Saving Time

My god. I am almost through my first week of Danish classes and I am exhausted!

So, when I was thinking ahead to these classes, I was imagining memorizing vocabulary lists, grammar rules and an occasional listening exercise on a computer, while wearing noise-reducing headphones.

Instead, it’s a bunch of talking! In Danish!!!! I get it, it’s the intensive class, but when we dove in, we really dove in! By the end of the first hour, we were set loose in class, introducing ourselves and asking other people questions. By hour two I developed a splitting headache and my tongue hurt.

On day two we were made to pretend we were at a cocktail party (without the cocktails) and had to mingle, asking each other for phone numbers. Sweet mother of god.

It’s a small comfort that pronunciation is difficult for everyone in the class, with maybe the exception of the French guy.

The biggest problem is the fact that there are 13 vowel sounds (actually, our teacher informed us, there are 17. But don’t worry about those other four right now…). Most of them sound pretty much the same to an untrained ear. There is ‘i’ and ‘e’. Identical, if you ask me. And ‘a’ and ‘æ’. Again, I can’t hear a difference. Difference between ‘ø’ and ‘u’? Beats me, but according to our teacher, these two aren’t even close! ‘O’ and ‘å’ are also pretty much indistinguishable and should keep me up at night.

Another issue is the dropping of consonants. At some point, Danes collectively decided that all these ‘d’s and ‘g’s and ‘r’s and ‘h’s are only there for show. They shouldn’t be pronounced at all. According to our teacher, they are skipped “to save time.” Not only are these letters skipped, the words – especially shorter ones – are combined to make one word. Again, “to save time.” So that “det er en…” (that is a…) becomes one word that sounds a bit like “den”.

I know, this “saving time” excuse makes the Danish language seem potentially lazy. But no, I wouldn’t call it lazy. Some people think it sounds like someone intoxicated is trying to talk and some can’t get over the back of the throat tongue action. Either way, Danish is crazy hard.




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