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I've been battling through learning Welsh with the Open University for the past year, and I must admit although the course is well written, I have got a bit behind and decided to pick up an extra book to help me out with my assignments.
As my course is roughly equivalent to GCSE standard, although crammed into just under a year, I decided GCSE Bitesize might not be a bad route to take, as I have used Bitesize books years ago when I was taking my GCSEs.
The book only cost £5.39 from Amazon.co.uk, and was paid for by Dooyoo (thanks) so if it wasn't that helpful, not a lot to lose. In actual fact, this has contributed massively to my good grades (I'm on the way to a distinction!), though I do feel this is partly due to covering the same subjects that I needed and allowing me to cherry-pick phrases and shuffle them around, rather than cementing my prior knowledge.
I should point out that this book, while it can be used alone, is most helpful when teaming each chapter with Bitesize TV programmes and the website, - which incidentally is not the same as the main Bitesize website, it's on the Welsh version. Chapters have topics such as Leisure, The Home, Holidays, and mostly contain a vocabulary page as well as a general page which includes short exercises. I found these mostly pretty easy for my level of study, but for GCSE students it is clearly marked out which questions are aimed at foundation tier, and which at higher level candidates.
At the back of the book is a series of questions covering all the topics in the book and some basic fundamentals of the Welsh language, such as the horrendous mutations a good deal of words are subjected to. It feels like a bit of an afterthought, and to be honest I think it would be a better idea to spend more time focusing on these things than pages and pages of vocabulary, no matter how useful, but I expect this is written with last-minute revision in mind.
What is good about the book is that it is clearly laid out and I have generally been able to find what I need quickly. As I said, it's all too easy to pick out phrases and modify them for your written work without really understanding the logic behind them, and as Welsh can be, at times, an exceedingly illogical language, this worries me a little. Although it is, obviously, focused mainly towards the GCSE syllabus, with a little common sense I have been able to find helpful information for a number of pieces I have been working on. For example, when my latest assessment required me to read a passage about a furniture store (seriously, where do they get their subjects for these things?!) and answer questions, I was able to turn to the page on the home and there was a helpful box with vocabulary on the subject, which saved lots of flicking back and forth through my dictionary.
And this is a bright and colourful book, but it feels a bit childish for GCSE-age students. The cartoon character on the front from the Bitesize branding feels more geared towards a 10-year-old. The inside of the book is full of cartoons and bright colours, which is certainly a welcome change from bland old textbooks.
Whenever the book is looking at an opinion, which is really important and pretty much the stuff of examiners' wet dreams (sorry to be crude, but it is), the book brings up time and time again a clown face, either happy or sad, so you can immediately find opinion phrases and structures on that particular topic. While it's useful, I really hate clowns and I was sick of seeing that little guy's face!
Overall, this is probably very useful for learning enough to pass a GCSE exam. It is obviously focused on the exact topics needed, and as I know from my Spanish GCSE, it is entirely possible to gain a good grade by "working in" phrases that you know. I passed with an A without even knowing how to conjugate a verb, and was in for a pretty rude awakening when I progressed to A Level! It is also useful as a dictionary or phrasebook, split into subject chapters, which saves time looking up words and is handy if you are working on a piece that happens to match one of the topics (which is likely, as they are quite rudimentary for language learning). That said, I do wish it had done more to ensure the basics are in place to allow more freedom and fluency of written an spoken work.
A useful book, but only very helpful if you have the (at times confusing) rules of the Welsh language straight in your head first.
This book is available from Amazon.co.uk and should be able to be found/ordered in most good bookshops, although you may find it more difficult the further from Wales you are.