Trying hard not to bite my tongue
Posted Sunday, January 20 2013 at 14:01
MY DENMARK DIARY. Learning a new language is never easy, but the writer was determined to speak Danish, if only to share in on the jokes her dormmates often made during dinner time. With determination and instructors, she soon picked up and is progressing day by day.
As I sit here writing this column, I am trying to think of the most polite way to describe the Danish language without offending some of my Danish friends. After some two months in Denmark, I decided to take my new experience further by trying to learn a language that I had not heard of except in the new country I was living in.
You see, Danish to put it mildly is a complicated language, as such; I was not exactly sure what I was getting myself into by committing to learn this language. I simply thought to myself, you are here; you might as well take the trouble to learn their language, since language is an easy way to communication and to understanding people in a given society.
I soon figured that if I learn Danish then I would be able to share in on the private jokes that my dormmates often cracked during dinner, and there would be no need for the translations to English which I thought were diluted.
Although most of my Danish dormmates speak English I wanted to learn Danish more also as a challenge to myself. I remember doing a little research on Google about the Danish language and trying to pronounce the words for myself. I was lucky there was no one in the room at that point as the sounds from my mouth could only be described as gibberish, because I didn’t know how to pronounce the words properly and because Danish has complicated sounds. It was almost as if your tongue had to posses the special ability to make these sounds.
As a new resident and an International student, I was fortunate to have free Danish lessons paid for by the state, was I to be in a different situation I would pay an arm and a leg for these lessons. So for the first few months of October and November I made my way downtown on foot for about 25 minutes to attend my first Danish lessons.
The Danish language has three more special characters æ ø å, which are different from the English language and with completely distinct sounds almost similar to having a hot potato in one’s mouth. It doesn’t get harder than this I thought to myself, and the more I tried to pronounce words like, “tak for mad” I failed miserably as I was pronouncing the words as I read them, it is practically impossible to learn Danish this way.
Soon I started to read the translations under the Television screens and I learnt a few common but useful phrases like farvel, meaning bye, tak, thank you and undskyld which is excuse me.
This may look to you as merge progress, but actually saying a few phrases in a language whose grammar is difficult to comprehend was progress enough. As the days went by, the winter became colder and the day darker, and the idea of leaving my warm room to go walking in the freezing temperatures to attend these lessons seemed more absurd.
My dorm mates spoke perfect English to me, and perhaps the only reason for learning Danish for me stemmed from an inner desire to challenge myself.