Guest post: An American in Denmark

I’ve been living in Denmark for 7 months now and it has been an interesting and challenging experience.

I began learning Danish in the States (at University of Washington) and, while I had people I could talk with in Danish there, I felt like I wasn’t really getting a good understanding of the people and the language. Granted, I could read the books and was doing well in my classes, but it didn’t feel real enough. I knew that I sounded like a foreigner trying his best and I was very aware that a Dane would be able to see through my charade. I decided in my first few months that I should go on exchange to Denmark in order to really learn the language. Let me tell you; it’s been rough.

I arrived on a Monday afternoon in Copenhagen, the opposite side of the country from where I needed to be. I had to catch a train to Aarhus, using all the Danish I’d learned up to that point so that I could find the right train and grab something to eat after my long food-less flight from Iceland (where I had to change planes). When I reached Aarhus, I had a difficult time trying to find out where I needed to be, wandering around near the train station for an hour before finally flagging down a taxi and getting everything in order. I knew that Danes could speak English, but I vowed to speak Danish as much as I could, which made for a difficult first day.

Starting classes at Lærdansk was a priority for me since there was no other formal schooling I could get in the language while I was here. It took me a bit of work to enroll as I waited to get my Danish CPR number and, being American, my visa paperwork in order. Eventually, though, I was able to start. I enjoyed the classes and the atmosphere, where we were all students trying our best to master this language with weird sounds and very particular vowels.

As time went on, I learned more Danish and learned more about the city that I would be calling home for the next year. I started classes and made friends with some of the locals who have been most gracious in helping me with my pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. I often sit with them as they have conversations around me, trying to soak up everything that I can; listening for new words, the sentence structures, and their dialects. One of the biggest things I learned is that my accent wasn’t as atrocious as I had previously thought. They could actually understand me here and I’ve been asked a few times if I’m Norwegian or Swedish based on my accent, but only one or two people have thought I sounded like an American. What a success!

I still have a few more months left before heading home, but I can’t wait to get back and show my teachers and family how much I’ve learned and grown in my time here. Held og lykke til jer, der gerne vil lære dansk. Det er et svært men smukt sprog.

Trevor

A little bit about me:

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A 28 year old exchange student living in Aarhus and studying Viking Studies and linguistics. Read more on my blog.

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