March 2nd, 2012

dysgu Cymraeg

The return of the iPod Nano and a new Welsh book to read

Two things arrived today. The first was the replacement iPod Nano, courtesy of Apple. Apparently there has been a problem with the batteries in the early models, so there has been a general recall. After regarding the email suspiciously for a while -- was this just a ruse by spammers to get people to send them iPods?! -- I worked out that it was genuine and after more dithering (I'd not noticed any problems and it's really old now, was it worth the hassle?) I sent it off. And then I waited... and waited... and waited... It had got to the point where I was really wishing I hadn't bothered because while the iPod Touch is invaluable as an ebook reader and way of connecting to the Internet away from home, the little iPod Nano was for Welsh practice and listening to music while doing housework and I was starting to miss it. Anyway, this morning it arrived... Except it wasn't my old one back with a new battery, it's a new Nano. Even smaller than my white oblong one and it has more memory! I can fit all my music on it again. The other one had become full, so I'd made it Welsh only plus podcasts.

Then the second package to arrive was the book I ordered scarcely over 24 hours ago. [personal profile] green_knight responded to my post yesterday about finding a book in Welsh that I thought I would enjoy by saying: "Hey, you're casually ordering Welsh books _because you want to read them_. I don't know whether you've done this for a while, but reading for pleasure sounds like a language learning milestone that deserves to be marked." I started writing a reply but it got rather long and as I know there are others out there on my friendslist who are learning languages and who might be interested in my reply, I thought I'd talk about it here in a follow up post rather than leaving it hidden away in a comment.

I've found reading in Welsh to be very chicken and eggish. Though my fluency has improved tremendously over the last year or so, the fluency is in speaking and in understanding spoken Welsh. Unfortunately, there is a much bigger difference between the spoken and written register in Welsh than there is in English, so every book I tried to read, I bounced off.[1]

The way I built up my vocabulary in my native language (English) was by reading. I'm sure we've all been in the situation where we use a word we've learned from books and pronounce it wrong, or we know the exact right word, but realise we have no idea how to say it, but the opposite happens in Welsh. I could read aloud a whole page of a quite complex novel and not make a bad job of it, but at the end I would have no idea what I'd just read. This is the advantage and disadvantage of a phonetic spelling system. The advantage is that it's easy to read; the disadvantage is that spelling isn't altogether standardised and so especially in the dialogue you can end up staring in incomprehension at something that you would understand perfectly if someone said it to you. So that means the only way of reading it -- OK the only way I can read it -- is to mutter it aloud. And if you try the more literary books, the language is more standardised,but you get all the literary forms that we haven't learned.

So, chicken and egg problem. Until I read more Welsh, I won't get better at it, but at the moment, I find reading so painfully difficult, that I'm not motivated to do it. :( Collapse )

[Cross-posted from Dreamwidth by way of a backup If you want to leave a comment, please use whichever site you find most convenient. Comments so far: comment count unavailable.]
  • Current Mood
    cheerful cheerful