Lots of people know some Welsh or have some contact with the language. And many people want to feel a little more confident about their ability in Welsh. So if you fancy improving your Welsh without going on a full-blown course, here are some tips on improving your Welsh (or ‘cynghorion’ as we’d say).

  • Radio Cymru in the car, in the house – probably the simplest and least painful way of improving your language skills. And this works for beginners where the emphasis would be on pronunciation as well as for the more advanced in hearing the words currently in vogue . For the very advanced the game is to catch out the announcers in grammatical errors! But for the majority the barrier to overcome is simply not understanding all of it.  Like breaking the pain barrier, the trick is not to mind.  Just sitting in the warm flow of the language does you good!
  • Public signs – bilingual signs are all around us but most people do not notice them. Make an effort to read the Welsh and remember it. Not all the Welsh on signs is correct, so be careful. If it does not sound right to you or has a ‘z’ in the middle then trust your instincts until you get a chance to check. But this is an easy way to pick up regular little doses of Welsh as you go about your daily journeys.
  • Children’s books – the advantage of these is that they contain clues to meaning through pictures, repetition and context. Often as well they are printed bilingually. Obviously you can vary your level by the difficulty of the books you choose. Your local library has a free selection. Even for the more advanced you will still get to familiarise yourself with the written form along with dialectal differences.
  • Keep an eye out for badges – public receptionists often sport badges (yellow speech bubbles being the most recent incarnation) which indicate that they speak Welsh. If you want to practise speaking a few sentences in Welsh then these badge-wearers are sitting targets. And because both your question (eg ‘Hello, I’m here to see Mr X’) and their response (‘Thank you, I’ll tell him you’re here’) is quite pedestrian then there will probably be no nasty surprises!
  • Events and concerts – any contact with Welsh language events will be beneficial to you and will provide you with short snippety conversations (ordering drinks, buying programmes) and the possibility of longer conversations with tongue-loosened natives!
  • Membership of societies – this is slightly less in-your-face but nevertheless an excellent way of ensuring consistent contact via e-mails and newsletters with the language. Wherever your interests lie is the best place to start looking.
  • Socialising – a more unstructured approach probably best suited to the advanced on their own or beginners in pairs or packs. Welsh-speakers are quite fond of socialising and particular pubs attract a regular clientele. Keep your ears open and look to see which pubs regularly sponsor Welsh events or gigs. Popping in regularly is the best way to become a known face.
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Bear in mind that almost no-one continues doing something they do not actually enjoy (on some level). So make sure you enjoy whatever you do to improve your Welsh and your chances of success soar. Hwyl arni!

Dafydd Frayling