Adventures of An Aspiring Librarian

On Language Learning

on January 23, 2014

When I first arrived in Denmark in August 2013, the only word I knew was “Hej” (pronounced hi).

It means hi.

While this seemed like a good sign for things to come, that unfortunately was not the case. The rest of the Danish language was very difficult for me to comprehend. I wandered the streets, listening to the language swirl around me, and wondered how anyone could understand the mutterings and fast speeds. The majority of Danes, thank goodness, speak fluent English, and so as I began to study Danish, I was able to resort to my mother tongue as a crutch if I got stuck. This was both good and bad. It was good because I could ask for help if needed…it was bad because I was not FORCED to speak the language all the time. I have taken 6 years of French and am unfortunately not proficient in speaking it at all, so I was a little wary (yet determined) as I started my Danish language course. I wanted to be able to understand people around me!

A funny comic on learning Danish from http://satwcomic.com/language-lesson

A funny comic on learning Danish from http://satwcomic.com/language-lesson

As I progressed in my language course (which I took separately from my official library school courses), I found that I could start to pick out certain words and phrases. It felt good to be able to begin to read things around me, and to be able to order things from a restaurant menu and KNOW what I would get, rather than it be a complete surprise like it was in the beginning. Around early November, I wrote on my Danish blog:

Danish breakthrough

So I think I’ve finally had a mini breakthrough in learning Danish. I am (in no way AT ALL) fully understanding things around me, but my reading is getting better, and I don’t tend to have to ask people what things on the menu say anymore. Also, I successfully ordered my food the other day without the person switching into English at all, AND I was able to direct a cab driver to my address (a huge accomplishment since I usually can’t even pronounce the name of my kollegium).

In order to help myself learn the language a little better, I picked up a copy of (what else?) Harry Potter in Danish! I figured since I know the story already, I can go through the book with the audio for it playing in the background, and then I can get a feel for how the words sound compared with how they look (very different in Danish!) and from there I can expand my vocabulary. 🙂

When I left Denmark, I was able to hold brief “elevator conversations” and people were not immediately switching into English anymore. I could also start to pick out what my Danish friends were saying in Danish in Facebook statuses. This was a HUGE confidence booster to me. I think my level of Danish is around the same level of my French at this point….which is saying something considering that I took 6 years of French and only spent 4 months in Denmark!

I really hope that I will be able to continue learning this fun language. Unfortunately it may be difficult since only 5 million people in the world speak it, but I am determined to try!

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