Danish Lessons with Mick Jagger

Posted on 27. Jul, 2014 by in Culture, Music

IMG_1944Mennesker i alle afskygninger. Telte og lejre/camps. En stor, blå himmel. Orange Scene. Øl og rytmer. Kærlighed. Venskab. Skænderier. Nætter uden søvn. Sved og gammelt tøj. Nøgenløb. Støv. Urin. Fællesskab. Latter. Solbriller. Armbånd. Masser af musik. (People of every shade/kind. Tents and camps. A big, blue sky. The Orange Stage. Beer and rhythms. Love. Friendship. Quarrels. Nights without sleep. Sweat and old clothes. Naked run. Dust. Urine. Togetherness. Laughter. Sun glasses. Wristbands. Lots of music.)

People never leave Roskilde Festival unchanged. Having promised myself on four previous occasions that this would be my last year among euphoric music fans streaming with sweat, I finally couldn’t resist the names on this year’s Festival poster: Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder. I joined my team of frivillige (volunteers) of the previous years – a multilingual group headed by members of the Danish Youth Organisation for the language Esperanto. This year we were going to be in a bod (booth) selling mad (food) to festivalgæster (festival guests). Roskilde Festival is run entirely by volunteers, so my shifts in the booth earned me an entrance billet [biLET] (ticket).

Roskilde Festival is HUGE (the biggest of its kind in Northern Europe). In the days of the main concerts, which were also the days of my stay, July 3rd to 6th, more than 100,000 visitors were enjoying themselves in front of the 7 festival stages or in the camp areas (enormous plains of grass and mud). If you feel like going for a swim – or don’t feel like standing i kø (in the line) for et koldt brusebad (a cold shower) – there is a lake. If you want to eat or relax or play games with friends, there are restaurants, cafés, art exhibitions, gamerooms, anything. If you haven’t got money to pay for your vegetarian burger, you can collect plastic cups from the concert areas and get pant (refund money). Roskilde is a place that’s bursting with creativity and new ways of doing things; for instance, this year they were trying to make energy out of fry dripping.

A place of creativity…

A place bursting with creativity…

Roskilde might not be the best place to learn Danish – after all, a majority of the bands, including the Danish ones, sing in English, and a lot of the informations are given in English. However, Roskilde is an excellent place to get to know Danes! The festival is also a very important ”ritual” in the lives of many Danes, and an invigorating melting pot for Danish culture, music or otherwise.

Most of the concerts I had a chance to attend were great. Okay, there even was a bit of fun for students of Danish:

Sangeren MØ.jpg

“Sangeren MØ” by Kim Matthäi Leland – Eget arbejde. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

is an energetic lady who may be on her way to become the Danish ”Björk”. sings in English, but her name is proudly Danish and means ”maiden”.

– All the foreign artists say Ros-KIL-deh, even though the correct pronunciation of the name is ROSkilleh.

– Mick Jagger may have been browsing Transparent Language’s Danish pages. He paused a lot of times during the Rolling Stones concert to drop a line of Danish to the cheering publikum (public, crowd, spectators). Things like

Hvordan går det, Roskilde? (How is it going, Roskilde?)

God nat! (Good night!)


Now, get back to those studies. You’ve got a year to fine-tune your dansk for the next Roskilde Festival.

A love letter to the Danish sky

Posted on 30. Jun, 2014 by in Nature, Tourism

Everybody knows that Denmark is not Copacabana. Does such a sad thing as the Danish himmel, where all that cold regn [rhyne] (rain) originates, really deserve a kærlighedsbrev (love-letter)? Well, take a look at the classical oil paintings of Skagensmalerne (the Skagen painters). P.S. Krøyer, Mickael Ancher, Anna Ancher and the others – they were all enchanted by the infinite lyseblå (bright blue) of the sky, mirrored in the ocean on both sides of the Skagen peninsula (the northernmost “branch” of Jutland). Even with skyer (clouds) they found it so smuk (beautiful) that they left their original homes and settled down in Skagen to capture lyset (the light).

Carl locher skagen september 1913

“Skagen september 1913″ by Carl Locher

If you fancy a selfie in front of the “bright Nordic skies”, though, there are other options than Skagen. After all, Denmark is a flat country, where one half is made of veje (roads), marker (fields), øer (islands) and vand (water). The other half is made of clouds and solnedgange (sunsets).

People coming from bjergrige lande (mountainous countries) are often surprised by the wide horizons in Denmark. There is so much sky that the country virker større end det faktisk er (seems bigger than it actually is). It does take some time, however, to appreciate. If you live in a
wild country with a lot of amazing landscapes, Denmark most probably will seem a bit kedelig (boring) at first. Skønheden (the beauty) is in the details. Walk slowly, and the sky will open!

Okay, most Danes har benene solidt plantet på jorden (“have their legs solidly grown i the earth” = are down-to-earth-ish), and spend more time looking at screens and each other than looking up. But we also love talking about vejret [vare-eth] (the weather) and how bad or cold or lovely it is. If you’ve ever felt the gentle sun on a Danish beach, or driven through idyllic-but-monotonous villages of røde murstenshuse (red brick houses), or bopped along to the groove among the people on the huge plains of the Roskilde music festival, you’ll see why people still refer to the legend that claims the Danish flag fell from the sky…

Mind your inversion

Posted on 29. Jun, 2014 by in grammar

Master Yoda - origami

The sequence of words important is, yes!

Danish grammar has a tiny detail that always gives away foreigners: Inversion. That basically means that in some situations you have to change the word order, and if you forget to do that in those situations, well, then you sound like a foreigner… :-)

There’s inversion in English too. To make a phrase like “you are happy” into a question, you simply make the subject and the verb switch places: Are you happy? (With other verbs than “to be” it gets more complicated, but let’s leave that for now.) As you know, Danish make questions in the same way: Du er glad > Er du glad?

Let’s make that last example negative: Du er ikke glad (You are not happy) > Er du ikke glad? (Are you not happy?) Once again, Danish and English are like two peas in a pod.

Okay, let’s turn our example into a dependent clause:

Du siger at du er glad. (You say that you are happy. – As you maybe remember from school, a dependent clause is part of a main clause. “that you are happy” cannot stand on its own. Note that the Danish phrase can also be written with a comma after “siger”: Du siger, at du er glad.)

And the negative one:

Du siger at du ikke er glad. (You say that you are not happy.)

Finally we see the difference between the two languages. In Danish, the word “ikke” does a backwards summersault and places itself in front of the verb in dependent clauses: Du er ikke > Du siger at du ikke er…

The same goes for other words of the same kind, that is, adverbs that somehow influence the meaning of the whole sentence, such as tit (often), aldrig (never), altid (always), bare (just):

Han tager tit til Fyn. (He often goes to Funen.) > Jeg har hørt at han tit tager til Fyn. (I’ve heard that he often goes to Funen.)

Hun så bare træt ud. (She just looked tired.) > Det er hende der bare så træt ud. (It’s her that just looked tired.)

Du ringer aldrig. (You never call.) > Jeg forstår ikke hvorfor du aldrig ringer. (I don’t understand why you never call.)