The past 2.5 years I have been learning Danish. Once I knew I was moving to Denmark, I downloaded one of those apps that help you learn some words. I remember how I was replaying the sound of skildpadde (‘turtle’) again and again to determine what kind of sound it was the Danes finished that word with. I decided it was an ‘L’. It turns out it was still a ‘d’, but more on that in another post. That was when I first got an idea of some of the bumps in the road to Danish fluency.
And then I have it relatively easy, coming from a country with a language that is very similar to Danish. Like with German, there are quite a few words that are similar, and many more words that are recognizable if you know the patterns. There are also similarities with regard to grammar. That helps a lot. But imagine how tough it is for my Chinese friend!
Why can I still not understand you?!
I’ve heard many foreigners sigh that they have such trouble understanding Danish. I have already talked a bit about the difficulty of understanding spoken Danish in earlier blog posts. This has been the main bump in my road towards learning Danish. The head start I get by being Dutch did not help me at all when trying to understand Danish. It was just so frustrating to hear this blur of words and not being able to even distinguish the words, let alone decipher their meaning.
The world upside-down
So I actually speak (much) better Danish than I understand, which was also quite frustrating because I get into these situations where I am actually able to speak quite a bit of Danish, but then be completely at a loss when they answer me in their normal (incredibly fast and slightly swallowed) way. I might have brought it on myself by not having a television – and hence not watching Danish TV – but I also blame it on the ‘muddy’ way in which Danes pronounce their language… (according to Danish linguist Ruben Schachtenhaufen!)
Keep on going…
So I sometimes did feel like I would never understand spoken Danish, but now I’m starting to feel better about it. I’m now in the fifth module at language school, so I’m not there yet. But my listening skills are starting to catch up, and I can have long conversations in Danish (though not about too complex topics such as politics, and only with one person at a time!). It is funny how you can have the feeling that you are not progressing at all, yet then all of a sudden make a jump and realise you just had a four hour conversation with a friend about many different topics!
Photo by Doug Haslam via Flickr.