it from somewhere, it might be because Deutschland 83 is not the first show to feature Major Tom. If you're a fan of AMC's "Breaking Bad", you might remember the Gale Boetticher version - are those Thai subtitles?

Share Your Playlist

I'd love to hear from you about your own favourite 1980s tunes. Do you love pop music like Major Tom? Tell me about your playlist in the comments.

If you love the sound of Major Tom, don't forget to download your free Vocab & Lyric Sheet. 

You can also check out this article to get a step-by-step guide to using music for language learning.

 

Vlog: My Progress in Russian and My Book In Print

Hello everybody, Kerstin here -

there's been so much going on in my life and online that I actually have some stuff to show you! See what I've been up to in this short video blog, featuring:

  • A bit of Russian that I know, complete with the transcripts in Cyrillic
  • How I like to learn languages
  • The first EVER copy of Fluency Made Achievable in print

Can I just point out that

a) Russian in 10 Minutes a Day is not a grammar book - it's mostly useful for getting a foundation, and great for practising Cyrillic writing. For that it's been great though and after attending the first Russian class I noticed how much it'd actually done for me. My teacher's impressed!

b) The Russian I spoke in the video is not all the Russian I know, but my vocabulary is a lot better than my grammar at the moment. As a result, making sentences doesn't quite come as easily yet, but rest assured I can say all the usual pleasantries.

The world's 5 most influential languages

Are you studying one of the world's most influential languages?

The following quote from this video seemed particularly noteworthy:

> Every language is the most important language in the world - to its speakers. (George Weber)

Read on to find out which languages are named the most influential:

3 criteria of influential languages

The video lists the following criteria as the most influential:

  • Demographics

How many people speak this language? Where do they all live?

  • Ease of Learning

How long can it take to acquire this language?

  • Economic Impact

How rich are the countries where this language is spoken? Can it help you get a job?

According to the way these three criteria, the most influential languages in the world are English, French, Spanish, Russian and Arabic. Bang. Are you learning one of those? Do you speak one?

Is this all true?

I don't want to subscribe to any ranking that will list languages according to how "easy" or "hard" they are to learn. There are many ways of looking at this, and I believe all of them can be trumped by mindset. After all, even minority languages like Swedish or Guarani still have enough speakers to make it hard for you to talk to every one of them.

Furthermore, the quote at the top will make it clear to us that all languages are worthwhile to learn, and that this can be considered more independent from demographics than expected.

Which leaves economic impact, and I consider this the single most influential factor of all language learning motivations. People learn languages to make money, right? It is proven to make you a more attractive job candidate and an obvious bonus for international business leaders. When we disregard the other main criteria, the most influential languages actually are German and Chinese.

Of course a list like this is ruled by numbers, and numbers could never contain all the rewards you gain from learning a language. So why do you learn? Is it for money? Because it's easy? Because you want to talk to as many people as possible?

The Mickey Mangan Video

Hello and welcome to the second part of Mickey Mangan week! I hope you're still interested...of course you are! Today I'm very happy to post you a video version of our interview from Monday, meaning you will get to hear him describe his experiences and thoughts on language learning in his own words.

And Action!

Some of the questions I asked him were

  • Did you love languages in high school?
  • How did you start learning German?
  • How can a learner know they're getting better?
  • Are teachers a thing of the past?

As you can see, this is a handsome and clever man (and you didn't even see him play his guitar - that's a bonus video for subscribers!). You can make contact with Mickey on Twitter or his own blog.

Inspired? 

I would love to hear what you thought of the Lernen to Talk show. It's not a rare thing for a tutor to feel the students' frustration when they feel like talking is hard for them. For me, seeing this show is a great and refreshing thing - it's informal and fun and so far from scary.

Could you see yourself doing the same?

sorry about the "call recorder demo" strapline by the way - call recorder has now been thoroughly examined, it works well and you can try it too