Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Danish

Copenhagen by PhylB
Copenhagen, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.

I'm feeling a tad frustrated on the Danish front... 

When Thomas and I first got together we visited Denmark several times a year and saw his parents often. That meant I was often immersed in a Danish-speaking environment and it seemed only natural that I would eventually be as fluent in it as I am in French. 

There have been several hurdles however. Changes to our financial circumstances since the big crash in 2007, coinciding with Thomas's parents getting rid of their large manse in Denmark have meant that we rarely go there now as meeting them in Italy, where they have a house makes more sense than meeting them in Denmark in a one bedroom flat. When a trip to Denmark is called-for it usually makes more sense for Thomas to go alone as seven flights are dear and there is nowhere we can stay. While good friends and family could, at a pinch, be asked to find floor space for us all for one or two nights, the cost of seven flights makes such a short stay completely unviable. Often in the old days we would take the opportunity to visit Denmark whenever the three biggies visited their gran in France. Many people are perhaps not aware that I now have full custody of the three older kids and they no longer visit their father or grandmother, so we are now always a package of seven, for better, or for worse. So I don't ever find myself in a Danish-speaking country. I was last there nearly four years ago.

We've also been seeing fewer Danes here. I guess at first they were curious but I can't remember the last time someone other than family was over. Maybe we overwhelm with our numbers! We have a large family and so does Thomas's sister so sadly a long weekend every couple of years is about the extent of our socializing with them. It is sad that the cousins have little opportunity to get to know each other. Thomas's parents seem to dropping by less often too. This year we had on so much work in the company during the school break, and we are tied to that for any trips we make, that we were unable to visit any of them so I think my all-Danish immersion periods this year can't number much more than about 10-12 days.

We have managed to watch two series of Borgen and all of Matador (without subtitles I hasten to add!) and I have done quite a bit of translation work for Syddansk Universitet. And of course all Thomas's conversations with the three youngest kids take place in Danish too but the level of language isn't exactly challenging and the topics seldom vary! I could expertly tell Léon to sit on his bum while he's eating, or remember to use his knife but I'm not sure those skills are overly transferable on the social front! The problem is that none of these pastimes are active, they all involve passive use of the language - listening to it, reading it, translating it and so I feel my ability to converse, interact and write Danish are all stagnating horribly. It is terribly frustrating. I am often commissioned for translation work by email. I receive and instantly understand what I am being asked to do but I feel I can't reply as I have never learned to write grammatically correct Danish so replying in Danish would frighten people off but explaining that I am competent enough to translate a series of children's books from Danish to English (one of the things I have done this year) but not capable of replying to their email correctly is a hard one!

I have a feeling that if I spent a year in Denmark or Thomas's parents spent six months in Scotland I could get somewhere but as it is I am probably destined to feel forever tongue-tied in a language I understand almost fully. I could try switching to Danish while talking to Thomas himself but our discussions are too deep and fast moving for me to keep up on anything other than the mundane. I'll probably be a grumpy pensioner one day, being laughed at by my own children for my eccentric and incomprehensible pronunciations... oh wait a minute I already am!

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