Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Laughing in Danish.

A few weeks ago I started my complimentry Danish language courses at LærDansk on Vestergade here in Århus. The lessons are great (even if they do start at 8 in the morning) and I feel like I am learning a lot. Granted we haven't really got past simple things like ”What's your name.”, ”Where do you come from?”, ”What time is it?” and ”What's the weather like?”, but with four 3 hour lessons a week I'm sure it will start to sink in sooner or later. In fact I have even caught myself a few times lately forgetting how to spell things in English. Which is sometimes a little strange.

For instance this morning I was writing to a friend about how I have to learn to say the alphabet again and it took me a few long minutes to realise I had spelt the word: ”alfabet”. In my mind it look completely acceptable, it wasn't untill i re-read what I had written did I realise that my friend would probably start to think I had suffered some sort of stroke that had regressed my spelling skills to that of a 7 year old. Fair enough if I had been drunk I guess, but not up to standard for 6:30 in the morning and completely sober.

It is a difficult language at times, and other times also very similar to english (we English types did kind of steal a lot of our words from the Danes when they....ahem....invaded back in the Viking age) but when it comes to grammar, danish reaches a whole new level of crazy.

For example if I was to say ”I go shopping of a morning” in Danish it would be:

Jeg køber ind om morgenen”

Which appears very simple I agree but, say I wanted to mix it up a little and instead say ”Of a morning, I go shopping” then it would be:

”Om morgenen køber jeg ind”

See.....SEE! They switch things around on you! Subject and verb do the old ”Inversion” trick and get me all discombobulated. And when I ask why, most people cant tell me. They just shrug and say ”There really is no sufficient explanation I'm afraid” and I am quickly learning that this appears to be the case with a lot of danish language rules.

Now I know that in English there are a lot of crazy rules also, but at least when you ask ”Why?” you can more often than not get some sort of insight behind the reasoning. But here it's not like that. Here you just have to accept it and move on. Which is hard for me. I'm one of those annoying types that needs to know the ”why” behind things. Now it seems I have to learn to suppress that side of me and not get frustrated when I cant get an answer. I need to take a few deep breaths and think ”Calm blue ocean....caaalm blue ocean.....”

I find myself giggling a lot at it, which I know I shouldn't do. I should take it seriously, like serious donkey. But there is to much insanity and gaffaw material I just cant help myself.

And so, I present you with a small list of things about the danish language that make me snikker like a schoolgirl:

What time is it?

In Danish, when you want to tell someone the time you can do it in the easy everyday way, which is very similar to English. So:

7:10 = ”ti minutter over syv”
8:25 = ”fem og tyve minutter over otte”
11:45 = ”kvart i tolv”

Pretty simple right? But what about saying 6:30? This is where it gets weird. In English that would be half past six but in danish you say half to seven, or ”Halv syv”.

Then if you want to get nuts about it, you can say stuff like:

”fire minutter over halv syv”

which means its 4 minutes past half to 7............ so 6:34.

BUT, you can only say that from 21 past the hour - 29 past the hour and from 29 to the hour - 21 to the hour.

Woo! High five to danish for being slightly convoluted!

There is no ”please”.

In danish there is no single word for please. So when you want to be polite you often have to construct a whole sentence instead of just adding one word to your request. For example:

”Luk døren” (close the door)

sounds like a barked command and would be considered quite rude to say to someone in polite company. So instead you would say:

”Vil du godt lukke døren”

which roughly means: ”Would you be so good as to close the door?”

Completely harmless in Danish......slightly rude in English.

Now this is just me being completely juvenile, but there are some danish words that when pronunced in english sound like the sort of things you might find written on the walls of a high-school boys lavatory:

Slappe af meaning relax (which makes me giggle even more)
Slut meaning end, finish
Slutspurt meaning the race to the finish (often plastered all over shop fronts when the big sales are closing down)
Fart meaning speed, travel
Skat meaning tax, taxes, treasure, sweety(a loved one)
Seks meaning six
Smut meaning a small trip, a quick visit, to take off
Slags meaning sort, of a kind
Fok meaning foresail (on a boat)
Dump meaning dull hollow or muffled

I'm sure there are many more, but that is what I have come across so far. I know, I know.....I really have way too much time on my hands and should start behaving like a 30 year old and not a 13 year old.

But meh.....what are ya gonna do.

Finally in light of all my new learnings, this is from a Norwegian TV's mostly complete gibberish but it makes me giggle even more now that I'm getting the hang of danish and hearing the different dialects. I especially love the bit about the danish number system....but thats a story for another day.


  1. Reg. the clip: Sounds like danish to me. :P

  2. Slutspurt would make me laugh too!