Learning Dansk

BBB is currently enrolled in her own little language school which so far has taught her 3 words*.

1. Da-da-da
2. Eh?! (with a good kiwi accent)
3. And tiggle (tickle) tiggle tiggle.

* where words is a subjective term.

I on the other hand have had to enrol in a government approved Danish language school in my quest to become bilingual and avoid the Dane and BBB plotting behind my back.

In my first year at High School in New Zealand I had to choose two optional subjects.  The choice included History, Horticulture, Typing, Shorthand Typing, French and German.  

Living in New Zealand, on the other side of the world from Europe I thought ‘why would I ever need to learn another language?’.  French or German?  What a waste of time.  So instead I carefully considered what subject would have the best long term career options and I chose Shorthand Typing.  Yup.  Pitmans. Ha.  You probably don’t even know what that is right?  It is now as good as 'dead as a dodo' as we say in my country, so best you just google it.  Apart from coming 1st in class (which I have waited over 20 years to find the right occasion to casually drop that into conversation) and getting a nice little certificate, I never used those skills again.  Nor does hardly anyone else with the exception of my very lovely friend Kate who is a LEGEND at Shortland.

But back to me.  Therefore after a somewhat poor (in hindsight) choice at school, the irony of becoming a language student a few months ago at Danish language school wasn’t lost on me.

I have to learn Danish for two reasons.  Firstly it is a condition of my Danish Family Reunification Visa.  My kareste (the Dane) has paid somewhat of a ‘bond’ to the Danish government in the promise that I will be a good foreigner and learn Dansk.  When I pass the language tests he’ll then get some of that money back.  I have until March 2017 to pass my first test.  Which if you haven’t looked at your calendar lately is coming around rather quickly.  Secondly, I need to learn Danish to ensure BBB and her Daddy are not able to conspire behind my back.

The Danish government allows me up to 5 years of free Dansk tuition at one of the registered Danish language schools.  I began my journey to becoming bilingual a few months ago.

Out of the 16 or so students in my class I am the only person who ONLY knows one language.  Which is quite simply embarrassing and feels somewhat arrogant.  Kiwis, Australians, Americans and Brits have a reputation (in an eye rolling kind of way) at language schools. We’re known for not being particular great with grammar and have limited or no experience in learning any language. We speak English but we are not taught it.  Fair call I say.   If you're one of the above nationalities, test yourself (sans google) below & let us know your score below if you are brave enough:

1.       Define an adjective, verb and noun (I've started easy for you)

2.       What is the difference between a personal pronoun and a third person possessive pronoun?

4.       When would you use a ordinal number?

5.       Explain the difference of an infinitive and neutral verb.

6.       Name 3 irregular verbs

So why don’t we teach New Zealand children another language as a part of the main curriculum in the New Zealand education system?  Any language? And focus more on educating children (& adults) on grammar?  What makes New Zealand so special that we don’t need to know (and retain) these fundamentals? 

New Zealand is a much more global country now than what it was 20+ years ago.  A second language surely is now relevant for everyone.  If for no other reason than to better understand our own languages and the challenges of communicating with others whose mother tongue is not English.   Foreigners come to New Zealand, New Zealanders move to other countries and become foreigners, we travel (& pride ourselves on traveling) and people travel to New Zealand.  An understanding and appreciation of what it is like to have to learn and communicate in another language that is not your mother tongue would enrich this for everyone.  And it would perhaps stop people like me feeling a tad stupid while sitting in a classroom of 16 or so other students who come from all parts of the world (Iran, Pakistan, Poland, Italy, Columbia, France, Nigeria etc) for only knowing one language.

My goal is to be fluent within 3 years.  I wasn’t expecting to enjoy language school, but I am.  It is almost a relief to slowly be able to identify and read some Danish words.  I feel like I am slowly (very slowly) being given the key to Denmark and one word at a time I am able to understand it just a little better.  Oxy morons and all.  Jeg taler ikke Dansk.

As you can see below Danish language school is extremely practical.  We get to learn all about children smoking.  It's brilliant.

Needless to say my New Zealand senses, which have been protected from any form of cigarette advertising or public mainstream media mentions of smoking (which would make including references to smoking in education material in New Zealand unthinkable) just a tad amused.

My Dansk language discoveries so far:

1.       The Danish alphabet includes 3 additional letters to the English alphabet.  Let me introduce you to å, æ and ø.

3.       While the English language and Danish language do share 26 of the same letters.  Not all are pronounced the same.  For example R in Danish is pronounced more like ‘ear’. So just when you thought you knew the alphabet, you don’t.

4.       Numbers are bloody long in Danish.  Tohundredeseksoghalvfjerds aka 276.  Thank goodness BBB is only about to turn 1.  I can say, spell and read that number without too much thinking. 

5.       Additionally the 2nd digit in a number is said first in Danish.  That is, 25 becomes five and twenty.  Fair to say it is going to take me a while before numbers roll off my tongue or in my ear.

6.        Ikea is not Ikea.  The correct pronunciation is ‘E-kea’.  I is not I in Danish (or Swedish the homeland of Ikea).  It is pronounced more as an ‘eeee’ sound.  Like weee but without the w. Who knew, huh?

7.         Amusingly but perhaps unsurprisingly for those that know me, I find I am (so far) better at talking than listening to Danish.

8.       Even more amusingly (for my past teachers perhaps) despite my best efforts to continue my best known trait of talking too much in class,  I really can’t.  As we are expected to talk in Danish only and my current Dansk vocabulary doesn't allow for this.

And so the journey to bilingualism continues.  BBB and I are currently about equal in our fluency but I sense that will start changing pretty quickly.  I'll keep you posted.  In the meantime....big thumbs up to anyone who knows more than one language and det er min pige, BBB. 

BBB exploring indoor playground in Copenhagen

BBB exploring indoor playground in Copenhagen