Songs as an Aid to Learning Welsh   Home

System Requirements

Broadband - To play YouTube videos reliably requires a minimum broadband connection speed of about 2 megabits/sec. Any less than this is likely to case pauses and degradation of the video quality.
Usage Allowance - Typical broadband usage for one hour of YouTube viewing is about 400 MB, so if you do not have unlimited broadband this needs to be taken into account in your usage allowance.
Memory Usage - With many browsers, memory usage builds up with each video watched and this means that, after a while, the computer may start to go slow, also affecting other programs that may be running at the same time. This can generally be resolved by closing the browser window or tab running YouTube plus any other windows or tabs linked to it such as those associated with this website. If this does not resolve the issue, closing and restarting the browser may help and, failing that, deleting of Temporary Internet Files and / or Disc Defragmentation may be necessary (This may be caused by other computer activity, not just YouTube).
Downloading pdf files of Lyrics - The largest of these files is less than 200 kb, so uses minimal system resources, even if broadband speed or allowances restrict the use of playing the videos.

Reasons for Creating This Website

As someone who has been learning Welsh on a Popeth Cymraeg course since January 2013, I came to the conclusion that, apart from studying in lessons and from course material, it was a great advantage to immerse myself in as much Welsh as possible to help consolidate and extend my vocabulary. It soon became apparent that the whole structure of the Welsh language differs greatly from English, so it is not easy to use a logical approach as might be the case with some other languages. The best way to learn seemed to be to pick up as many phrases and short sentences as possible in order to become familiar with the structure of the language and then adapt them for wider use by modifying them with different words. This whole process would, therefore, require a lot of practice and repetition in order to get them implanted in my memory, especially as I started learning the language in my late sixties when it takes more effort to commit things to memory. At the time of writing, I have been learning Welsh for 21 months and, having listened to the Gwyneth Glyn and Dafydd Iwan songs numerous times, I can now understand most of the words and can quote quite a few lines from memory, though not always with total accuracy. The Meinir Gwilym songs were added later, so I am still trying to get to grips with them, though I am doing quite well with some of the easier ones.

Read more of my learning experiences here

Possible Ways to Improve Learning

Choosing the Singer and the Song

It might seem that finding a genre of music that you like most would be the best option, but this often doesn't lead to the best material for learning. It is better to look at the sort of characteristics of songs and singers that are likely to make learning easier if the maximum benefit is to be obtained.

Good Points for Learners

Bad Points for Learners

Compilation of This Song List

My Choice of Songs

Initially, I was totally ignorant of most artists performing in the Welsh language, apart from those who had made their name on the international stage. It was only by following up a few things mentioned in Hwb on S4C that I hit upon a lot of material posted on YouTube by various Welsh singers. Some of these YouTube videos have lyrics displayed in Welsh with an English translation as the song is being sung, and this makes for much easier understanding of the lyrics. At first I started typing out these lyrics in both languages to allow me to read them without the need for online access, but this was a slow and tedious process requiring constant pausing of the video and numerous typing errors, especially in the Welsh, although it did give me some additional practice with the language. After a while, I found that someone had started adding a copy of the lyrics to many of the songs under the 'SHOW MORE' tag further down the YouTube page, and this meant I could collate them far more easily.

Please Note

Difficulty Level

I have tried to give a rough indication of the difficulty of each song by giving ratings from 1 to 5. The first column is for the speed at which the lyrics are sung, and the second column for complexity of the lyrics and the use of unusual words. These are obviously subjective and based on my own experience but help give a rough idea as to which ones are more suitable for beginners. However, this should not stop people from listening to the more difficult songs, as they often have easier choruses even if the verses are difficult.

