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Learning Danish through English Posted by on Sep 29, 2011 in grammar, Learning

Having a hard time learning Spanish? Wrestling with Chinese? Learn Danish! 🙂

Pecan and Maple Danish

This is ’Danish’ to many people in the US and UK! And in fact, if you’re an English speaker, learning Danish may be just as easy as eating one…


Jeg er f@cking ligeglad med alt dit crap! I don’t give a f@cking damn about all your crap! Modern Danish slang sometimes sounds like a bad Hollywood rip-off… In Denmark you start learning English in fjerde klasse (the fourth grade), when you’re just 10 or even 9 years old. English continues to be one of the most important school subjects, and if you’re considering higher education in Denmark, you’re bound to get your brain soaked in English. I’ve got anthropologist friends who hardly read one word of Danish in their university studies! Add to this our love of language-mixing ordspil (wordplay), English humour and American films and music, and you might start wondering why Danish still exists… At least you can avoid arriving in Denmark with your head full of H.C. Andersen, only to get a nervous breakdown each time a benevolent Dane is replying you with an okay!

There’s however another reason to this Danglish: English and Danish are very similar languages! An English word can enter Danish quite easily because it fits quite well. (At least better than in a more distant language like Arabic or Japanese – the Japanese transform ice-cream to aisukurami, while in Danish we quite happily say softice.)

Danish grammar is close to the grammar you already know from English. The infamous Danish pronunciation – which makes foreigneres joke about Danes having a ”throat disease” or talking with ”potatoes” in their mouths – isn’t that far away from some dialects in England (the ones where they ”cough” the tt of butter).

Here are some of the Danish niceties which you already know from English:

  •  The general phrase structure is SVO (Subject – Verb – Object):

Hun fanger katten ’She catches the cat’

Køer spiser græs ’Cows eat grass’

  • Nouns come with an indefinite article (’a’, ’an’) and a definite (’the’):

Hunden ser en hund ’The dog sees a dog’

Dyret lugter et dyr ’The animal smells an animal’

Note that there are two indefinite articles – en and et. The similarly shaped definite articles -en and -et are attached to the words instead of preceding them like English ’the’. We’ll get back to the use of (-)en and (-)et later.

  • The verbs are either weak or strong:

De danser/De dansede/De har danset ’They dance/They danced/They have danced’

Vi synger/Vi sang/Vi har sunget ’We sing/We sang/We have sung’

We’ll look at further similarities between Danish and English in a future post. 🙂

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About the Author:Bjørn A. Bojesen

I was born in Denmark, but spent large parts of my childhood and study years in Norway. I later returned to Denmark, where I finished my MA in Scandinavian Studies. Having relatives in Sweden as well, I feel very Scandinavian! I enjoy reading and travelling, and sharing stories with you! You’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me and the other readers.


Comments:

  1. Lainey:

    I don’t even know what to say, this made things so much esaier!

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Lainey Well, of course it takes a good deal of work to learn a new language…
      But at least if that language is Danish, it isn’t THAT far from English…

      Hope you give it a try! 🙂