Almost ready!

We’re into the final stretch ahead of our trip to Denmark. We’ve printed our e-tickets, checked our passports, and ordered our kroner. Clothes are washed and ironed, toys are packed and my mum’s fully instructed in how to look after our guinea pigs. We’re almost ready to go!

Last time I wrote, I had been studying the bare minimum of Danish due to a rather hectic work schedule. I’ve upped my game a bit since then – I’ve had my ‘Complete Danish’ listening exercises on a loop in the car during my long work drives, sat down one evening to watch Flammen og Citronen with my husband (thanks to Tiffany, @speakdanish’s film reviewer on Instagram, for that tip) and been humming along to some danskesange in my kitchen.

However, with just a couple of days to go, I’ve been thinking a bit about what language will actually be useful for my visit. How am I likely going to be using my Danish as a tourist for a week? I started looking at vocab for asking the way, but then I realised that no-one asks the way anymore – we all use the map apps on our smartphones for that these days! So, after a bit of thinking, here’s where I’ve decided to focus my efforts…

Numbers

Numbers are useful for so many things – from prices to addresses, quantities of things to telling the time, numbers help you keep track of the details in the conversations that you have. This is definitely one area I’m going to polish up on before landing in Denmark.

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Food and drink

We’ll need to eat regularly so this is a bit of a no-brainer! However, add to that the fact that my eldest daughter is quite unbelievably fussy about her food and you will understand that being able to work out exactly what is in any meal at a café is pretty high on the priority list! Shopping in the supermarket may be a little easier since you can see what things are before you put them in your basket, but it’s still handy to know which label means skimmed milk and which one means whole milk, for example.

Being polite

Although I’m Welsh, my passport says ‘British’ and British influences have definitely played their part in shaping my personality. This tends to manifest itself in things like thinking that a good cup of tea will help solve almost any problem, and breaking out in a cold sweat at the thought of not being quite polite enough. I’m finding it very disconcerting that I don’t seem to have found a handy one-word equivalent for “please” in Danish (although I know that I can often just add tak to the end of the sentence), so I’ve been trying to gather together some expressions that I can use to help keep me polite when I talk to people. So far, I’ve got jeg vil gerne…, vil du være så venlig at…?, and undskyld, kan du…? I’m hoping that these three will be able to see me through most situations!

So, what do you think about my choices? Do you agree with me or do you think I’ve missed out something vital? If so, please do let me know by leaving a comment below…or rather, vil du være så venlig at forlade et kommentar herunder! 😉

Catrin

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4 thoughts on “Almost ready!

  1. Thanks so much for your comments hoptimist and inger1201Inger 🙂 Those are some really good tips you’ve given me there – how handy to have feedback from people ‘on the ground’ in Denmark! I definitely wish I’d seen the comment about ‘i lige måde’ before I went – I definitely felt the need for a similar comment in my vocabulary at the end of a few conversations last week!

    The Dutch ‘please’ sounds similar to the German ‘bitte’ or even the French ‘je vous en prie’, inger1201Inger – is it like that? I would say, however, that you can use ‘please’ in English when you’re offering something to someone, e.g. a chair to sit on, or a slice of cake (usually accompanied by a little hand gesture that indicates ‘feel free to take this’), although it’s usually used in situations where you’re trying to show politeness in a slightly more formal setting or with people you don’t know all that well 🙂

    Also, despite revising my numbers before I went, my brain had a hard time processing them when we were in Denmark – I think it was the fact that the single unit comes first, and then the tens (rather than the other way round, as with the other languages I know) which particularly confused my brain!

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  2. Hi Catrin, my recommendations (as an Australian living in Denmark) are not to worry too much about being polite. It might sound weird, but part of Danish culture is to be direct and forthright, so a friendly smile is usually better than trying to use words to convey politeness. I definitely recommend not saying ‘vil du være så venlig…” – I haven’t heard that sentence even once in two years! Better would be just to says mange tak or tusind tak after someone helps you.

    Danes love their free time and weekends, so another good one is to wish them a good evening (god aften) and happy weekend (god weekend) when you’re leaving, even if it’s just at the supermarket. And if they say it to you, just smile and say “i lige måde” back!

    It’s actually nice and refreshing not to have to bother with a lot of the extra politenesses we use in English sometimes, but on the other hand it would also be nice to hear an undskyld when you get bumped on the street or someone wants to get past you in a shop!

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  3. Numbers are a good one to practice – after five years living here, I still get confused occasionally by firs and fyrre, og treds og halvtreds. Learn your phone number and address by heart. Even if you won’t use them immediately on holiday, it’s fun to be able to let them roll off your lips like a real Dane.

    To me it sounds funny when Anglophone say that Danish lacks a word for ‘please’. The Dutch use ‘alstublieft’ (or alsjeblieft) in two ways: like ‘please’, and when you are offering, presenting or handing over something to someone. I was baffled when I found out that you don’t use ‘please’ that way in English – and that English has not a word for that. ‘Here you go’ hardly does the job, to my ears 🙂

    Funnily enough, Danish has that word: ‘værsgo’, which is short for ‘vær så god’. So there is a Danish ‘please’, but not an English one 🙂

    If you want to ask for something politely, you can add to your repertoire ‘Må jeg bede om …’ Or ‘vil du være sød at … and even the confusing ‘vil du ikke være sød at…’

    Finally, be prepared to hear ‘Så skal jeg bede om…’ and then a lot of numbers. That is how a polite Dane at the cash register asks you to pay for what you have bought 🙂

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