Gwyneth Glyn

After following many of the links to similar songs and artists offered by YouTube, I hit upon one particular singer / songwriter whose material fulfilled most of the things that I was looking for - Gwyneth Glyn. She has a slow, clear voice generally accompanied by her guitar and originates from North Wales, which is the region that my Welsh course is aimed at. I also found that I liked the sound of her songs and her interesting play with words and ideas. Her songs are mainly ballads and folk songs, probably her most famous song being 'Adra' (Home), and I found that I soon started to understand and remember quite a lot of the lyrics, although some were beyond my level of Welsh at the time, which was still quite basic and mainly centred round the present tense. However, this didn't matter as I was still getting a benefit from it and gradually understanding more and more whilst enjoying the music at the same time. The same applied to many other of her songs, though some were more difficult to follow than others because of the wider vocabulary and more complex sentences. My favourite, however, was Dansin BÍr (Dancing Bear), though rather perversely the thing I liked most was the faster tempo and rapid lyrics, which are more difficult to follow but make it more lively.

Dafydd Iwan

As well as being President of Plaid Cymru from 2003 to 2010, Dafydd Iwan is a very well known singer / songwriter and has written about 250 songs many of which related to the protest movement that was strong from the late 1960s onwards against English domination and for the rights of the Welsh language. In fact, before he came on the scene, there was little or no contemporary folk music in Welsh - it was all in English, and he was the first person to write and perform them in Welsh, leading the way for others to do the same. His songs are generally deeply patriotic and often cynical and satirical, but make for good and sometimes amusing listening. Again, they vary in their level of difficulty, but many have strong choruses which are oft repeated, which makes them easier to understand and remember. Unfortunately, only a limited number of these songs appear on YouTube together with lyrics, but I have collected all the ones that I could find.

Bryn Fon

Recently, I came across several songs by Bryn Fon with lyrics either on the video of added under the [Show More] option. These all fulfil the requirements of clear words and interesting lyrics, so have now been added.

Meinir Gwilym

Somewhat later in my searches, I came across Meinir Gwilym, another singer / songwriter who is well-known in the Welsh speaking community, but little known elsewhere. I immediately took a liking to her work, which is varied with a mixture of ballads and pop, the latter often containing a lot of slang and 'Wenglish'. From the lyrics of her songs it sounds as if she has led a very colourful life - either that or she has a very vivid imagination! Some of her songs are fairly easy to understand, but many of them involve vocabulary that goes a long way beyond basic, so they are difficult for beginners to follow. Many songs have very fast lyrics that are not easy to keep up with, though they do make good listening for those who have progressed further down the learning road, or even for beginners who like the sound of her music without necessarily being able to understand all of it. Often, songs with difficult lyrics in the main verses have a chorus that is easier to follow, so it is still useful to listen and eventually the rest will fall into place.

Other Artists

p>There are many other artists who are worthy of inclusion, and I have started to add some of these. With popular songs, I have tried to look for a version where the words are sung as clearly as possible without intrusive advertising, rather than the version by the most famous artists associated with the song. I welcome any suggestions of other songs to be added, particularly if they have lyrics displayed on the video which is the easiest way to view them.

Youtube Videos Without Lyrics

A number of the Meinir Gwilym songs do not display lyrics on the YouTube video but do have the lyrics shown below the video under the 'SHOW MORE' link, so I have added these to the collection. There is also one Dafydd Iwan song and some of the songs by other artists in this category. To make these easier to follow, a link is provided to the lyrics so that they can be viewed whilst the video is playing on another page or tab. However, this depends on the browser and operating system in use, as some will only output sound from the current window. Hence, if the lyrics are showing on the foremost window, the song being played in a background window may be blocked out. In this case it is easier to print out the lyrics from the PDF files that can be downloaded and follow them from there.

Using this Website

When watching videos on YouTube it is sometimes a nuisance to find the song that you want if it is not included in the suggested links offered by YouTube. This is particularly true when using a Smart TV rather than a computer when everything has to be entered by the remote control. The main Home page of this website provides links to the YouTube video for each song and it is intended that the video should play under one browser tab whilst the list on the Home page shows under another tab, enabling easy switching between the two, though this may vary depending on the browser and platform in use at the time. Where a link is made to the lyrics, these should show under a third tab, though again this may vary. Many browsers allow listening to music from one window or tab whilst looking at another window or tab, which means that the lyrics page can be played without interrupting the song, but some browsers only allow sound from the currently displayed page, thus preventing this method of viewing and listening. In this case, a printed page of the song from the downloaded pdf file can be used. This website is at an early stage of development, so is rather basic, but any suggestions for improvement or corrections are welcome.

George Tod