The 24/7 digital café for Welsh learners

I’ve been thinking about this idea for Welsh learners and I can’t get it out of my head.

What if there were a way to fire up Skype now and have a spoken conversation in Welsh with somebody?

At the moment you could fire up Skype for a chat (substitute Google+ Hangouts for Skype if you prefer) but what if you don’t know any other Welsh speakers? What if you do know some but they’re not online right now? What if the timezone you’re in doesn’t help? What if you’re a bit shy and you’d rather start practising at home before venturing out?

The core of the idea is a way to solve those problems, a 24/7 digital café if you like. You would visit this site and declare: I am online at (say) 7PM on Monday night GMT and then people could meet you online for a chat at that time.

You could also also list your skill level if desired, and your interests like mountaineering or literature or Hollywood or cooking or whatever.

In the short term it could start with a few conversations here and there. The aim is to have people having Welsh conversations 24/7 so there are always people online to chat with. If you didn’t have such a great chat then you bid the person hwyl fawr and then move on. It’s a bit like Chatroulette but less random.

The speaking and listening part is important. I know there are people on IRC channels (text-based chat) and there are blog posts and other articles you could read in Welsh online. You could start your own blog. But this is about speaking and listening.

People around Wales and beyond who are learning the Welsh language usually do so by means of courses – some of which are predominantly online like BBC’s or SaySomethingInWelsh, some of which are predominantly offline like those of Acen or Cymraeg i Oedolion and some of which are probably a bit of both.

But a course on its own is not enough to learn. You need to practise. You need to make heaps of mistakes in a variety of registers and contexts. You need to talk about things you care about and move beyond hoffi coffi and dw i’n dod o

Has this idea been/being tried? What about other languages? I’d welcome comments from anyone.

Is anyone interested in being part of some tests? Are any of the above companies/institutions interested in being part of something like this?

Comments are open.

21 Replies to “The 24/7 digital café for Welsh learners”

  1. Has this idea been/being tried? What about other languages? I’d welcome comments from anyone.

    Way, wa back in 2006, there was Tafan y Byd. Didn’t sound like it lasted long, although I know that some have started to Skype each other following posting on eath others blogs. Emma/Junko in Oklahoma for isntance – here are a few comments for her posts:
    It was strange and lovely to see Linda and Idris face to face after talking regularly on Skype for over two years.
    I speak Welsh with my friends on Skype every week. I would have no opportunity to speak in Welsh without it as no one speaks the language where I live.

    This morning I had the pleasant experience of speaking with a Welsh learner from England – Jonathan, one of the bloggers, from Gymro’r Canolbarth

    I’m fairly sure I’ve heard of a language swap site, where all (or almast all) languages are covered where fleunt speakers and learners are paired.

    As in Emma’s case, it’s invaluable for someone who lives far away from Welsh speaking communities, although I’d say that those in Wales should make every effort and join in with the many informal learning opportunities that are arranged in their area by the Welsh for Adults teaching centres and volunteers.

    Having said that, a group who having met together on the SaySomethinginWelsh site, found they lived nearby and now regularly meet face to face at Clwb y Bont in Pontypridd – so some obiosly feel more comfortable forging a link on-line first and are perhaps to shy to throw themselves at a <Bore coffi.

    Intent connection is n much faster than 2006 (in most cases) I suspect, and Skype is more popular, so something like Tafarn y Byd might be more popular – Doodle could be used to decde on best time.

  2. We’ve been encouraging people to hook up via Skype for a fair while now, and have thought for a long time that something like this would be very useful. We’d like to be able to do something like this in the next iteration of our site, but that’s a few thousand pounds down the line at the moment.

    Right now, my gut feeling is that we haven’t got the critical mass yet, and that learners pairing up for regular chats is the best we can do for now.

    If you get a working model up and running, we’d certainly be more than happy to help spread the word…:-)

  3. It’s possible I absorbed that Tafarn y Byd idea in my subconscious then. And I had a feeling there must be some learners chatting on Skype.

    I’m just proposing something even easier and a bit more spontaneous. It’s a bit like a car lift share site I suppose except instead of a car you’re sharing a conversation.

