Ok, so yesterday I had my last exam of the semester, so I decided to take a break from Gaelic and start working on my Welsh. I never really did much study before, but trying to catch as much as I could by watching the Welsh-language soap opera Pobol Y Cwm regularly has helped some of it stick (but not all, by a long shot).
So I went to the college library, and started reading Asterix ym myddin Cesar, the Welsh translation of Asterix the Legionary. Oooooh... it's tough going.
So rather than attempt to struggle through it in the library with a dictionary, I decided to check it out and take it back to my room to go over it seriously with a grammar book. I was the first person ever to do so -- which isn't surprising given that there isn't even a Welsh course here...
So I took my copy of Teach Yourself Welsh Grammar off my bookshelf, and started reading... then stopped. You see, while I love learning languages, the vast majority of language learning material is excruciatingly bad. I know that this book isn't a language course, but it is aimed at learners. So when the first chapter after the pronunciation guide starts by individually listing 31 different circumstances in which the soft mutation occurs, it immediately loses its audience. There's no structure -- just a list. In several of these circumstances, LL ard RH are immune to mutation. Did they group these together? They're numbers 1, 5, 6, 18 and 28. There's no implication that these are in any way related, meaning the learner risks trying to learn 5 exceptions instead of one group.
I'm trying to extract enough information to teach myself, but I'm overwhelmed by information -- I have to try to read and understand it all in order to identify the patterns and salient points. It's tiring, frustrating, and to a great extent insulting.
Yes, insulting. Because at one level, the mere existence of the book is a claim by the author that this is good enough for the learner. And if the book is good enough for the learner, then it must be me that is the problem.
I'm lucky -- I feel insulted. Many, many people genuinely believe that they're at fault -- that they're "stupid" or "not good at languages". And they think that I'm good at languages. Well believe me, I'm not. Even despite spending countless hours in this sort of book, I still can't make head nor tail of some of them. If anything I'm worse at languages than the average, and I've only got where I am today because I refuse to believe I'm incapable.
The hardest part for me in learning any new language is getting started, because in general there's just too much information thrown at you in an unstructured and poorly thought out way.
So for those of you starting out and discouraged by your materials, remember: you're not the only one.