Do you feel nervous about talking Welsh to other people?
It’s not just you, of course…
and you probably already know that…
but it doesn’t help much that other people go through the same pain, does it?
There’s just something particularly nerve-wracking about using a new language - especially with people you don’t know.
I remember the first time I dreamed in Welsh.
Well, I say ‘dreamed in Welsh’ - it would be a bit more honest to say ‘heard Welsh in a dream’.
Embarrassingly enough, the dream went:
- Someone spoke Welsh to me
- I ran away.
And sadly, that was a fairly good summary of how I felt about using my Welsh when I was awake, too.
I spent my first visit to the National Eisteddfod (in Llanelli, 17 years ago) trying to avoid Getting Too Close to any Welsh speakers.
No, it didn’t help me feel calm and relaxed.
But in the 8 years now that I’ve been doing stuff with SaySomethinginWelsh, I’ve seen how people deal with this much better than I did.
I used to think it was just about self-confidence, but over the years it’s become more and more clear that there are simple tactics which make a huge difference.
So if the thought of using your Welsh makes your hands sweaty, here’s how to follow in the footsteps of people who find it much less worrying:
1 - Make sure you spend time every week, On Your Own, practising speaking. Obviously, SSiW lessons are designed for this - but you can do it without our material, just by choosing a set of 10 or 20 phrases you use often, and actually practising saying them. [You could even go the full Robert de Niro and say them to yourself in a mirror - ‘You speaking Welsh to ME??’…]
2 - Don’t start at the deep end! Traditionally, it’s meant to be very hard to get learners to use their Welsh outside of the classroom, but with a lot of SSiW learners, it seems the other way round - you want to start using it straight away, which is fantastic. But… in a shop or garage with a complete stranger is the DEEP END, so if it makes you feel nervous, that’s sensible.
3 - Here’s the SHALLOW end: find someone you like who speaks Welsh, and persuade or bribe them (gin and coffee can both help) to spend 5 minutes a week talking Welsh with you. Yes, just 5 minutes a week - we’re trying to reduce the fear and horror here, remember.
4 - Add gin or coffee until that 5 minutes a week grows into 30… then aim for a full hour (which might need added biscuits or even cake). It doesn’t matter how long this process takes - if you’re still right at the start, it’s going to take you a while to build the extra patterns you’ll need - if you’re further along already, it might be quite quick, once you’re over the initial ‘jumping into cold water’ feeling...
5 - By the time you’ve done an hour a week for a couple of months, you will have an entirely new level of confidence. Test-drive this confidence in controlled situations - in other words, situations where you can predict a lot of what you need to say. Keep it simple, and give yourself a gold star/pat on the back/extra gin for EVERY SINGLE INTERACTION you have in Welsh.
6 - That’s it. Nothing can take all the nerves away, of course - but these 5 steps should make it all seem much more normal and achievable.
When do nerves usually kick in for you?
What other tactics have you tried to help deal with them?
And if you work through the 5 steps above, I’d love to hear what sort of difference it made for you…