Before arriving in Copenhagen, I was warned by many that Danish was an extremely difficult language to learn. I watched videos on youtube of people struggling to pronounce words that look completely different than how they sound. For example, “Hvad med dig?”, meaning “What about you?”, is pronounced like “Vel mil die”. With my language background being in Spanish, the Danish language seemed to use letters and sounds I was not used to at all. I was honestly pretty nervous about learning Danish when I started the program.
However, my Danish Language and Culture class has helped me realize that Danish is not as difficult to learn as it appears. With plenty of practice in grammar, pronunciation, listening, reading, and speaking, in just one semester my classmates and I were able to read passages in Danish and hold basic conversations with each other. It is an incredible feeling when you begin to grasp a new language, and I have really started to enjoy learning Danish. My class has our oral exam this week, and I am happy to say that my partner and I feel fairly confident in our dialogue.
It is nearing the end of my semester, and I have finally started to feel comfortable using a bit of the Danish language in public. When I accidentally bump into someone I walk by, I now naturally find myself saying “Unskyld” instead of “sorry”. When buying my groceries at Netto or shopping for Christmas presents on Strøget, I will thank the vendor by saying “mange tak”. Although extremely simple, it is nice to participate in the culture of the country I’m studying in by attempting to use their language. I believe that being immersed in a different country’s culture for a semester also makes learning their language much easier than studying it in the United States.
Despite my excitement at learning basic Danish, I have been thoroughly impressed with how well nearly every Danish person I’ve met speaks English. As soon as they get some sort of hint that you’re American, they immediately switch, usually with more flawless vocabulary and grammar than most Americans have. This is likely due to a number of factors including strong schooling, frequent travel to the United Kingdom and the number of American tourists that visit Copenhagen each year. Now, I find myself hoping that Danes won’t realize that I’m American so that I can speak with them in Danish!