Hi everyone, I’m hoooooome!
Yes, I’ve just come back from my first trip to Denmark and it was a heck of a week – I feel like I need a holiday to get over my holiday…!
As I was pondering all the different things I could write about after this visit (so much choice, I didn’t know where to start!), I decided to keep my focus for this post squarely on the language. After all, this is what I really went to Denmark to practice, and the name of this blog is ‘Speak Danish’. So, without further ado, I present to you my Top 5 Conversations from my week in Denmark and what they taught me.
The one in the hotel in Aarhus
Although we spent most of our time in Copenhagen, we also went up on a little jaunt to Aarhus for the weekend, since the people I have got to know through the Taldansk Online project all live in this area (more on this later!). As we walked through the main entrance of the hotel, I decided to set myself a little challenge – to try booking in entirely på dansk.
Now, before coming to Denmark, I hadn’t thought to learn the verb to book (at bestille) but I’d managed to acquire this item of vocabulary through a short exchange in Jensens Bøffhus on our first evening in Copenhagen – “Har du bestilt?” the waitress asked me, which I managed, by dint of context, to work out meant “Have you booked?”. So, I decided to test out this new verb – I began by trying to look confident (mind over matter!) and then saying to the receptionist: “Goddag. Jeg har bestilt en værelse.”
To my great joy, the lovely young man at Reception responded in Danish without batting an eyelid! I didn’t catch every word in the ensuing conversation, but it was always just enough for me to work out what was being asked – for example, navn told me he wanted to know which name I’d booked under, kreditkort meant I needed to hand over my card and morgenmad and klokken were an indicator that we were talking about when breakfast was served – and I managed to carry out the appropriate action or give the necessary information each time to ensure the conversation carried on without any hiccups.
This was my first entire conversation in Danish in Denmark, and it proved to me that I did know enough Danish to get by – I felt pretty proud of myself as we made our way up to our room!
Visiting Den Gamle By in Aarhus
The one at Nørreport Station
Some of you may remember that I had debated the point of learning how to ask the way in Danish before our holiday. My map app did indeed turn out to be pretty handy! However, it didn’t always give me ALL the information I needed.
For example, we needed to catch the bus from Nørreport Station back to the flat, at the end of a long day of sightseeing. We started waiting at one of the stops, but then I had a sudden thought – would this bus be going in the right direction? I didn’t want to end up going further from home by accident, especially with two tired, hungry and slightly grumpy children, and the information at the bus-stop itself was a bit confusing. I’d have to check with someone if it was this side of the street or that one that we needed to wait at…
This was the conversation that helped fix the denne…eller den anden (‘this one or the other one’) structure into my memory, which is a really handy phrase to know. It also taught me that it’s better to be brave and engage a stranger in conversation, rather than trying to work it out alone – as it turned out, it was the other side of the road we needed to wait at, so a potential mini-disaster was averted through this conversation!
Can you find your way around Copenhagen?
The one at ‘Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy-tale House’
This conversation, which took place in the entrance hall of Ripley’s Believe it or Not! in Copenhagen was brief, but made me happy for the simple reason that I managed to turn the conversation from English into Danish! The person at the till opened the conversation by telling us the price in English to visit the four different attractions within this location. As I handed over my Copenhagen Card, I simply asked “Kan vi besøge alt her med det?”. Happily, he switched to Danish to answer me, and explained that it was only the Fairy-tale House that we could visit for free, but we got a 25% discount on the other attractions if we wanted to visit them too. And he spoke at just the right speed that I understood all of this with no sweat – double result!
A good investment!
The one with the post box
This was the one which showed me a) I still have a long way to go with my Danish and b) even if you muck it up, the sympathetic native speaker should still be able to get the gist, with the aid of props!
On our last evening, I had a bunch of postcards I still hadn’t posted. The only problem was that I didn’t have a clue where the nearest post box was located. I decided I’d have to venture out and ask someone, or I’d be taking these postcards home and handing them out in person!
As I walked down the street, keeping an eye out for a friendly-looking person I could ask, I tried to work out how to say “I’m looking for a post box”. I knew a box was a kasse and a postcard was a postkort, so surely a post box must be a postkasse? Okay, so what about the ‘looking for’ bit? Hmmm…
When I stopped someone, I did my best with the Danish but reflecting on it afterwards, I realised I had actually ended up saying something along the lines of “Jeg kigger efter en postkasse…?” (“I’m looking after a post box…?”), while holding up my postcards with a hopeful face – no wonder he looked a little bemused for a second! However, to his eternal credit, he didn’t laugh and explained nice and clearly in Danish to me where the nearest post box was. I thanked him and went on my way, feeling a little foolish but nonetheless able to post my postcards before we left Copenhagen!
The ones with my Taldansk partner and my fellow blog friends
I’ve put these together in the same category, and I’ll admit that they were both conversations in English – but in my defence, they were long conversations and I had my non-Danish-speaking family with me!
Natasha has been my Taldansk partner since September, and I have really appreciated our online sessions over the last 8 months. I’m always really grateful to her for giving up her spare time for free to help me, this random stranger she’s never met in real life, to speak better Danish. And as a bonus, she’s also really fun and interesting to talk to.
When she heard I was coming to Aarhus, she kindly invited my family and I over to her flat, where she and her boyfriend were so welcoming and friendly to us. It was such a thrill to meet her ‘in real life’ after so many months of just knowing each other via video link, and my only regret is that I didn’t think to take a photo of us together when I was there. An excuse to meet up again in the future then, eh, Natasha?!
The following day, I went to meet my fellow blogger Nicole, as well as Carrie and Ioana, who contribute to running the blog and the Taldansk Online project. Up to this point, I’ve only ever conversed with these three fantastic ladies online, so it was such a pleasure to be able to meet up and talk face-to-face. It was a real example to me of how making connections on social media can bring together a like-minded but far-flung group of people who might never otherwise meet. Here I am with my ‘sisters in Danish learning’!
It was awesome – på gensyn, veninder!
And with that, I have reached the conclusion of my ‘Top 5 Conversations’ from my time in Denmark – some longer, some shorter; some more successful than others; some I understood all of, others just enough to get by; but they were all important to me for various reasons.
What about you? What kinds of conversations have been important to you this week and what did they teach you? As always, feel free to share your experiences by leaving a comment below! 🙂