Saturday, February 07, 2009

DANISH


Spiekermann House Numbers
Originally uploaded by Stewf
I am not the worst language learner in the world, even if I say so myself. I started French as a small child - primary 4, I think, then German in 2nd year at high school. At uni I first did Italian and then Swedish. Through work I have been forced over the years to confront Spanish and Portuguese. Though I may only be able to speak French, German and Italian, I can certainly read and understand Swedish, Spanish and a wee bit of Portuguese.
That brings me of course to Danish...
When I shared an office with Thomas as mates 6 years ago, I used to listen to him on the phone sometimes to see what I could pick up. He'd mail me the odd link to newspaper articles and with a lot of concentration I could get the gist of them mainly through my very rusty knowledge of Swedish. Over the years I got better and better at reading it but because it isn't pronounced anything like it is written (it is even worse than English and that is saying something), I found it hard to draw the parallel between a written word and its spoken form. For instance the word meget sounds more or less to me (and my French speaking kids) like the French word mal. So why the hell do those weird Danes spell it meget???
Finally, now into my third year of living with a Dane I understand! I know what the written words mean in the newspaper, and when Thomas and his parents sit round my table talking I can follow that too. Result!!!
There are only two problems.
The first is pronunciation. Danish is full of weird sounds and Danes are used to speaking English and less used to English-speaking people attempting Danish. On the odd occasion I attempt a Danish word with Thomas or mention any of his friends by name - he completely demoralizes me by looking totally blank as if I have attempted martian. I mentioned the other day I had been speaking to Lykke on facebook. He had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. Ok, I didn't pronounce it wonderfully but as someone who has tried other languages, French and Germans understand you but laugh no matter how badly you pronounce their language. Danes just look blank. I guess they just aren't used to us foreigners even saying hello :-(
The second major obstacle, and the only point I totally lose the conversation when listening to Danes round the table is numbers. Danes have some weird names for numbers - they are nothing like Swedish or German or English. I have no comprehension whatsoever of Danish numbers. I know the sounds - so I know when they are discussing prices or ages, I just have no clue whatsoever which number they are talking about.
I think I'll start a campaign for a Danish spelling and number reform. And maybe I'll also try to get Thomas to understand foreigners might try a wee bit harder to pronounce it, if he tried a wee bit harder to understand bad pronunciation of Danish!

10 comments:

The Scudder said...

I asked Thomas to teach me a wee bit of Danish too .,., conversational stuff .,., but he seems to have blanked me too !!
And you're now putting me off before I even start :)

Sebastian said...

Dansk udtales trods alt mere skriftnært end fransk, og 'meget' udtales ikke [mal]; men [mα∂∂] (hvor først ∂ er stavelsesbærende - på jysk er udtalen af de sidste to lyd [jd] (beklager - jeg kunne ikke lige finde det ritige symbol, 'j'ets hale skal mod højre).
Jeg kan anbefale en udtaleordbog til hjælp. Eller en fonetik - mon ikke Thomas har Grønnum & Thorsen et sted?

Bare fordi vi har 20-tals-base i talsystemet sammen med 10-base, så er det da ikke uforståeligt ,)

Phyl said...

Yes, of course I know it is pronounced 'mα∂∂' but when you don't have anything like that sound in your own language, you tend to try to find the closest. Where I can hear mα∂∂ but can't say it, my 2 big kids can't even hear it.
As for numbers - they are as crazy as French - except I at least speak that.
And I still don't understand why when I pronounce Italian badly they laugh and reply having understood, same with German or French but if I do the same with Danish Thomas just says he can't even make a guess at what i am saying - it's so like you guys aren't used to foreigners attempting your weird sounds. I have no problem pronouncing Sweidh or Norwegian!

Thomas said...

Just to defend myself: I think I get confused mostly when I don't know you're speaking Danish.
Like when you said you have received a Facebook comment from [ˈlykɐ], I thought it was the Scottish pronunciation of the Italian name Luca ['luːka]. It was only when I realised it was a Danish name that I worked out you meant Lykke ['løg̥ə].

Sebastian said...

Selvfølgelig har du da et ∂[dumme browser, der ikke vil skrive lyden - du ved hvad det var for én, forhåbentlig] i dit lydforråd - hvad med første lyd i 'though'? For mig lyder og produceres de ens, på dansk kan den kun være sidst i en stavelse, på engelsk vel kun først, ikk'?

Ingen idé om, hvorfor danskere ikke forstår dit dansk - måske skulle du prøve at snakke norsk/svensk til os?

Sebastian said...

Så måske bliver du ikke forstået på dansk, fordi det ikke forventes, at du taler dansk. Faktisk meget plausibelt, synes jeg.

Thomas said...

Dansk edh og engelsk edh er meget forskellige, selvom de for danskere lyder ens. Den danske lyd er nærmest et velært /l/, hvor tungespidsen rører tænderne i undermunden.

Sebastian said...

Åh! Det er for sjældent jeg beskæftiger mig ordentligt med artikulatorisk lingvistik, tak.

Lykken... said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lykken... said...

Hahaha...Phyllis, du har helt ret!
Det danske sprog er ganske ulogisk, både i forhold til stavning vs. udtalelse, og tal.

Jeg tror, jeg var ca. 10-11 år gammel, før jeg kunne finde rundt i den danske måde at sige tal på, fordi det var helt ulogiske for mig at læse fra højre mod venstre.
De engelske tal var derimod hurtigt lært, for de er så at sige i almindelig læseretning ;)

Hvad angår mit navn, ja, så er du ikke den første, der har udtalt det forkert.
- Og det gør mig absolut ingenting ;-)
Da vi boede i Nordengland og Skotland præsenterede jeg mig selv om Luca, for det kommer i udtalen temmeligt tæt på den rigtige udtale, og jeg kan stadig genkende navnet og reagere på det...

Jeg lagde godt mærke til, at du forstod det meste af det danske, vi talte, sidst I kiggede forbi.
Det er superflot!

- Bliv bare ved - og få det brugt i tale også, selvom vi danskere ser desorienterede ud.
Det behøver jo ikke at være perfekt udtalt hver gang...