Back in the mists of time (otherwise known as ‘the Nineties’) when I was growing up, life was pretty different than it is now for your average language learner. Unless you had a foreign contact who could post you things, getting hold of language resources such as films, music and books could be tricky, especially if you lived in a rural area like I did. Real-life speaking practice was usually confined to the once-a-year school exchange – or if you were slightly more grown up, the once-a-year summer holiday.
Not only that, but language studying could be costly too – I remember that the enormous English-Italian dictionary I invested in before going off to university, for example, was quite eye-wateringly expensive! So, just imagine the hard work it would have been if I’d decided to try learning Danish back then…
Fast-forward twenty years or so and how the world has changed. The majority of us now have little pocket-sized computers in the form of smartphones, and the access to information that they (and technology in general) provide for us via the internet is staggering, redefining many aspects of daily life. And luckily for you and me, as we go about our Danish studies in this digital age, it also means that there is a wealth of resources literally at our fingertips (and usually free of charge) to help us study, practice and connect with others.
But…what’s that you say? With so much choice on offer, how do you know what to use? Well, funny you should ask! Here’s the first in a short series of posts to help you out – a ‘Digital Danish’ guide to some of the most useful online resources or apps available to help us all learn to tale dansk like a dansker!
As I mentioned last week, here’s where my Danish learning all began. Available as both a web version and an app, Duolingo provides gamified language learning, where you need to complete each level in order to unlock the next level up. Its many positive points include the fact that it’s completely free of charge, helps you to understand basic grammar and practice correct sentence structure, and offers a variety of exercises to practice all four language skills (although speaking is not yet available on the app version).
The web version offers a few other extras compared to the app – such as explanations of grammar points and a discussion board to chat about your progress with fellow learners – but I find that the app version is the most convenient and easy to use, especially if you’re learning on a smartphone.
A frustrating aspect of Duolingo, though, is that the ‘locking’ of upper levels means you can’t just quickly skip forward to find out how to say your numbers in Danish, for example – you have to work your way diligently up the levels to find that out. Also, you do need a fairly high tolerance level for weird sentences, usually involving ducks and bears… Finally, as the listening exercises are based on a computerized voice rather than a human voice, it can be a bit trickier than usual to understand that Danish pronunciation at times!
All things considered, however, I think Duolingo is a great resource which has managed to teach me pretty accurate sentence construction and a range of vocabulary very quickly – even if it does do that by teaching you some pretty random sentences like Kan bjørnen hente en øl til mig?! And, yes, you’re right, that does mean Can the bear get me a beer?! An essential sentence for your next big night out in Denmark, I think you’ll agree!
What about you? Have you tried Duolingo? Which other digital resources do you use to learn and practice your Danish? Why not comment below and give everyone else the heads up on what’s out there?
Vi ses i næste uge! See you next week!