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Reasonable amount of time to learn CW for a working adult

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by N7NIT, Oct 15, 2017.

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  1. N7NIT

    N7NIT Ham Member QRZ Page

    Many folks enter the amateur radio hobby after becoming adults, which means they typically have jobs, families, and other responsibilities which limits the time they can spend learning/practicing CW. I'm curious to know from others who have learned CW as working adults--how long did it take you to learn it well enough in order to competently carry on a QSO? Did you have a set schedule for practicing, or did you just practice whenever you could find time?
  2. M0LEP

    M0LEP Ham Member QRZ Page

    This is a question quite like "How long is a piece of string?"

    I gather an average person can probably get to a "first QSO" inside a few months, if they put 20-30 minutes every day into the learning...

    ...but we're not all average, and some of us will take quite a bit longer, while a few will be lucky, and only take a few weeks...

    A set schedule may make the "every day" bit easier to manage, but the "every day" bit is far more important than the set schedule.

    Good luck.
    K9ASE likes this.
  3. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    It can take a lifetime to learn "CW," but that's a mode.

    I suspect you mean "to learn Morse code," which isn't a mode, it's a language.:)

    If you wanted to learn a foreign language, how long would it take you to learn 40 words? That's basically what Morse is: 26 alpha characters, 10 numerals, and four punctuation marks (there are many more than that, but learning four is good enough to get started).

    I've taught many code classes, back when code was a licensing requirement. We had kids, teens, and many adults including some over 60 years old and they all learned just fine in a few weeks. I think there are some tricks.

    One trick is to learn not just by "listening." Listening may work for some, but it takes a long time and isn't so productive. In "class," I had everyone "sending" on the first day. Sending (yeah, using a key) helps develop everything, just as with learning a foreign language "speaking" helps as much or more than "listening" to it. I'd say, "more."

    That's why new code "learners" can listen to tapes, CDs, computer programs or on-air transmissions for months and never really learn the code. When they start sending it, they learn faster and better.

    I've always found "working in pairs," with two students, works best. One "sends" (using a key and a practice oscillator) to the other one for a couple of minutes, then they switch and the other one sends. We'd do this in class from Day #1.

    Nobody took more than three weeks of classes, three times a week for an hour, to learn the code well enough to get on the air and start making contacts. Even one 75 year-old.
    WB5YUZ, KD8EDC and K9ASE like this.
  4. N8AFT

    N8AFT Ham Member QRZ Page

    Every one is different, some take to it rapidly and others like I had to struggle with it for over a year.
    Listen to Morse as often as time would permit.
    I'm a guy who doesn't listen to broadcast radio or TV much at all. Maybe I had more time to devote.
    I play W1AW code practice archives looped @ 18 or 20wpm on my work comp as bkgnd music.
    I don't know anyone does not do some sort of practice, besides on air, to keep sharp.
    W4KYR likes this.
  5. US7IGN

    US7IGN Ham Member QRZ Page

    I tried many times to learn the telegraph and I did not succeed. But this site helped me and I already forgot how to SSB =)
    It tooks me about 30-60 minetes per day and 6 mounth to make first CW QSO
  6. N3HEE

    N3HEE Ham Member QRZ Page

    I strongly second the advice of WB2WIK.
    KD8EDC likes this.
  7. M0LEP

    M0LEP Ham Member QRZ Page

    Out of curiosity, at about what sorts of speeds would they have made those first QSOs?
  8. K9ASE

    K9ASE XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I've been using Morse code trainer and taking a class called CW academy for about a month now.
    I could probably stumble through a QSO now, but I'm waiting till I can copy a little better and have had a few practice OSO's before I hit the air.
  9. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    In the 10-13 wpm range, usually.

    We started out with the first letter at that speed and never used any slower speeds, it tends to make the mind wander between characters when they're too far apart.

    But we also started right out (Lesson #1) sending and receiving some "words," so all students started recognizing words right away. Words have to be really simple when you only know part of the alphabet, but stuff like I AM NEW and U SEE ME and stuff like that are covered in the first lesson.
    US7IGN likes this.
  10. M0LEP

    M0LEP Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks. I've talked to a number of folk who went through maritime wireless operator training, and they usually talk of having an hour or so of Morse training every day, and of getting to 20-25wpm in about six months. That would, of course, have been to a rather more rigorous standard than amateur radio needs.

    I'm also now even more sure that the main reason many folk these days struggle to learn Morse is that there's almost no person-to-person Morse teaching available, so folk are left to learn what they can from computer programs, CDs, or tapes.

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