Learning a Language with Technology

by Ragtimelil

I have tried many times to learn a language. I would study diligently for a few days, but then forget to study or give up. Modern technology has made a huge difference.

Recently I was challenged to learn Welsh. I had never tried a language like this. I tried to learn Italian since I have relatives living in Italy and actually could speak it when I was a child. It’s just as easy to forget it too. I tried to learn Spanish, since I’m so close to Mexico and plenty of people around here speak it.

In the past I tried to learn the way I was taught in school. I’d get a workbook and try to work through it. I have to say, that is about the most difficult and boring thing in the world. No wonder I gave up. But this time, I made use of modern technology and to my surprise, I am learning.

Listen and Learn

I discovered some free audio lessons on the Internet on a site called Say Something in Welsh. I bought a little MP3 player and downloaded the lessons into it. I walk the dogs every evening so I take the player and headphones and mutter along. These lessons are really good. I had tried other audio series years ago, but they spoke sentences so fast, I couldn’t tell where one word ended and another word began. I gave up on that one. These lessons are very organized and they repeat words so that I am able to follow along.

Language Flashcards

The concept behind the Welsh language site is that it’s easier to learn to listen and understand before learning to read and write. It’s the way we all learn our first language. They may be right. I am actually learning to say some simple sentences. The instructors on Say Something in Welsh also put up a guide that one can download. I refer to it all the time since I sometimes don’t understand exactly what they are saying. I created my own database to keep track of vocabulary. There are sites online with flash cards in Welsh but I wanted to practice the vocabulary that I have been learning

Listen to the Radio

online radioI also listen to BBC Cymru, a radio station that broadcasts in Welsh, on my computer. I still don’t know enough to really understand what they are talking about, but it is amazing how words that I do know pop out at me. It inspires me to learn more so that I can follow the conversation. I think we have this urge to understand built in.


A Good Dictionay

I just bought a good low-tech dictionary too. The Welsh words are spelled and pronounced very differently from the other languages I have tried to learn. This dictionary has a good pronunciation and grammar sections and has useful tips scattered throughout the book.

Sometimes I use Goggle Translate. It’s a good shortcut although it doesn’t always understand what I want.

Memory Aids

I also started a blog to practice writing in Welsh. I really have to use the dictionary and Google Translate a lot to write even the shortest sentences. Writing is much harder than speaking.

I remember words by associating them with some visualization. When I hear a word like the Welsh “to drink,” I see the word in my head as “ovid.” It is actually “yfed.” I think the instructors are absolutely right. It is easier to listen and learn than to start off reading and writing. I remember the word for “to need” as “onion.” It’s really “angen.” I have never forgotten that word though.

I try to make up my own sentences and talk to the dogs in Welsh. I use Welsh words to make out my shopping lists (with English in tiny letters in case I forget.)


I have been really pleased and inspired by the progress I am making. For the first time, I feel like I am actually on my way to learning another language. It has been several weeks now and I don’t have any urge to give up. I may not be able to speak it fluently, but if I can understand it, I’ll be happy. Next, Italian or Spanish - so hard to decide.

Updated: 01/03/2013, Ragtimelil
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A Comment in Any Language (but please translate into English)

Ragtimelil on 02/24/2013

I've spent hours in classes and never learned to speak a language that way. Learning with tutorials on tape has made a huge difference for me. You are right. It still takes time, but it's a lot more fun when you realize you are actually learning to speak a language.

ChadBrick on 02/24/2013

There is a key ingredient to learning any language: time. There is no way to skip on this one. You HAVE to put in the hours, and that doesn't mean watching some sub-titled show in your target language or spending a week vacation in a country that speaks it. It means you, with books and audiotapes and flashcards and classes and tutors. If this is internet-based, great. But the hours are the key ingredient, probably on the order of a thousand to speak passably in a western European language to something like three thousand in order to accomplish the same with Chinese or Arabic. Note that is a year and a half of full-time work.

Ragtimelil on 01/12/2013

I have taken those courses too and never learned much. Listening and speaking is much more natural.

AngelaJohnson on 01/12/2013

I took two years of Spanish in high school and 2 semesters in college and still can't speak it. I never thought to look for language lessons online.

Ragtimelil on 01/12/2013

Thank you. It's nice to hear from some Welsh speakers. My gggrandfather's name was Welch. He was born in Dublin, but someone must have come from Wales, I'd think.

catherine2255 on 01/12/2013

Im from south Wales and was educated through the medium of Welsh. My husband doesn't speak Welsh but our children do it's nice to have a partially Welsh speaking family and to keep our language alive. Well done on learning Welsh!

Ragtimelil on 01/12/2013

Diolch! Byddaf yn dweud mwy pan fyddaf yn dysgu mwy o eiriau.

catherine2255 on 01/12/2013

Da lawn Mae'n Neis I gweld tudalen cymraeg ar y web
Pob lwc gyda dysgu cymraeg!

Ragtimelil on 01/10/2013

Rydych yn croesawu.:-))

JoHarrington on 01/10/2013

Diolch yn fawr. <3

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