Wlpan Diary

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Dydd 15

The first day of a new week, a new tutor and a real shift in the way we've been learning. I'm not sure if it's intentional but our tutors have shifted from North Wales (Week 1), Mid Wales (Week 2) and now South-West Wales. Week 4 will be Valleys I expect.

On a more serious note, today showed that we'd pretty much moved beyond the stage of playing games, gramatical explanations and singing songs. Our new tutor has a pretty rigourous schedule of work which mostly revolves around repeating short question and answer dialogues, then learning them.

Needless to say the group is pretty shocked by the drastic change. Personally, I'm happy to give the tutor time to settle in - sometimes repetition can be the only way to learn something.

One point of interest is the new tutor's seeming obsession with time. I realise that it's a pretty intensive course but we now have the day timetabled down to 10 or 20 minute slots! Phew! Coffee breaks, which before appeared lengthy, now seem woefully inadequate.

He also told us about a Yahoo! Group - Sgrws Wlpan which apparently consists of learners posting bilingual messages. I'll try to investigate and let you know what it's like.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Dydd 12

A very brief post today I'm afraid as the sheer pain of Unedau 14 & 15 is going to require a long lie down. Two heavy gramatical perspectives in these units which we all struggled our way through, I'm wondering how long it will stick?

After the session the class took a trip to the National Library to watch the Chairing at the Eistedfodd. You could pretty much tell by the laughter how far people had progressed - Grwp 4 laughing at the sublety of language, Grwp 3 laughing at the 'Kiss' jokes, Grwp 2 laughing at Gwenno being a man and Grwp 1 laughing at the old people in the audience.

I've got to say this before going for my kip; the tutor we've had this week has really been very good. He's back for week 4 but hopefully we'll get another good one next week to keep the class steaming on.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Dydd 11

After what's been an intensive, but enjoyable, week today was set aside for Adolygu (Revision). Rather than be a whole day of playing games etc we went over some the the basic principles and brought them together into gramatical patterns and tables.

This was sometimes a very slow process, as all of us had some issue or other that hadn't quite sunk in, but was really useful as a consolodation exercise. On top of that we learnt some key basic issues which hadn't been done before - for example, the pronounciation of the letters of the alphabet.

It also provided a more relaxed period where we could practice bringing together lots of different sections. The way in which Wlpan seems to structure the course is to segment specific phrases/situations/gramatical patterns (etc). The upshot of this is that when you actually have a conversation with someone you're mentally flicking through pages of the course to bring together the hello, the weather, and where you have been.

So not a great deal of progression forward today but the class is certainly buzzing from the revision!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Dydd 10

Mae hi'n chwarter i ddeg nawr ond roedd hi'n hanner wedi naw. Yes, you've guessed it! I can now speak about both the past and the time! It's like I've suddenly stepped in to the light.

Well, maybe not. Still, useful stuff. Actually being able to speak about time in the past tense isn't that useful is it?

Never mind, another solid days work on Unedau 13 & 14. They don't call the course intensive for nothing. Still our current tutor is throwing in lots of extra facts which help to lighten the mood a bit and to keep the class interested.

For example, apparently the two know's (gwebod and nabod mean very different things when applied to people. This is a honey trap for learners - I mean once I know that "Dwi'n gwebod [enw]" means to know them I'm going to be slipping up all over the place. Oh Rhys? Dwi'n gwebod Rhys! Wait. Nabod neu gwebod? Arrrgh! T'esiau peiont!

One final thing, it was great to hear Imogen (Big Brother) yelling "Beth nest ti! Beth nest ti!" tonight it really reminded me that the stock phrases we're all learning can also be used in totally different ways.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Dydd 9

Is it possible to have a language hangover (langover?) ? This morning I felt as if my brain had been vigorously kicked during the night. I tried to get back on top with some Gwaith Cartre and some re-reading of the early course bits but I just ended up fixated on the beautiful simplicity of Ble dych i'n byw?

On top of that 'great start' we had some gwaith caled (hard work) today with Uned 11 ac Uned 12. More useful phrases about knowing people (always a popular topic here in Wales) and being ill (including lots of examples of how to call in sick to work).

It was quite tough going but there's a really good vibe in the class at the moment, with the tutor's mix of children's games (Un bys, Dai bys, Tri bys, dawnsio! ...), repetition and exercises forming a good basis for learning. Everyone seems to be leaving the class with a more positive attitude and time is flying.

One downside is that rather than running through two units quite quickly we're now almost strugling to get to the end of the second unit by the end of the class. Maybe it's just the topics at the moment but I hope we don't end up lagging behind come the end of the week.

A quick hint to any future Wlpanese - bring a ring binder! The books fall apart quicker than you can blink. And lots of people seem to be finding multiple pen colours very useful.

According to one of the comments to my last post (Swt mae Deiniol), there is a "sect" heading out to the Cŵps noson Dydd Gwener ar ôl i cwis (Friday night after the Quiz). Sounds like good fun and it'd be interesting to meet friendly locals (although I will be incognito).

Monday, August 07, 2006

Dydd 8

Another week, another tutor, and with him a total change of pace. The whole group's shifted up a gear (or at least it feels like it) and we're now doing more of what I would call exercises (rather than games). No real drop in enthusiasm though, that must really be on the job spec for being a language tutor (or they drug them...).

Unedau 9 & 10 heddiw. Specifically Dwi'n hoffi, Dwi'n eisau and describing that you own things (Fy nghar i, Dy gar di, Ei char hi). This meant a lot more in the way of mutations and some of the group were pretty aprehensive.

