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History of SSIW

Page history last edited by Aran 11 years, 3 months ago

"Writing the course was a bit of a mixture of science and magic..." ~ Aran


If you want to know more, read on =D



SSIW's First Press Release


This article is an introduction to the launch of SSIW.


"A new course for learning Welsh, www.SaySomethingInWelsh.com, gets rid of time wasted on reading and writing in order to help people learn to speak and understand Welsh far more quickly than is possible with traditional methods. It is based on the latest research in language learning, it is available in handy MP3 files which can be downloaded and played whenever you want, and best of all it is available entirely for free.


Course creators Iestyn ap Dafydd and Aran Jones describe themselves as ‘serial language learners’ who wanted to make sure that cutting edge approaches were available in Welsh. ‘I can’t think of a time when I haven’t been trying to learn one language or another,’ says Aran Jones, ‘and to be honest I’m pretty bad at learning languages! But I’ve been surprised to see how much difference some of the techniques developed in the last ten years have made – I can actually just about manage to speak Spanish now, thanks to some excellent new courses – and Iestyn and I agreed that it would be great if it was much easier for people to learn Welsh as well.’


The course is free because it is possible to distribute electronic files for very close to zero cost. ‘We realised early on that the work involved in putting the course together, the writing and recording, was something we were happy to do as volunteers just to make sure that this kind of material is available in Welsh,’ says Iestyn ap Dafydd. ‘It costs us virtually nothing to distribute the course, so we thought it would be a boost to Welsh learners, and to the language itself, if we offered it for free.’


The course is available in southern and northern versions of Welsh, in order to make it accessible for as many Welsh learners as possible. The recordings were made with a mixture of first and second language speakers, because many learners find it a little easier to understand other learners at first – but it is important that they quickly become familiar with hearing and understanding first language speakers.


Early users of the course have been delighted with its new approach. ‘As someone who has been struggling to learn the language for several years, I found that even the first few lessons helped to correct some basic mistakes,’ says Carrie Harper from Wrecsam. ‘The main difference I have found with this course is the speed at which I am absorbing new words and phrases. I also now feel a lot more confident in using my Welsh and am looking forward to the next stages of this course.’


‘SaySomethingInWelsh forces you to speak, and you have to anticipate the correct answer, so there’s no ‘parroting’, no passive repetition,’ says Dave Morgan from Edern in Gwynedd. ‘Because the course is a spoken course, not a ‘grammar’ course, you end up speaking confidently and people respond to that. As a result, I find I’m using Welsh much more often, in situations where I might have chickened out before.’


The course has already proved a real hit on the social networking site Facebook (see www.SaySomethingInWelsh.com/Facebook), gathering almost 200 members in the first two days, and the enthusiastic comments from early users have made it clear how much demand there is for a genuinely easy and convenient way to learn Welsh."


Catrin's History of SSIW


Taken from this thread here, Catrin gives a behind the scenes look at how it all started.


"Well as far as I can remember it...

Back in oooooh errrrm 2007/08 (correct me if I'm wrong Mr Jones), Aran, inspired by his experiences learning Spanish and constantly enthused by his passion for other languages and the acquisition of languages and to an extent his entrepreneurial 'leaning', hit on the idea of writing a speaking and listening language course.

I remember endless conversations about the whys and wherefores, the logistics, the construction, possible success and so on and the big decision of whether it would be worth putting the time and effort in to it.

Would people be interested? Did he have the ability to write an effective enough course that would really work and that people would not only find interesting but also easily learn a language from?

Having learnt Welsh himself he knew what it felt like to be a Welsh learner and knew what was currently availabe in the field of Welsh learning.

I was excited about the idea and I must have said over and over "Aran, of all the ideas you've had, I think this is the best so go for it!" "Oh and although I know it means endless hours by the computer, buy me wine, chocolate and a soppy DVD and you'll be forgiven" (wasn't 'yet' pregnant then, so could get away with the wine ... :wink: )

Aran would answer "What do you mean 'of all the ideas i've had?!?" :wink:

Anyway he began writing the course and by the time we came to record it Angharad Lliar was on her way!

At the time we were living with my sister and begun recording in Aran's makeshift office there on his PC. It was a bit hit and miss as we had to experiment with different mikes and recording software and then of course there were 7 dogs, several cockrels, a cat, the weather and a very busy household to contend with.

So most of the first recordings had to be done over and over because of poor sound quality. :roll:

We then had a few dramas with missing files and things being accidentaly deleted! It also took us a while to get the voices just right as far as tone, speed and delivery was concerned.

Aran used to pull my leg and tell me I was saying it as if I was reading in church because I had a problem with relaxing to begin with and spoke way to formally!

Well in time after a difficult and stop-start time trying to record at my sisters a family friend told us they had a recording studio we could use, we were of course delighted and jumped at the chance!

I, by this time was heavily pregnant and a little uncomfortable and was at risk of DVT so sitting anywhere for a long time was difficult.

Well we turned up at the studios only to discover that they were in an old draughty outbulding which had been flooded at some point in the past and suffered badly from damp! Also the software and technical set up was a bit hit and miss!

So this is how we used to do it... We woudl turn up with our own radiator and sometimes a blanket; sandwiches and drinks (cause it was always a long haul); some form of heartburn relief for me; cushions, air freshner to relieve the damp smell; the course contents on paper; stroage devices for the recordings and much hope!

The recording was interesting! Depending on how tempremental the equipment was we often had to leave empty handed, then other days we would just flow through it.

