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DANISH LANGUAGE

Five tips that make it easier to learn Danish

Learning the Danish is a challenge shared by all newcomers to the Scandinavian country. It can be a tricky language to master and the high level of English proficiency amongst Danes can make for a disheartening experience when putting your new skills into practice. But there are ways to help smooth the path to proficiency.

People studying and talking
These tips can help you on the path to learning Danish. Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

“Godmorgen. Jeg vil gerne have en bolle med ost, tak.”

“Sure, would you like cheese on your bolle?”

“Err.. yes please, I mean ja tak, ost tak.”

And before you know it, attempt number 56 at speaking Danish in public has been met with incomprehension and a switch to English. And yes, you did say all the right words, in the right order but it just didn’t sound that Danish.

Therein lies the rub.

The Danish language contains a lot of vowel sounds and swallowed words that can feel almost impossible to imitate as an adult who has never spoken the language before.

You can study all the books, take all the classes, even pass your PD3 [prøve i dansk 3, the final exam at language classes] exam with a 12 and still be confronted by the drone of a “hvad?”, when you try to speak like a Dane.

But with a lot of persistence and patience, it is possible to learn this tricky language and we’re here to help with these five top tips:

1. Practice speaking Danish as soon as you can

Of course, this is much easier said than done, when everyone switches to English but there are ways:

  • If you live or work with someone who speaks fluent Danish, try to switch the conversation to Danish just for a few minutes a day to start with.
  • Find libraries, for example Nørrebro Bibliotek, where language conversation groups are held.
  • Join an organisation like Elderlearn, who pair you with a Danish older person to chat to and keep them company, while you practice your language skills with a patient listener.
  • Look for places that hold language events, such as cafes or the weekly gatherings at SMK Kom where you can chat to other people learning Danish.
  • Join conversation groups through the Meetup app.
  • Look up ‘frivilligjob’ to find volunteer opportunities in your area, such as working in a Røde Kors shop, or a library, or cafe like Sweet Surrender in Copenhagen, where you will get to practice your Danish.

2. Language School

As long as you have a CPR (personal registration) number and are over the age of 18, you can sign up to a language school and take lessons for free. This wasn’t the case for two years, when between 2018 and 2020, participants had to pay 2,000 kroner for every module.

You can take 5 modules of Danish language, ending in the PD3 exam, which is the level needed for citizenship. You can go on to study module 6 and take Studieprøven, to get to a level where you can enter Danish higher education.

The advantages of language school is that it gives you a structure to your learning, and gives you skills in the four areas of reading, writing, speaking and listening, as well as learning about Danish culture. The class times are often flexible and you can choose between online and classroom lessons.

The downside is that with large class sizes, there isn’t a lot of opportunity to practice speaking, which is why supplementing language school with speaking opportunities can really help.

3. Danish Media

Watching Danish TV with subtitles is always helpful. If you don’t have a TV, you can watch some Danish channels online including TV 2 News, TV 3, DR1, DR Ramasjang. 

The DRTV app gives you access to all of its programmes, including those in its archives like the famous Matador.

DR Ramasjang and Ultra are for children and teens and can be easier to follow than some adult programmes, especially UltraNyt, which is a children’s news programme.

On Netflix there are popular Danish series including Broen (The Bridge), Borgen, The Killing and Rita.

You can access audio books for free on @reolen or using a subscription service like Mofibo.

Listening to Danish songs can help with pronunciation. Kim Larson’s Papirsklip is a song you will get to know when living in Denmark. For children’s songs, Popsi og Krelle on Youtube is a good introduction.

4. Children’s books

Reading children’s books out aloud can help you learn how to make your mouth form those tricky words, as well as give you confidence when you can read and understand the whole of Peppa Pig in Danish.

Children’s picture dictionaries can be less daunting ways to learn new vocabulary and children’s song books like De Små Synger, or books that play the song and have text showing the lyrics, are also a good ways to improve your skills.

You can borrow books from your local library or buy them from second hand children’s shops like Røde Kors or Red Barnet.

Classic Danish children’s books include characters like Rasmus Klump, Totte, Cirkeline, Malle and Mimbo Jimbo. When you’ve mastered some of them, have a go at the well known Halfdans ABC, which has rhymes like this: ‘Freddy Fræk fra Fakse fangede i fælder femten flotte friske fiskefrikadeller.’ Good luck.

5. Creating new daily habits

Forming small but regular new habits will keep up your language learning without it feeling too overwhelming.

