Chapter 14. Language
This is an excerpt from the Worktrotter's Guide to Denmark.
A new language can get you into funny misunderstandings. Once, when a Dane told me that he was going to Bergen, I thought at first that he was going to Switzerland – in Danish, “Bergen” (which lies in Norway) is pronounced in almost the same way as “Berne” (which lies in Switzerland). And my name “Dagmar” is pronounced in Danish like “Dama” or “Dauma”, which I didn‘t react to for a long time.
So what does Danish sound like? Within a word, “g” is almost completely ignored and “d” is normally pronounced like an “l” (L) with the tongue touching the lower teeth. Try it yourself. Not so easy, is it?! The same vowel can be pronounced differently in different words, giving them totally different meanings.
Dør can mean “door” or “die”, and the difference in pronunciation is minimal. On the other hand, for example, kylling (chicken), killing (kitten) and kælling (crude term for a woman) sound very similar to non-Danes, which can lead to some funny situations, like for example, if you are in a restaurant and order killing or even kælling instead of kylling.
Most confusing of all, though, is the Danes‘ free-and-easy way with their language. Here once again their casual side comes to light – not only do they often leave out syllables; sometimes they also leave out whole words. How is a foreigner supposed to make sense of that?
In my early days in Denmark I tried to learn new words every day. As you‘d expect, the words “ikke” (not) and “også” (also) were quite early among them, and I always pronounced every letter beautifully. But usually they sound like “ik” and “os” and often people say “ik os“ (means isn‘t it?). “Hvad siger du?” (“What did you say?”) was the typical reaction of Danes – they couldn‘t understand me. You will come across this reaction a lot at first, because Danes find it difficult to understand the Danish spoken by foreigners. It seems as if they haven‘t developed the ability (perhaps because of the short history of foreigners in Denmark – see Chapter 2.3) of applying imagination to what they hear. When I asked for cat food (kattemad) in a pet shop, the shop assistant had absolutely no idea what I wanted, even though there weren‘t many cat-related products in the shop.
Maintaining your resolve and speaking Danish in spite of all the obstacles isn‘t easy at first, either because you‘re not understood or because the Danes switch to English. But with consistent practice you‘ll make progress. After a while you‘ll notice that your efforts have paid off – and suddenly doors will open to you.
So don‘t give up! The language is central to becoming a part of the country.
Even though many foreigners get by very well with English, I strongly urge you to learn the Danish language. You will find work easier, get to know Danes, have the possibility to take courses and find your way through day-to-day situations independently.
If you‘re only spending three years in the country and the effort of mastering the language seems too much, you should at least develop a basic reading knowledge.
This will help you understand important information in public places or on websites, your mail, or menus in restaurants – and, not least, advertising leaflets, which can help save a lot of money (see Chapter 17).
This chapter is intended to explain the most important points about learning the language.
14.1 Danish without a language course
It is worth learning some Danish beforehand. There are plenty of free materials on the Internet:
– (L174) http://www.multidansk.horsens.dk was made for children, but is also useful for adults.
– (L175) http://www.nyidanmark.dk/da-dk/Integration/integration_af_nyankomne/online_danskundervisning/dansk_for_boern/test2.htm is intended for children and for adults (L176) http://www.nyidanmark.dk/da-dk/Integration/integration_af_nyankomne/online_danskundervisning/danskundervisning_paa_nettet.htm. Both are aimed at beginners and deal with everyday situations.
– (L177) http://netdansk.asb.dk was developed for students and deals with a number of situations in daily life.
– (L178) http://www.danish-online.com looks at reading and/or listening comprehension, pronunciation and writing. A test can be taken at the end of each lesson.
– (L179) http://www.irsam.dk is a Danish course for German-speakers and is very good for learning pronunciation.
– (L180) http://vfs.dansk.nu compares Danish grammar with that of ten other languages: English, French and Spanish, among others.
– (L181) http://www.fjern-uv.dk contains a lot of grammar and reading comprehension exercises.
– (L182) http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/Horizon/1284/dansk explains Danish grammar in English.
– (L183) http://fjern.egl.ku.dk/quiz/index.php?directory_id=72 explains Danish grammar in Danish.
Contents of Chapter 14. Danish Language
14.1 Danish without a language course
14.3 Language schools
14.3.1 Types of courses
14.3.3 Scope of courses
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Worktrotter‘s Guide to Denmark.
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