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Seven phrases you need for getting romantic in Danish

Valentine’s day has arrived, so here are some essential phrases to help you woo your Danish crush.

Seven phrases you need for getting romantic in Danish
Which Danish phrases can spread the love on February 14th? File photo: Ida Guldbæk Arentsen/Ritzau Scanpix

Jeg har sommerfugle i maven

The feeling of excitement and anticipation when you set eyes on your crush is the same for Danes as it is for English-native speakers, it seems: the phrase “having butterflies in the stomach” – or sommerfugle i maven – is widely used in Denmark too. 

Jeg er vild med dig

Before you reach the being-in-love part of a relationship, you may find yourself being vild med someone.

This translates directly to “I’m crazy about you”, but it can have a somewhat softer meaning in Danish, depending on the context.

You can tell a friend jeg er lidt vild med Christian if you have a crush on Christian, but if you go over to Christian and say jeg er vild med dig, you’ll probably embarrass Christian unless you pick your moment wisely.

READ ALSO: READERS REVEAL: What are the barriers to a successful relationship with a Dane?

Jeg tænder på dig

If you want to take things up a notch from hand-holding, you might want to drop this one into conversation with your beau. 

At tænde literally means “to switch on” in Danish, but in the context of love, it means “to turn on”. 

Be warned though: if you are not charming enough, the object of your affections might find they tænder af (get turned off) by your advances.

Du har smukke øjne

A stone-cold dating classic or the cheesiest line of all time?

Saying “you have beautiful eyes” could bring a smile to your Danish sweetheart’s face. But use it appropriately: Danes do not like superficial compliments or empty statements of any kind. Flattery falls into this category.

Like most of the lines in this list, context is everything and you should only say this phrase to someone with whom you already have an established relationship.

If you do know each other well, you can replace øjne (“eyes”) with any other part that you find particularly beautiful. Ahem.

Jeg er forelsket i dig

Forelsket means “to be in love with” and is an elegant way of telling someone you’ve fallen for them, or have a crush on them.

It’s both romantic and concise – what’s not to like?

At forelske sig i is a reflexive verb meaning to fall in love with something or someone. The perfect Valentine’s vocabulary.

Vil du være min kæreste?

In the modern world it might not always be clear where you stand with your lover in terms of exclusivity. 

To clear things up and move to the next level by becoming an official girlfriend or boyfriend you can ask this question, which means “Do you want to be my boyfriend/girlfriend?”

The gender-neutral noun kæreste means both girlfriend and boyfriend, so at least you won’t have to worry about grammar when about to pop the big question.

Hopefully, they won’t say jeg leder ikke efter noget seriøst lige nu (“I’m not looking for anything serious at the moment”).

Jeg elsker dig

The most romantic line of all, “I love you” should be kept firmly in your locker if you are on a Valentine’s first date.

On the other hand, what better moment than February 14th to break out the big one and tell your kæreste that you are håbløst forelsket (hopelessly in love) with them?

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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 live 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.