At rejse er at leve;
   To travel is to live

The Danish Language

Today marks the day of 3 months of me being in Denmark, and I have to say that I can’t imagine my life any better than it is right now. It’s been about a month since my last blog post, and here I am with another overly sarcastic post letting you all know that I’m still alive and well in the land of Vikings and addictive cake. The most common question I’ve gotten is, “How’s the Danish coming?” and instead of just simply answering, I’ll give you an overly long response:

To start off with, Danish is one of the hardest languages in the world (Or at least that’s what the Danes tell me, and I choose to believe them.) If you haven’t heard the Danish language before, just imagine a perfect mix of French and Chinese, and then you’ll get the picture.

In theory, the language seems like it would be really easy, but it turns out that it’s almost impossible. The hardest part is the pronunciation of written words. I think that almost every letter could be silent depending on the word. The letters that are most commonly silent are these: r, j, g, h, d, v, and t. As a person my host sister knew once said, “Danes write 10 letters and only pronounce 4. Is this language even real?” To make it harder, Danes squish multiple words into one word when they pronounce it. For instance, the sentence “Jeg tager toget” (I take the train) is pronounced “Yi-ta-to.”

As an extra challenge, letters like r are pronounced at the back of the throat, which is almost impossible to duplicate. Swedes say that the Danes sound like they talk with a potato in their mouth, which is quite true. Filling my mouth with food is the only way I can properly pronounce the name Frederikke. The Danish alphabet also has 3 extra letters: å, æ, and ø. Did I mention that the letter “e” is pronounced like “a” and the letter “a” is pronounced like “e”?

Something in the Danish language that I still don’t fully understand is how to use modal verbs. You use these modal verbs (Examples: må, skal, vil, kan) to tell what you’re going to do.

The problem is that you can’t just simply say you are going to “go to the store.” Instead, you must choose the correct modal verb by assessing the situation and asking yourself these questions:

Do you truly want to go to the store?

Are you physically able to go to the store?

Do you have permission to go to the store?

Are you forced against your will to go to the store?

Once you have taken the time to carefully select your modal verb, chances are that the store you were going to go to is already closed, because everything closes before 6:00 (Or 4:00 on weekends).

I do have to say, though, the danish language does have some cool advantages. The Danish translation for “Your speed” on signs is “Din Fart,” which makes car rides slightly more entertaining if you are as childish as I am.

They also swear frequently in English, so if you’re not concentrating on what people are actually saying, you’ll just hear, “åøæåøæåøæøåøøåæF*CKINGåøæøæøåæøåF*CKåæøæåæåøåæøF*CK.”

Also, the Danish language has the word “hyggelig,” which is a word that doesn’t translate to any English word. It kind of means “cozy,” but it’s so much more than that. It’s like walking down a rainy street with hot chocolate, or watching movies with friends under a warm blanket. You know what I mean? It’s a word to describe a cozy feeling and I think it’s so cool to have that word only in the Danish language.

But somehow there’s no word for “please” in Danish.

Though the language is quite impossible, I’ve been doing quite well with it, if I do say so myself! If I really concentrate, I can usually understand what people are saying, and some days I only talk Danish with my host family! I’m planning to only speak Danish with my next host family, and I’m willing to take the challenge. I understand how the majority of language works, and even though it’s really hard, I expect that I will be pretty fluent by the end of the year.

(Oh, and just a reminder that you can sign up for email updates by using the link in the sidebar on the right, if you haven’t already.  I also uploaded pictures on this website, so you can go to this page if you want to see some of the pictures of my life here!)

6 Responses to The Danish Language

  • Laughed out loud at store being closed by the time you figured out how to say you are going to go. Grand time!

  • Cameron, it was so nice to speak and see you Sunday via Skype. Can’t wait to see your new hair style. Thanks for blogging too. Your blogs are so enjoyable and interesting to read. Love You Lots! Ashlyn did a great job at her recital, and she looked really cute too.

  • Hi Cameron, another hilarious and interesting post.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Way to go on the language barrier, you sound like you’re making headway with it.

    See you soon on another post, congrats and we all are thinking and caring for you while you are in Denmark!!

  • Cameron, glad that you are having such an adventure. One that you will cherish the rest of your life. I enjoy reading your posts very much. I tell Mom “most” of what you write. Love from both of us.

  • Hi Cameron,

    Love your posts. Glad things are going well for you and you are loving it there 🙂 Keep the posts coming so we know what you are doing and can be impressed by your wonderful posts and your growing Danish abilities.. Love, Val

  • Good for you! I was always told that Danish sounds like German with a mouthful of porridge. After an entire year, I was not very fluent, although I could read pretty well. So, good for you. It’s a tough language. I’m so glad to hear how you have embraced Danish culture! Keep it up. Mr. H

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globe senior pic squareMerhaba, I'm Cameron Neader.

I'm an 18 year old going on Rotary Youth Exchange to Turkey and I was an exchange student in Denmark in 2013-14.

Click here to read more.