Tina Pedersen, a language teacher, explains how to get the most out of learning Danish.
Why is Danish difficult to learn for some people?
First of all, Danish has a lot of vowels, so it can be quite difficult to pronounce. Some languages only have three or four vowel qualities, where we have thirteen different vowels. So depending on the language you already speak, you will have different experiences. If you speak Swedish for example, it’s the pronunciation that is difficult. Though if you speak a totally different language, then you probably won’t have any point of reference, which will make the grammar and vocabulary difficult. There is a big gap between the writing of the language and the pronunciation, so sometimes Danish does not seem logical.
Many people learn English, French or Spanish, and because so many people speak it in the world, there are lots of places you can hear the language. The trouble with Danish is you only hear it when you come to Denmark, so there is no experience of this language abroad.
What advice would you give to those about to start learning Danish?
Firstly, take it seriously. Many students I meet are not really committed to the learning process. It’s obviously good to go to a language school, but you will need to start using it out in the real world, so try and soak up as much as you can. Watch TV with subtitles, or look at newspapers, and start looking up words in the dictionary. The classes will give you an introduction, though they won’t give you a communicative competence, so you need to practise outside of the classroom.
I believe in only one year you can become competent in Danish.
How important is it to learn Danish?
It all depends on how long you plan to stay here. If you’re only coming for a couple of months, then I’m not sure it’s worthwhile. There has been a lot of different analyses recently about how important it is to learn Danish, and all the research shows that if you’re planning to stay here, learning the language is the key to integrating into society. If you have children, you have to learn the language. If you work for an international company, you will still be working with Danes who won’t be speaking English all the time, so if you want to have a social life as well, it’s important. So for your wellness here, it’s fundamental.