From my point of view it was an adventure. There were frequent trips to the ladies, interesting pauses for the administration of heartburn relieving medicine and moving of legs, and moments of having to re-record/repeat sentences where my voice had suddenly changed pich to sometimes squeal as the baby kicked hard yet one more time! :lol:

But we got through it!

In the end Aran managed to find suitable enough software to use on his own PC and a better quality mike etc so that we could do it from home which was a relief! Kind as the offer was, I was not sad to see the back of those studios!

Then it began to flow for us... well apart from the time I spilt a whole cup of tea over Aran's keyboard and had to make an emergency 2 hour round trip to Bangor to buy a new one.... :ing:

But we got in to the flow of it with Aran recording his bit then me mine at times that were convenient for us and we begun taking pride in every milestone we reached with the lesson numbers and now we have the recording down to a fine art and are able to fit it in to our daily routines with ease!

As for Iestyn and Cat...

Well We met the wonderful couple a few years back now...

It was Aran who first made the connection with Iestyn and they became good friends and would communicate frequently over the Internet and Iestyn and Cat would very kindly offer Aran a bed when he was down south for either meetings or rugby.

It became clear that they both shared a passion for Wales, it's language and indeed the languages of other countries.

At a later date I met Cat, whom at the time was pregnant with Ioan and very kindly gave Aran and I a home on her sofa and fed us with her home cooked marvels one weekend when we were down south for a rugby international.

From then on we built on what we had and got to know each other well, sharing baby adventures along the way and then had the pleasure of spending a very comfortable and enjoyable week with them and Ioan when we stayed with them for the Cardiff Eisteddfod.

When Aran reached a point of realising that the course needed a southern version there was no doubt in his mind that Iestyn would be the absolute ideal person to 'translate' the course to the south Wales version and record it.

So they then entered in to discussions and away the Southern version flew thanks to Iestyn and Cat's hard work!

Iestyn translated perfectly in to his native dialect and the tone of both his and Cat's voices and their delivery are ideal for the recording.

What's amazing about the southern version iis that Cat recorded all of this being a learner herself!

She has come on in absolute leaps and bounds with her Welsh since those early days and although I haven't seen her for a while I've learnt from Aran how amazingly well she now speaks and how easy it is to have a perfectly fluent conversation with her.

But back then, you can imagine it must have been difficult, being a new mum and having all the challenges that comes with that and recording a course for learners (in her living room) in a lnaguage that she was learning herself - so hat's off to her!

Da iawn ti Cat - Llongyfarchiadau!

Since then of course they've celebrated the arrival of little Emrys as well and managed to fit in a tour of Europe, trying to work from a laptop with erratic connection!

The SSiW journey certainly has been an interesting one!

I think Aran and Iestyn have made a perfect partnership. They seem to share the same vision, hopes and dreams for SSiW and have found it easy to work together. They both love languages and have an interest in learning them and both are not only passionate about the methods used by SSiW to teach Welsh but also believe that this is the way forward.

I'm constantly amazed at the progress the course has made, how it's touched the lives of so many 1,000's of people, formed a successful and congenial online community and brought many from that community together in person to share and enjoy!

Most of all though I am touched by the fact that it has allowed so many to go out and successfully use the language they share such a great passion for.

I still giggle to myself though when I recollect theose nights in the early days when I went to bed and had dreams about having cheese and bread and meat and giving in to the old dog! :lol:



Aran's Original Design of SSIW


Taken from this thread in response to a question about how the course was designed.


"This is tricky to answer clearly, because actually writing the course was a bit of a mixture of science and magic...:wink:

The most important thing to say, probably, is that as far as 'when' and 'where' go, it wasn't a deliberate decision. When I first started writing the course, I had a clear idea that I wanted to focus mainly on how verbs functioned, and to avoid adding any unnecessary extra vocabulary. I wanted to make sure that 'I' and 'You' were used for long enough to become thoroughly familiar before I added any other shes and hes and its and so ons - but I also wanted to make sure that every verb was made completely familiar in the negative and as a question as well.

With that as the broad framework, there was then a lot of 'wing and a prayer' to it all - I tried to think as often as possible of verbs that would work well with other verbs (the introduction of a number of verbs in the first two lessons which allow the use of range of other verbs with them, like isio, angen and so on, was entirely deliberate) - I also tried to think as much as possible of verbs that would be useful, and to steer away from some of the rather odd stuff learners get taught (why are all Welsh learners taught to say where they come from 'originally'? Who actually says that in real life?!). A lot of the rest of the work was then a matter of trying to get the pacing right - which I think I did most of the time, and which I got horribly wrong with Lesson 6 (incidentally, Lesson 6.1 and Lesson 6.2 now exist, and will be available in the fairly near future...:)).

Working through the introductory course, and now the intermediate course, I've learnt more and more about the details that make this approach work, and what goes in and when has become more and more deliberate and fine-tuned.

Had we but world enough and time, I would dearly love to go right back to the beginning and write SSiW 2.0 - including 'when' and 'where' at an earlier point (although not too early - maybe about half-way through the introductory course)!

But having said that, while I would really like to make a number of changes, and while I know they would make it a bit better, I'm not entirely sure that they would make a huge difference to the overall effectiveness of the course - it seems clear that the most important thing it does is give people the confidence to feel that they can leap in and start making up sentences - and to be honest, once people have that confidence, they'll learn at a rate of knots with whatever course they use...:)"


The Iestyn and Cat Story


Coming soon to a wiki near you! 

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