  4. Good idea – syniad gwych! Younger people tend to (not always, I know!) be fairly relaxed about routines, changing “plans” at the drop of a hat. Might it be a good addition to be able to “see” who’s online having a conversation and “request permission” to join in? Although possibly the best conversations of the sort you envisage are probably best achieved on a one to one basis…

  5. It could offer both.

    As in the offline world I agree that one-to-one will be easier for a learner than a group conversation, particularly if there is variance in skill levels. Although there is a possibility of doing ‘events’ online, e.g. An audience with (say) Bobi Jones or Caryl Parry Jones etc.

    The likelihood of being able to drop in for a spontaneous chat depends on demand and take-up. This is a recurring theme on the Welsh language web – people are scattered (in this case by time and unfamiliarity with each other) and other things are scattered and ‘hard’ to find, e.g. good content. Many of the challenges involve trying to tighten the existing network.

    Diolch i bawb am y sylwadau hyd yn hyn.

  6. Would there be some way to offer a window of who’s browsing in the cafe so people could try to hook up? Something like Messenger uses, or FaceBook – a user could even set themselves as “away” or “offline” if they just wanted to browse any content there might be, and set “busy” for already having a paired chat.

  7. Yes, I’d be happy to be part of such a test, and I think a 24/7 Speak Welsh Skype lounge would be great.

    I’ve been using Say Something In Welsh for 2+ years now. I have some experience of the pluses and minuses of using Skype to connect up with other learners I’ve met there on a one-on-one basis.

    I’m in the US, which means I have a time zone problem. At 5 hours behind the UK, there’s no practical time for me to schedule a chat during the week: either I’m at work, they’re at work, or it’s too late/early at one end. On the weekends, chats are doable but awkward, b/c they require one of us to commit to ‘using up’ a valuable piece of weekend primetime that otherwise would go to errands, kids, fun, or chores.

    As a result of the scheduling problem, I have Skype chats much more irregularly than I’d like with the people I know in the UK and on the continent. It feels like a big commitment to set something up, and an imposition on the other person — and I’m a pretty confident speaker, who’s had the opportunity to speak Welsh in person to dozens & dozens of people.

    I suspect that people who are just starting to practice their Welsh would be yet more hesistant to set up a ‘formal’ chat. Dropping in at a 24/7 cafe to see if anyone’s around for a stolen few minutes of conversation would be much less intimidating.

  8. @Ceridwen
    Good point, I’ve also been thinking about pseudonymity, anonymity – and how public it will be, e.g. what can a logged-out or non-member see? I’m also thinking about how to offer a Welsh language interface and how to guide a new learner through it. There are precedents like the BBC Vocab tooltips. Lots of options!

  9. I’d be happy to contribute to this. One question though – would it need any direction in terms of topics covered e.g. tonight we’re talking about food, families, directions etc?

    Also Cardiff and Vale Welsh for Adults Centre has a ‘language surgery’ for Welsh learners in Barry – not sure how this relates to your idea Carl. Maybe the ‘clinic’ concept could work on-line within set hours?


    “Wednesday 5 October 2011, 9.00am Welsh Clinic
    Would you like a hand with your Welsh? Come and see Gwenllian Willis every Wednesday
    between 9am and 5pm in the Palmerston Centre, Cadoc Crescent, Barry, for further support.
    To organise your slot, phone 029 2087 9318.”

  10. @Richard
    Yes but I think the members should provide their own interests. It’s a bit of an unserved area as far as I see: the opportunity to have very informal, unstructured chats, not necessarily like a lesson at all. Diolch.

    @Rhys – diddorol

  11. @Richard @Carl

    To avoid any akward silences, it might be a good idea before hand to mention possible topics of discussion, either an international news story or a Wales/Welsh specific one. A day or so in advance, you could either link to story on BBC Cymru, Gowlg360 ar Y Cymro websites, or an edited piece based on them to give background. This of course is more suitable to higher level learners.

  12. Gyda llaw, Wcrainwr ydw i, a dw i dim ond un o Wcrain pa’n dysgu Cymraeg a gallu siarad yr iaith. Hoffwn i ymarfer yr iaith Gymraeg! Cyfarchion o Gyiw, Wcrain.

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