Learning Danish

Danish lessons are free in Denmark, if you are here on a work or residential permit.  Think about how awesome that is.  There is a whole language center industry devoted to helping foreigners (or refugees for that matter) learn how to speak the local language.  Did I mention it’s free?  Fucking fantastic.  If you have the option to learn an new language or skill, I think you should take it.  Pretty much always.  If that skill happens to be something detrimental to the greater good of the population…like scalping or some other grotesque thing…perhaps avoid it.  I tend to think that a day in which I have not learned something new is a wasted day.  Not always (some days I think I just need to lay in bed in my underwear), but in general.  Learning is a life long process, and it is pretty incredible to be in a country that seems to get that and fosters this idea in their population.

There are ~5 million people in the entire country of Denmark.  You  might ask, why on earth would you want to learn a language that only a tiny portion of the global population can speak?  Because I live here.  It is respectful to try and learn what I can about the culture and language of this country.  In as much as three months can show, this is an amazing place.  It deserves respect.  Also (though to a lesser extent), if I can learn danish, then I can probably understand Finns, Swedes and Norwegians when they speak their native tongue. They are not exactly the same, but they are close enough for government work and that is pretty sweet.

I attend one, four-hour danish lesson on Saturday every week.  My teacher is from Aarhus, so her accent reflects that of the locals.  My class is made up of a huge variety of people.  There are about 20 of us in all and we are from Romania, Italy, Belgium, The Phillipines, China, the US, Lithuania, Korea, Iran, Russia, Germany, and England.  We range in age from 19 – 58 (including the teacher) and do everything from working on a horse farm to chemical research,  IT, engineering for Siemens, repair work on radiators, auto-mechanic work,  cleaning businesses and day cares, working in restaurants, and running information centers at train stations.  It is wonderful to be in a class with such diversity, and it certainly provides a more global view of why we care to learn Danish.  It is gratifying and unifying to see so many different people with such different backgrounds come together for the same reason.  In short, I am thoroughly enjoying it.

The most difficult part of this language for me so far has been the pronunciation of vowel sounds and the letter D.  There are three new vowels, and three ways that D is pronounced.

  • Vowels: A, E, I, O, U, Æ, Ø, Å
    • The last three vowels listed sound almost exactly like one of the other vowels.  Also, they are difficult to type on a standard US keyboard.
  • D can be pronounced hard, soft, or blunt.  (Inset jokes about three types of D…)
    • The hard D’s are easy (again…jokes).  These are the ones like in Denmark.  Or Dag (day).  They generally start a word and sound just like the english D.
    • Soft and blunt D’s are far more difficult.  To me, they both sound like the letter L.  Or like they aren’t even there.  The Danes seem to be able to differentiate between them with no problem and take an immense amount of joy in hearing us try to do so.  So that is fun.
  • I need more vocabulary to work with.  A lot more.
  • I am also fairly positive I am putting a french accent on almost everything.

The first time I was able to complete a check out routine at the grocery store with out having to say “Unskyld, taler du engelsk? (I’m sorry, do you speak english?) was a fantastic day for me.  Mind you, I just responded with ‘Nej, tak’ to every question the cashier asked because that is what I would do at pretty much any grocery store anywhere…so if they asked me for my zip code I am sure that was funny/confusing for them.   Perhaps they thought I had some sort of social anxiety disorder.

I’ll end this with typing a short paragraph that encompasses the entirety of the danish language that I know to date…

Jeg hedder Crash.  Jeg kommer fra Florida, USA.  Jeg er 28 år gammel.  Jeg taler engelsk, fransk, lidt spansk, og lidt dansk.  Jeg arbejder på Aarhus Universitet i kemi.  Jeg bor i Aarhus. Jeg er forlovet med JDE.  Han kommer også fra USA.  Vi har en katte.  Aarhus er ikke hovedstaden om Danmark.  Jeg skriver sætninger med en kuglepen eller en blyant.  Jeg elsker dig.  Jeg drikker vand, vin, øl, saft, kaffee, the, og soda.  Jeg læser bøger, og avisen.  Det er et hesten.  Jeg har ikke børn.  Jeg spiser mange mad.  Idag, jeg spiser et æble og en appelsin.  Det ved jeg ikke.  Unskyld.  Netto er et Dansk firma.  Hvordan går det?  Det går fint. Tillykke med fødselsdagen.  Glædelig Jul og godt nytår.

Good luck, google translate.  Good luck.

-Crash

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