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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

10 regional Danish words that will make you sound like a local

Want to add a bit of local flavour to your Danish and impress the natives? Here are 10 words from regional dialects that you may not have heard before.

10 regional Danish words that will make you sound like a local
What's a pot called in South Jutland? Photo: thierrydu47/Depositphotos

1. Træls

Starting with a classic, træls is a multipurpose word that is heard all over Jutland, but possibly has its roots in the north.

Meaning: inconvenient, annoying, a nuisance

2. Mølle

It might mean ‘mill’ everywhere else in the country, but on Funen, ‘mølle’ is a synonym for ‘numse’, or bottom.


Photo: Claus Fisker/Ritzau Scanpix

3. Klotte

Most frequently heard on southern island Langeland and also on Funen, the verb ‘at klotte’ means to mess something up or be clumsy with something.

4. Bette

An affectionate diminutive term used in most parts of Jutland. Can be applied to both people and things, for example: 'Vil du have en bette mad?' means 'Would you like a little something to eat?', while 'Han er bare en bette dreng' means 'He's just a little boy'

5. Mojn

An almost ubiquitous greeting in South Jutland, and interestingly also in the northern German province of Schleswig-Holstein and even in Hamburg.

It can be interchanged with the way ‘hej’ is used in other parts of Denmark, which means you can say ‘mojn’ for ‘hello and ‘mojn mojn’ for goodbye.

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

 
 

A post shared by Christer Holte | Esbjerg, DK (@christerholte) on Mar 27, 2015 at 9:56am PDT

6. Jylkat

Jylkat is a word native to Bornholm, the Danish island in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Poland. It means hedgehog, but the second half of the word (-kat) actually means cat, giving this word a hint of animal humour.

7. Snupdug

This Jutland word, means tissue, can be broken down into the verb ‘at snuppe’ (to grab or grasp) and ‘dug’, which can mean both ‘dew’ or ‘tablecloth’. We’re unsure which of the two gives’ snupdug its etymological roots.

8. Sule

We love this verb, which is of Funen (Funensk?) origin and means ‘to be washed in the face with snow’.


Photo: alexeys/Depositphotos

9. Bom

Bom, pronounced with extra emphasis on the ‘o’ means candy, liquorice, wine gums – it’s a bit of a catch-all for sweet-toothed South Jutlanders.

10. Pot

Pot should be an easy one to remember for English speakers: it means ‘pot’ (the kitchen utensil). The standard Danish word is gryde.

Did we leave out any good Danish regional words? Do you disagree with any of our descriptions or definitions? Let us know – we’d love to hear your input.

READ ALSO: Seven Danish words that are tough to translate into English

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LEARNING DANISH

The seven stages of learning Danish every foreigner goes through

You've got your dansk ordbog, you've downloaded all the apps, you are ready and willing to learn Danish. Then you move to Denmark and reality hits. Optimism, overwhelm, delight and then over it: These are some of the emotions familiar to those of us trying to learn the language, writes Emma Firth.

The seven stages of learning Danish every foreigner goes through

Stage one: Optimism 

You’ve decided to move to Denmark. You’ve watched The Killing and Borgen and can pick out the words ‘tak’ and ‘hej hej’, so you’re sure that within a year or so of actually living in the Scandinavian country, you’ll be sounding like Sarah Lund herself. You can’t wait to get started.

Tip: Hold onto the optimism because you’re about to have the shock of your life.

Stage two: Overwhelm

You arrive in Denmark, you’re overwhelmed by the next level life admin and you do not understand a word, not a word, of what is going on around you. You start to recognise written words while you’re out and about; ‘s-tog’, ‘gade’, ‘rugbrød’, but when you say them out loud, oh dear. You soon realise that you can’t learn Danish by reading it in your head. This is a language that needs to be listened to, at slow-speed, then de-coded, put back together and practiced. But you’re too tired for that because you’ve just moved country.

Tip: Enrol in the government’s free Danish language course as soon as you can. It will give you structure and motivation for starting to learn some useful vocabulary and vowel sounds. Duolingo and Google Translate are also your friends.

Stage three: Quiet delight

You’ve passed your first module of your Danish language course. You had a little chat in Danish and explained which country you come from, where you now live with and how many siblings and/or pets you have. This is it. You are going to be fluent in 18 months’ time (after Module 5). There’s tangible progress in your language skills and you are on your way to deciphering Danish.

Tip: Remember this feeling of progression and how good it feels because you’re going to have to keep it going for quite some time. Speak the little Danish you know, over and over again to gain confidence in hearing yourself make the sounds.

READ MORE: Five tips that make it easier to learn Danish

Stage four: Incredulity

You’re now half way through the language school modules. You’ve put hours and hours into learning this language. You know enough vocabulary to use in everyday life – it’s there in your head – you even know how to spell and conjugate the word. So why, when you go to say the sentence to the person behind the check-out, do they look at you in bewilderment and after another failed attempt, switch to English?

You start to feel like the hard work has been a waste, or perhaps you’re terrible at languages, maybe you’ve actually got an undetected speech impediment. The truth is, Danish takes a lot of hard work and practice to get to conversational stage. The vowel sounds are subtle and plentiful; the only way to master them is to keep speaking Danish. 

Tip: Don’t give up – you know far more than you sound like. Keep talking Danish wherever you can and push past those awkward exchanges, which unfortunately have to happen in order to progress to the next level. Force Danish speakers to stick to Danish, even just for five or ten minutes, or mix up a bit of English into your Danish so you can keep to the general thread of Danish conversation.

READ MORE: The best podcasts for learning and perfecting your Danish

Stage five: Reinforcements

The reason you can’t be understood is not you, it’s Danish. You realise that the language course alone is not going to make you fluent. You need reinforcements. You sign up to a language cafe, force yourself to listen to some Danish podcasts, start to watch more Danish TV and read some children’s books.

Tip: If you haven’t got a Danish person living with you, go and find one who will help you practice. There are schemes where a Danish volunteer can sit with you and help you practice speaking, or you can volunteer yourself in a local charity shop. If you have a cheerleader who reassures you that you can and will be understood, then you will get over that barrier many face after language school finishes.

Stage six: Breakthrough

You are being understood more than you’re not, you can read posters, apartment notices, letters in your e-boks. You are not so embarrassed by the vowel sounds coming out of your mouth and people are impressed you can understand a Danish exchange. 

Tip: Don’t take your foot off the pedal just yet. Keep going with the podcasts, the TV and the reading because stage four can and will still happen, and it can knock you off your course.

Stage seven: Acceptance

Despite your breakthroughs and miles on the clock, you realise you no longer know what fluency feels like. You will never sound exactly like a Dane; there will always be new words or expressions to learn; there will always be someone who responds with a “hvad?” to what you’re saying. But what you now accept is that this is the case with any language and we are all learning every day.

Tip: The more you use the language, the more you’ll enjoy it. One day, you may even find yourself sounding like Sarah Lund, to the untrained ear.

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