Thursday, 14 February 2013

English expat in Denmark: The Danish Language - it's all in the attitude

Ah, for helvede. Det danske sprog.


Not an easy one to master, by any means. I've been learning it for two years and although my passive vocabulary is quite large for someone that has only been here for three months, I still have a way to go before I reach fluency.

The Danish language is, 9 times out of 10, a piece of conversational priority when meeting fellow expats here in Copenhagen ... sooner or later you will be asked "so ... do you take Danish classes?". More often than not in my experience, the conversation is then led into a serious discussion of how difficult it is and how one can get by with just English; or the question is met with a flippant "oh I'll NEVER learn it!" with a toss of the head and an embarrassed chuckle. I'm not laying scorn, by the way. I've done both those things. I concur. It's definitely not an easy language to learn. But it's also not impossible. I mean, what language IS easy to learn? If a Brit moved to Spain, would we all be speaking it within the year? I doubt it. Every language has its .. let's say 'quirks'.


Half the battle with fluency in another language is mindset, no matter how many languages you speak. Being in Denmark, most Danes and most expats will speak very good English. Does that mean that English is easy to learn? I have heard that it is not. Our prepositions are all over the place, verbs need to be conjugated in accordance with who the speaker is, the same combination of a couple of letters can sound different in different words (cough through a ghost, anyone?). Yet a LOT of people pick English up. Yes, English is everywhere. Computer games, movies, TV, music. But, being in Denmark, so is Danish. You have children's television. Grown up television. The news. Danish movies. Danish radio. Free online Danish courses. Not to mention free Danish classes (if your CPR number is all in order) and actual Danes to practice on (though this admittedly takes balls .. gets easier though, promise). But if, even if your arsenal is bulging with all of the above, if you don't possess a positive attitude towards the language then you are setting yourself up for failure. I'm not pretending to be profound in any way as it's just common sense - but if you constantly tell yourself you will never know when to say 'til' instead of 'for or 'i' instead of 'på' then of course you won't know. Because you won't be surprised when you do make the mistake, hence 'proving' that you were right all along. Self fulfilling prophecy.

Well, I'll leave it there. Whether you have already started Danish classes or are planning to enrol and are wondering just how you'll ever 'get' it my best advice is simple - keep at it! Be inventive as well. Pictures below. Sad, maybe. But it all helps.