All in all though it seems to have sunk in (at least for me). We'll see tomorrow how well it's going and how much we've all remembered. The group has lost two people but not yet gained any - I'm quite glad about this, as we've kind have gelled. It'd be weird to bring a chi in to the group.

Good news; this tutor started right of the bat with a 'realistic' idea of what we should be able to achieve after the course. To paraphrase, we should be able to have a chat outside the classroom. For some, who obviously had their heart set on fluency, this was a bit of a blow - for others it seems to be a challenge!

On reflection, we've been given quite a linguistic arsenal in 6 days of teaching. We can talk about where we live and come from, what we like, dislike and hate. We can say what we did, are doing and are going to do and what we had, are having and will have. Combine this with a bucketful of nouns and you can pretty much get along in one of three key situations;
  • Meeting a group for the first time and getting to know enough about them to see if you're actually interested in continuing talking.
  • Making polite conversation (in which you have no real opinions and discuss no exciting subjects).
  • Drunk-talk (wyt i'n hoffi pel-droed? Dwi'n hoff iawn pel-droed. Beth tim wyti'n hoffi? Dwi'n hoffi Gaerdydd. Peiont arall? Diolch. - Then just repeat replacing pel-droed with anything else really.)
Hopefully the group will be going out to somewhere more hospitable in the near future. There have been some really great people commenting on these posts and it sounds like there are friendly locals who might put up with a bit of linguistic butchery out of charity or humour!).

Dros y Penwythnos

In case you didn't know weekends are pretty much free during Wlpan. Most people go home (if they don't travel to the course already) on Friday for a rest. There are some Saturday events (eg. a trip to the Eisteddfod) but no structured teaching.

So, being a good learner, I decided to put time aside to listen to the tapes and hopefully bring stuff together. One big shock, the pronunciation, regionalisation and accents on the tapes are very different to our tutor. This pretty much sums up Welsh I guess and us learners just need to get used to it!

It's suprising, to me at least, that this level of regional difference still exists in Wales since the Welsh language TV and Radio channels. You'd think that broadcast would end up 'standardising' things, as happens with English and American English.

Monday morning's going to be rough I think. Despite my attempts at revision I've not really spoken with anyone so god knows what will have happened to my Welsh.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Dydd 5

You know it's Dydd Gwener when someone produces a Courgette in class and you all have to ask Oes courgette 'da hi?. Yes, today we did owning things which basically seems to boil down to saying "I've got a ... with me" - I don't know what you do when you have borrowed something "Mae car gyda fi. Wel dim fy nghar. Car ffrind. Mae car ffrind 'da fi (Diolch, Nic)

Two reflections on this week; First off, people say that they've had the biggest problems with the Treigladau (mutations). I think that this really stems from a lack of understanding of what the course will give us. Lots of questions from the group to the tutor focus on whether 'proper' Welsh speakers will get offended by our mangled attempts at speaking the hen iaith!

There's a fear here that we won't be able to actually do anything with our Welsh. I really hope there's a few opportunities to follow through some of the conversations in the real (or at least realer!) world.

Which brings me to a comment from Nic who suggests visiting the Cwps down town. I thought I'd give it a go this Saturday but ended up bottling doing something else. The Cwps (ble mae'r to bach yn yr bysellfwrdd!) seems like a great place and it's a shame that the 'Wlpanau' (seems like the best description to me!) don't go there at all. Instead everything's at Brynamlwg - the staff social club. There's currently a guerilla movement to encourage the group to enjoy more of the town but it's only had limited success (1 night in Rummers).

One last thing, the afternoon was somewhat limited by a massive reduction in our size and a fire alarm after afternoon coffee. When we headed back it was like school, everyone camped out outside the building. One group even started singing!

Dyddau 3 a 4

Two days in one for this post as Dydd Tri (Unedau 4 a 5) was a killer - in a monumental move we switched tense and subject at the same time. Needless to say Es i i'r dafarn!

Uned 6 was less work (I forget what the topic was) and Uned 7 was Y Tywydd (The weather) which is a nice straightforward thing to do in the afternoon and also gave me to opportunity to corner our Tutor (who comes from Blaenau Ffestiniog) and ask her Ydych i'n nabod Glyn?. Sadly, the answer was "No". Where the hell am I going to get my Glyn2Win T-Shirt from now then?

Something I've really noticed is accents. Now there are two people in my group with good solid Welsh accents and a few (I include myself in this) with wishy washy mixes of their standard accent and the Welsh words. And then there are the few - the brave - the frightening. Yep, I'm talking about people who speak English with an English/Soft Welsh accent and Welsh with some kind of Germano-Spanish twang.

The first time I heard one of our group speak I thought 'Ooh! Cosmopolitan! We have someone from Germany here'. Nope, "Dwi'n dod o Loger" they said. Now I can't stop thinking about it.... perhaps we should have some kind of accent coaching as part of the course?

Mae'r cwrs yn mynd i'r Eisteddfod yfory. The course are off the the Eisteddfod tomorrow (I can just about say that much at this point!). Unfortunately, I can't go as I've a prior arrangement - I thought it might be next Saturday but no such luck. I might try and arrange to go with some friends because it's been so long since I went to the Maes.

One recurring theme, in case anyone wants to put in the effort: No one has a tape player to listen to the course tapes on. CD anyone? Even MP3? It is 2006. I'd do it myself and put them on the Internet but I've no clue as to the copyright.

Just a quick thanks to people who are commenting - it's great to have your support - Diolch yn bawb. Friendly corrections appreciated, as are your own experiences of Wlpan or other courses.