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talk about Welsh

Watching Welsh TV is a useful way to hear the language spoken naturally and by native speakers, but although S4C and S4C Digital provide many programmes of interest, almost all of them are aimed at fluent speakers and it can be hard to keep track of what’s going on if your aural comprehension isn’t too hot.

That’s where Talk About Welsh comes in. A series created specifically for learners by Acen and HTV, it combines drama and education in short, 20 minute programmes that aren’t too strenuous, but which leave you feeling like you actually have learned something.

The format of the programme has been well thought out: a scene from the drama unfolds, then the presenter, Gareth Roberts, takes you through the difficult phrases and discusses things to look out for in the upcoming scene.

Combined with subtitles for the trickier phrases, it’s a very good way to start training your brain to hear and understand, without resorting to any intermediate stages involving spelling, word association or dictionaries.

talk about Welsh

Each programme has revision pages embedded in it, which can only be read by pausing the video. It’s a good way to cram a lot of information onto the video without actually taking up too much time, although if you’re watching Talk About Welsh on TV, then you have to video it to take advantage of this.

In so far as the drama goes, well, it’s not Cannes, so the acting can be slightly dodgy, and a couple of characters are more like caricatures – any scene involving ‘Roger Finn’ is as irritating as an army of ants invading your underwear draw. It’s quite easy to get past this, though, because you’re ultimately concentrating so hard on understanding what’s being said that you can just ignore the occasional oak-like actor.

What also takes a while to get used to is the fact that Gareth Roberts can often been seen lurking in the background of any scene – perhaps trying to get coffee out of a defunct machine, or sitting at a desk in an office – whilst the action goes on in front of him.

Ultimately, this proves to be one of Talk About Welsh’s great strength because it blurs the distinction between the characters in the drama and the presenter, thus keeping the flow of the drama undisturbed whilst providing the explanations and support that the majority of learners will need. Any doubts I had initially about this approach were totally blown away by the scene in which Gareth’s in full drag, just to deliver one line. A superbly surreal moment that endeared me to the series in an instant.

Talk About Welsh is an excellent adjunct to any other course or method of learning. It’s fun, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it teaches you really useful Welsh, like ‘cau dy geg’ (‘shut your mouth’) and ‘beth sy i de?’ (what’s for tea?). With four series on video, plus back-up material, available from Acen, you’ll find yourself speaking and, more importantly, understanding Welsh very quickly.


© suw charman 2002, 2003 unless otherwise stated

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