I did Welsh up to O Level - the equivalent of a GCSE when I was in school. I really enjoyed the subject and tended to be fairly good at it. However, learning a language formally via the text book and speaking it as it is spoken are two very different things. I was talking to one of my brothers-in-law yesterday evening on this very subject. He, like most of my wife's brothers and sisters, has whatever the necessary gene is for language learning. As children they also had the benefit of spending their summer holidays on a campsite in Spain among kids from half a dozen other European nations. When you're a child you don't stop to find out if your last sentence was eloquently put or wholly grammatical in its structure - you just say it! My brother-in-law describes himself as a 'guerilla language speaker' - he explained: 'I'm not worried about making mistakes. I don't mind getting dirty, I simply get down in there and start speaking.'
My wife has often spoken of her Dad's Herculean efforts to learn Spanish. He studied tapes and text books in his dressing room in Drury Lane, but whenever he got over to Spain and tested it out on the natives, he found people just looked confused or thought him crazy. He had learned the poetic language of Cervantes - "Landlord bring forth a flagon of thy foaming ale , that I may quaff it!"
See the problem?
His wife on the other hand was a natural 'guerilla' language speaker and like her children got right in there, low-down, mean 'n' dirty, regardless of all the mistakes she was no doubt making.
My wife Judith, who has always considered herself honorary Welsh, has taken up the learning challenge with me. I do of course have an advantage, as discussed above, with Welsh. However, she was born with an innate interest in everything, has a large propensity for learning, may actually be part parrot I think; and I do have a little niggling worry that in a very short time she will be up at the bar telling rude jokes in Welsh with the boys, while I sit lonely and confused on the sidelines!
They say it's always good to express your innermost fears!
The internet is of course a great resource for any kind of learning and BBC Wales has loads of lessons and help to offer any Welsh learner. The magazine Mynd (verb 'To Go') pictured above, was at the heart of Welsh language learning at the the time I started secondary school and contained sections for every ability level. As I'm a hoarder, I still have all of mine - incidentally 1/3d (one shilling and threepence) was in pre-decimal currency approximately 8p - I'm not sure this would buy you a fruit chew today!
Onward and upward!