Danish Language Blog

Learning Danish With Sarah Lund Posted by on Sep 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

Sofie GråbølA number of people in countries like England and Germany seem to have got an interest in Denmark and the Danish language because of the tv serial Forbrydelsen, or The Killing, as it’s called in the UK… As someone who loves Danish, all I can say is: fedt! (slang for ’nice’ or ’great’, it actually means ’fat’).

I have to issue a warning, though: Forbrydelsen is not the best place for a beginner to learn the language! 🙂 Here’s why:

  • most of the persons in the serial appear in stressed situations, where they speak faster and more ”sloppily” than Sofie Gråbøl (the actress portraying Sarah Lund) would do if you had a relaxed conversation with her
  • there’s a lot of technical vocabulary and slang (it’s all about cops and criminals, so what did you expect?)

Besides, cool people in Denmark, especially in the Copenhagen area, tend to speak with a slur – and there are a lot of cool people in a serial like this.

All right, I get it – you do want to understand the Forbrydelsen actors, no matter what I say to you… Fortunately, it is not impossible. (After all, there are a couple of million Danes watching the serial without subtitles!) You just have to listen very carefully, and remember that in spoken Danish, many sounds are either swallowed or jammed together with other sounds. Frequent filler words like bare (just, only), lige (just), noget (some) and ikke (not) come out as ba’, li’, ”nåd” and ik’. Uge (week) becomes ”u’e”, and as almost any final e is dropped in fast talk, the word most often becomes reduced to [oo].

Let’s look at what they actually say in this small sequence of the serial:

0.23 Sarah Lund: Hva’ ligger der i den retning [RATning]?
”What lies there in that direction?” (What is there…)

0.28 Her colleague: Der er bar’ noget mer’ skov og noget vand (derovre).
There’s just some more forest and some water (over there).

0.30 Sarah Lund: Noget vand? … Har vi haft folk derovre [dah-OUWor]?
Some water? … Have we had (any) people over there?

0.34 Her colleague: Nej [nie] Sarah Lund, hør nu her, nu stopper du, vi har haft hunde og (en) beredskabstøs i den der retning ik’, hun har gået den fuldstændigt modsatte vej [vie]!

No, Sarah Lund, now you listen, you stop now, we’ve had dogs and a beredskabstøs (”alert gal”) sent in that direction, she has gone the complete opposite way!

0.40 Sarah Lund (makes a phone call): Bengt, jeg er ked af det [yaa KETHa deh], jeg når det ik’ til tiden.
Bengt, I’m sorry, I won’t make it on time.

0.42 Bengt (in Swedish): Vad säger du?
What are you saying?

0.45 Sarah Lund: Bar’ ta’ flyet, jeg elsker dig, hej!
Just take the plane, I love you, bye!

0.48 Bengt (still in Swedish): Faen!

2.05 Sarah Lund (picks up the phone): Ja?

2.06 Voice (on the phone): Det var ik’ hend’.
It wasn’t her.

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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.