Bring on Birgitte!

The big news in our house is that we’ve finally got round to watching Borgen.

I know, I know – we’re so behind! Where have we been all this time?! Honestly…

Anyway, a few days ago, a padded envelope landed softly on my doormat and it turned out that it was from min dejlige lille bror, who had sent me a birthday gift. When I opened the envelope, there, in my happy little hands, was the first series of Borgen.

My husband and I have just finished watching the whole DVD, and I very much enjoyed following this story of an all-too-human Prime Minister and those who surround her. After only one or two episodes, I already thought to myself that if Birgitte were only real, I was sure we could be friends (despite the fact that I was a little bit in love with her husband, Philip…); I was intrigued by Kaspar and Katrine’s relationship and admiring of their abilities in the workplace; and I was enjoying seeing Hanne hitting the nail on the head each time with her piercing questions. I found myself absorbed in the personal story arcs as the characters developed over the course of the series, and different episodes made me change my opinion on various individuals, sometimes more than once.

As well as this, I got a bit of an education in Danish politics and lifestyle. It seems that coalition politics is as normal in Denmark as it is rare in Britain. Beautiful light fittings are standard, at home and in the office. It appears that everyone really does travel everywhere by bike, even the Prime Minister.I learned that Greenland and Denmark have a complicated relationship. And, waddayaknow, ‘Danish pastries’ are actually known as wienbrød (or Vienna bread) in Danish!


But the best bit of watching this programme for me is getting to practice my Danish listening. As someone learning from abroad, I’m evidently not as surrounded by Danish as someone living in Denmark would be. This can be a bonus – I’ve lived abroad before, and I remember well the mental exhaustion that comes with having to listen so hard every time you want to watch some TV, hold a conversation, or even just pop into a shop on an errand – but it also means that my opportunities for practicing my listening skills are pretty limited.

I’d say that it’s currently my weakest skill, as I can puzzle out a lot of what I read, and I can more or less put together the sentences I need when writing or speaking with my Taldansk Online buddy – but when she talks to me, it’s a whole different ball game! Those words just sound so different when they’re said out loud, don’t they?! So, I’m finding that watching an episode or two a night of Borgen is really helping to develop my listening skills.

I was actually quite disappointed after Episode 1, as before we sat down to watch it, I was sure I’d be able to follow at least some of the dialogue with the help of the subtitles. But, no, sadly, by the end, I felt like I might as well not have spent the last 10 months studying this new language, for all I could understand – hvor var jeg trist!

However, little nuggets of achievement started to appear with Episode 2, such as when the subtitles had Bent saying You did all you could to Birgitte, whilst my ears definitely heard him say in Danish You couldn’t have done more – a subtle difference, but I had noticed it! Having now watched all ten episodes, I can happily say that I found myself understanding more and more dialogue every evening, as my listening fluency improved. I’m sure if I were to re-watch Episode 1 again now, it would be a very different experience to the first time I saw it.

I know I have a long way to go yet with my listening, but I also know that my local library has Series Two and Three of Borgen ready and available to borrow now that I’ve finished this first one… By the time we’ve watched all of those, who knows, maybe even my non-Danish-studying husband might be able to understand a bit more than tak, too!



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