Feel the love

Rather appropriately, on Valentine’s Day, I read this rather romantic article, called How to fall in love with a language, written by polyglot Luca Lampariello. I enjoyed Luca’s take on how to establish a relationship and ‘keep the spark alive’ with your chosen language – his latest love is Hungarian – not least because his story of a night out in a club in Budapest reminded me of how I met my husband fourteen years ago…with a kiss!

But enough about that – back to the Danish! Luca began learning Hungarian because he could imagine using it to discover and become part of a new world. And this was also part of the attraction of Danish for me. My previous language learning experiences had all been with Romance languages. Danish offered something new, something different, something fairly unknown to me. This air of mystery was definitely part of the initial appeal and attraction.

Approaching your new love with an open heart and an open mind is important, Luca says. This rang a bell for me too, as just a month or so into my relationship with Danish, I discovered that it was often regarded as the most difficult Scandinavian language to learn, mainly due to the complicated sound system of spoken dansk. This piece of information was essentially offering me an easy way out – why not switch quickly to Swedish or Norwegian, before I get drawn in any deeper?! However, like someone in the first flush of love, I refused. We would find a way forward together, Danish and I, and conquer any difficulties we met along the way!

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Luca also advises you to let your emotions guide you as you develop your relationship – make connections with the language, and be curious about it and the people who speak it. This is where I feel I face the most challenges. I definitely feel as if I’m in a long-distance relationship with Danish! But I’m managing to keep that relationship alive, mainly thanks to the magic of modern technology.

Online video calls to my TalDansk partner, Natasha, give me a chance to practise speaking the language with a real-life Danish speaker. Reading newspapers and articles online helps me learn lots of new vocabulary and offers a useful cultural context for the language. Listening to dansk musik provides a Danish soundtrack for my life. Watching series like Rita on Netflix provides glimpses of daily life and interactions between Danes that I wouldn’t otherwise get to experience. And if I ever see an article in English about Denmark or the Danes, I read that too, whether it’s about the concept of hygge or the appeal of foraged Christmas decorations! Particularly because of my distance from Denmark, I feel the need to regularly refuel my emotional connection with it, and these elements are an essential part of my relationship with Danish.

Luca also points out the importance of planning your future together. What do you want to be able to do with your Danish? Can you picture your future together in a month’s time, in a year, in 10 years? I talked about my Danish-learning mini-goals a couple of weeks ago, but more widely, in a few months, I’d like to be able to visit Denmark and feel able to follow the gist of the conversations I hear around me; in a few years, I hope I’d be able to enjoy the same level of fluency with Danish as I have with my childhood sweetheart, French. Finally, it’s true to say that, while I love Danish, we’ve had some ups and downs over the last year.

However, I think that what matters most is the commitment – like in any other relationship, this is what will keep you going through the tough stuff, and what will add depth to the experiences you have when you feel on top of the world. So, yes, I’m looking forward to a long and devoted relationship with Danish – what about you?

Catrin

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