  • For example, keep a little notebook or a place on your phone where you can write down new words you come across in your daily life. During the week, while on the bus or waiting to meet a friend, keep looking at those words to get them stuck in your head.
  • When you’re caught off guard in situations, such as someone asking in a shop, “kan jeg hjælpe dig?” (‘can I help you?’), and you automatically blurt out English, don’t feel too disheartened. Instead, write the scenario down, find out the different ways to respond, and memorise them, so that next time it automatically comes out. “Jeg kigger bare, tak” (‘I’m just looking, thank you’) is always a useful one.
  • Add some Danish accounts to your social media so when you scroll, you’re seeing and hearing Danish. There are some useful Danish language accounts such as @wannalearndanish, @danish_for_you, @learning.with.ervin.
  • Listen to Danish podcasts or audiobooks on your way to work or when doing the washing up, whether it’s about a topic you’re interested in, or a specific language learning podcast like ‘Danish 101’.
  • Plan out what you’re going to say in a new situation before you say it and commit to it in Danish, for example booking an appointment, ordering food, speaking to your neighbour or language teacher.

Danish language learning can be a slow and painful process but keep going, take the small wins and one day, we promise, you will be understood. You may even be able to say, “rød grød med fløde.” 

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DANISH LANGUAGE

‘Don’t take it personally’: Word ‘Anglophobia’ added to Denmark’s dictionary

‘Anglophobia’ was one of 252 new words added to the Danish Dictionary on Friday.

'Don’t take it personally': Word 'Anglophobia' added to Denmark's dictionary

The Danish Dictionary (Den Danske Ordbog) received an update on Friday with ‘Anglophobia’ – anglofobi, as it’s written in Danish – one of a number of notable new entries to the national lexicon.

A total of 252 new words, 12 new meanings and 5 idioms have been added to the Danish Dictionary, along with revisions to 194 existing entries.

The headline entry is arguably anglofobi, which has the dictionary definition “disgust for or hostility towards England or English language and culture”.

That may sound alarming to English people or other Anglophones in Denmark, but it does not signal a change in Danish sentiment towards the UK nation according to Henrik Lorentzen, senior editor with the Society for Danish Language and Literature (Det Danske Sprog- og Litteraturselskab).

“You mustn’t take it personally,” Lorentzen told The Local’s English reporter in a telephone call.

“It’s not included because there’s a particular hostility towards English people, or towards American or Anglo-Saxon culture,” he said.

“Some would say ‘there’s Brexit, there’s Boris Johnson’ – but it’s not because of that,” he said.

The large quantity of new entries into the dictionary can primarily be credited to space created by the dictionary’s move from physical to online form, he explained.

Around two decades ago, the Danish Dictionary was produced as a six-volume physical book which naturally limited the space available for entries.

“But now we make dictionaries for the Internet, and have done so for the last 13 years,” Lorentzen said.

“Now we also have space for foreign words, loan words or whatever we choose to call them,” he said.

The digital age has also improved language researchers’ ability to detect use of new or loan words by broadening the volume of text that can be encompassed in its work, he explained.

A large proportion of loan words – including anglofobi – can be found among the new entries. Other examples include firmware, piece, maceration, FOMO and nativisme.

On a similar theme to anglofobi, a cluster of words prefaced by anti-, including antiamerikansk, antimuslimsk and antiisraelsk among several others, were added to the dictionary on Friday.

“Some of these words are not so new but they are unfortunately relevant because there are conflicts in the Middle East, in Europe, so there are some words that are relevant to mention,” Lorentzen said.

Last summer’s UEFA European Championship semi-final, in which England defeated Denmark after a disputed penalty decision, does not appear to have permanently damaged relations between the nations, though.

The inclusion of anglofobi does not reflect increased anti-English sentiment related to football “as far as I can tell,” Lorentzen said.

READ ALSO: ‘We’re coming home’: How Denmark views the Euro 2020 semi-final clash with England

During the recent election campaign a satirical Twitter account posted a spoof picture of the leader of the national conservative Danish People’s Party, Morten Messerschmidt, claiming he wanted Danes to drop the use of the term “fast food” and instead call convenience meals hurtigmums.

Messerschmidt did not in fact make any such statement, but his party has in the past spoken against the use of English loan words in Danish.

“Some people think the English spillover into Danish overwhelming, awkward or even damaging for the Danish language,” Lorentzen said in a press statement which accompanied the announcement of the dictionary update.

“For others, English is woven into everyday life and working life, they perceive multilingualism as more of an opportunity than a threat, and the use of English words and expressions can in certain circles even be an important identity marker,” he said.

The Danish Dictionary is descriptive and therefore obliged to account for the most broadly used vocabulary in the national language, the statement notes. This applies regardless of the linguistic origins of the words.

The dictionary is a free online resource and is used by around 130,000 people daily, according to the statement. It is updated twice a year, based on a body of texts comprising over a billion words.

The Society for Danish Language and Literature (Det Danske Sprog- og Litteraturselskab, DSL) publishes and documents the Danish language from its historical origins to the present day.

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