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beginners’ luck

If you’ve just decided that you’d like to learn Welsh, but aren’t sure where to start, then this handy guide will give you the essential information you need to get going. This isn’t an exhaustive list - it’s just the best of the bunch. Once you feel more at home with the language, there are a lot more resources available for you to explore, both on the web and through traditional media like books, magazines, newspapers etc.

Of course, don’t forget the wealth of information available right here on CMC. Learn Welsh subliminally will help you to bring Welsh into your every day life, and there are several cheat sheets which will introduce you to some basic phrases. Remember to come back to CMC on a regular basis, as new material is uploaded regularly.

So, enjoy the language and enjoy learning!


choosing a course book

There are a number of course books available, but the favourite of most people on the CMC email list is definitely Gareth King's Colloquial Welsh. King explains things very clearly and uses everyday Welsh that you will hear spoken on the streets. It’s available with audio tapes, which are strongly recommended as they will help you with pronunciation and aural comprehension (understanding what you hear).

Details: Colloquial Welsh
Gareth King
ISBN: 0415107857

finding a dictionary

You will also need a good dictionary and the Oxford Pocket Modern Welsh Dictionary is excellent. Written specifically for learners, it includes detailed explanations of usage and idioms, so will really help you to use the language like a native.

Details: Oxford Pocket Modern Welsh Dictionary
ed. Gareth King
ISBN: 0198645317
Oxford University Press

If you can’t find these books on the shelves of your local book shop, either ask for them to be ordered for you, or use an online book shop, such as http://www.whsmith.co.uk or http://www.amazon.co.uk.

terrestrial tv
S4C, the Welsh equivalent to Channel Four, broadcasts quite a lot of programmes in Welsh via its terrestrial channel. The Welsh programmes are mixed in with English ones, so scan the schedules to see what interests you.

Sometimes the schedules include programmes for learners, such as Bitesize Cymraeg or Welsh in a Week. Bitesize Cymraeg is a programme aimed at teenagers taking their TGAU (GCSE) exams in Welsh, but it's also very handy for others learning the language. In Welsh in a Week, Nia Parry attempts to teach some basic Welsh to people with only a week to spare.

S4C provides subtitles on Sbectol (the S4C text service) for Welsh programmes. Page 888 (Transl888) provides English subtitles for Welsh programmes, and page 889 provides Welsh subtitles for learners, with difficult words translated into English. Both services are invaluable for the learners. Be careful though, because if you become too reliant on the English subtitles, you might forget to listen out for the Welsh!

Visit the S4C web site for more information.

terrestrial radio
The all-Welsh Radio Cymru broadcasts mainly Radio 2 type content throughout most of the day, but occasionally mutates into a youth-oriented Radio 1 hybrid, often after a 9pm watershed. Whatever your tastes in music, give Radio Cymru a try at various times of day and see how you get on. It’s harder for learners to understand Welsh on the radio - it’s surprising how much context you gather from body language and context - but give it a go anyway.

Visit the Radio Cymru web site for more information.

tv and radio on Sky
If you have Sky digital you can access several free resources that will help you with your learning.

S4C Digidol (channel 184, different from S4C analogue)
S4C2 (channel 519, but at the moment there’s not much on it)
Radio Cymru (channel 904, same as above)

To add S4C Digidol to your subscription call 08705 663363 and they will arrange your connection.

S4C Digidol screens more programme for learners than the terrestrial channel, and schedules sometimes include Bitesize Cymraeg, Welsh in a Week, Talk About Welsh and Now You're Talking. The latter two teach Welsh by mixing drama and grammar with varying degrees of effectiveness. (Read the review of Talk About Welsh).

Educational programmes are usually on in the morning and it's best to video them so that you can repeat them whenever you want to. Watching such programmes will help you to learn new words and sentence constructions, as well as letting you see and hear Welsh used in an everyday context.

Welsh subtitles are also available on Sky: using your Sky handset to access System Setup and selecting Language and subtitles, then Welsh as preferred language. Subtitles can be turned on and off as appropriate. You can also access normal Sbectel subtitles (Transl888 and 889), via your TV handset.

There are plenty of Welsh language dramas and documentaries available on S4C Digidol, and programmes are often repeated twice or three times a week. A good habit to get into is to watch the first showing with English subtitles, so that you get to grips with what’s happening, then later in the week watch the same program again but either with Welsh subtitles, or without any subtitles at all. The second time round you’ll be able to concentrate harder on what people are saying, rather than trying to figure out what’s happening, and after a while you should start to see an improvement in how much you understand.

Visit the Sky web site for subscription information.

BBC Wales online
For a taster of the language, take a look at Fancy a panad? on About Wales. A short feature that introduces you to the joys of the language, by the end you’ll have a firm grip on how to ask for a cup of tea in Welsh.

For something a little more in-depth, try BBC Wales’ Catchphrase site. Catchphrase uses audio files of the radio programme of the same name, which you can either listen to online, or download for later use. You can also download all the scripts that go with the audio, so that you can read and listen at the same time. Each lesson has a quiz, to test your understanding, and you can work through the course at your own pace.


© suw charman 2002, 2003 unless otherwise stated

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