I don’t know why—I just started ‘vibing’ with the language, after a few months of dabbling. And the native speakers I’ve spoken to so far have been very enthusiastic about sharing their language and culture. It’s one of my favourite things about studying a minority language.
And after all this, I can tell you: it’s hard to learn.
But not for the reasons you’re thinking!
The language itself is not hard. I made a little meme about the mutations when I first read about them, but since then, I’d like to officially rescind it.
The grammar is okay, especially after Polish. It has quite a lot of unique vocabulary, especially where most European languages share a Latin loanword, but it also has a crap ton of modern English loans.
Part of that original article was about how you can find a few seemingly different learning resources, from books and online lessons to interactive webpages—but they’re all based on the same written textbook that is used for in-person group classes.
And what do you know, even Duolingo’s Welsh course is designed around the very same classroom curriculum. It is emphasised many times in the course notes, and it shows.
The course creators intended it this way so that Duolingo complements the publicly available Welsh classes and reinforces the materials taught in class. I assume they expect most people to learn this way, and I can appreciate the reasoning behind it.
But guess what? Duolingo was always meant to be a self-learning tool.
Every other course on Duolingo has its own design and progression. You learn through sentences and use the vocabulary and grammar in a variety of contexts. Subsequent lessons build on existing knowledge by using those words and phrases as context for new items. Your ‘strength’ in each lesson deteriorates over time so that you go back and refresh your memory. It’s not linear.
And because Duolingo Welsh is designed around a textbook curriculum, it is made like a textbook.
How is Duolingo Welsh just like a textbook?
Each lesson comes with a large amount of reading and grammatical explanations, before you even get to start. Even though I like reading about grammar, Duolingo courses generally teach using sentences that guide you to figure it out yourself through context and only ask questions (in the forum) afterwards. These lesson notes are usually reserved for interesting cultural facts and knowledge, or a reference table you can come back to, rather than required readings.
Surprisingly, my review of Glossika was the most viewed page on my blog. Sadly, my favourite language learning resource was retired a while ago and replaced with an online version that I was initially doubtful about. Some part of me clung to the older version out of nostalgia…and the other part refused to pay for something I’d already paid for. (I was, and still am, a broke student above all things.) I intended to write this review after playing with the system for a bit. However, I thought it wouldn’t be appropriate, since I was using the free version, without full access to its features. Thanks to the global pandemic, I snagged myself a year of Glossika during a big sale for an unbeatable student price. So here we are.
First things first, money matters: the one-off payment for the old book-based courses is no more. Glossika’s website (also called Glossika AI), like everything else in existence, is a subscription-based service. You can get access to all languages for $30/mo, or $25/mo if you buy a full year. Students can get it for $13.5, or $11.25 if you pay for a year. Is it worth the intimidating price (and the sheer fact that it’s a subscription)? I’ll try to tell you my experience so far.
What I used Glossika for
I used Glossika AI for at least a year (I think) before I paid up. Glossika offers a 7-day free trial. Thankfully, the man behind Glossika, Michael Campbell, is keen on preserving minority languages. Therefore, you get unlimited access to certain languages like Catalan, Welsh, Taiwanese, and Kurdish, for free; the only limitation is that some features, like recording your voice, are out of reach.