Can he suffer music?

A lot of languages have gendered nouns and articles. For an English speaker, this is difficult. Gender is only relevant to your doctor and the person you’re sleeping with. Why does a book need to have a gender? Why does a table need gender?

French has made me familiar with the concept at least. Un livre is a male book. Une fleur is a female flower. Sometimes the e on the end of the word gives a hint (ordinateur is male, basse is female), but as you can see from the book and flower example, that’s not really reliable at all. All you can do is memorize as many pronouns as possible and hope for the best. French and Spanish speakers will recognize me as a foreigner no matter how fluent I get, because I’ll never stop mixing up the genders. It’s a mistake not even a child would make in their native language.

Now we come to Danish. They have the “common gender” and the “neuter gender”. Not only does that not make sense, it makes me wonder  exactly what Danes do in bed.

Here’s another fun one.

“Kan han lide musik?”

Does he like music? Or rather “Can he like music?” But you could also translate it as “Can he suffer music?” because “like” is the same word as “suffer”. This might be another key to the Danish psyche. They don’t like things, they’re simply willing to suffer them. When the men in white with clipboards come around asking Danes if they like their lives, they all say yes even if they’re suffering. I assume this is how they earned the title of “Happiest Nation on Earth” for 50 years running even though they never get to pillage anymore.

Words for feelings

Danish lessons continue here, where I’m learning about Mette’s new boyfriend, and how difficult men are to buy presents for.

“Mænd bliver aldrig glade for sko,” imparts her friend, after she suggests that she might get him some new shoes. This means, “Men are never happy for new shoes.”

“I just don’t understand him”, says Mette, or “Jeg forstår ham bare ikke.”

“How can one walk in the same shoes for years without getting tired of them?” which is “Hvordan kan man gå rundt i de samme sko i årevis uden at blive træt af dem?”

Yes indeed, Mette, I feel your pain. Men are difficult to get presents for. While I was learning these new words, I started thinking about how languages evolve and how vague concepts become concrete, known phenomena when we invent words for them. Like, you know that feeling when you’re in a cheap motel? Like maybe you were on your way someplace more interesting, on your way to an adventure or to meet with friends or just go home, but you got caught by the rain. Or the ferry was full. Or you had been driving for 14 hours straight and your head started to nod, then you came awake with an snap, still in your lane and driving straight, but with your panicky heart beating twice as fast, and your eyelids starting to close again anyway…

Okay, so you’re in that shitty motel. The room is cheap, yet still twice as much as it looks like it’s worth. There might be other people there, but you won’t see them. You take a long shower, just for something to do, and watch TV for the first time in several years. You turn it off after about seven minutes, because the commercial that was playing when you turned it on hasn’t ended yet.

You listen to the silence and it starts to close in.

What’s the word for that?

Maybe Danish has a word for it. I need to get back to learning.

 

 

How to learn a language when your attention span is shorter than a puppy’s

I don’t know if there’s a standard best way of learning a new language, other than immersion. I’ve tried French and Spanish so far, and although I can read both languages well enough to navigate French and Spanish countries, I’m nowhere close to fluent. So I can’t tell you what the most effective learning method is, but I’m guessing it doesn’t matter that much as long as you practice a lot.

Therefore, the best method is one that you can do every day without dying of impatience or boredom.

For learning Danish, I’ve looked at some podcasts like this one – Copenhagencast. I didn’t like that one much. The lady speaks so slowly that I get bored waiting for her to get to the next word. I’m doing this in the morning over coffee on my way to work, so my attention span is good for about 20 minutes tops. When I went looking for a lesson that would get moving a little quicker, I found this, One Minute Danish Lessons. The title is a lie – the lessons are three or four minutes long, and they waste the first thirty seconds of each episode with some stupid music and an explanation of the one-minute-lesson concept. It’s the same explanation every time. I really didn’t need to hear it more than once. I haven’t gotten to the end of one of those lessons yet, even though they are only three or four minutes.

I’ve got some comic books and kids stories to read as well, but I’m not even at that level yet. Looking up every word is difficult when you’ve got a coffee cup in one hand.

These aren’t complaints. Learning Danish is hard work, there’s no way around that. But I only want to do the language learning work, not get distracted by things like coffee cups and stupid music. So this is just looking for the path forward.

This might be a start: SpeakDanish. You can play each short phrase of a conversation over and over again, fast and slow, with the Danish text and English text right next to each other. This won’t be enough on it’s own, I don’t think. I’ll probably have to write the phrases down as well to stick them in my mind. But I can play the phrases while I’m eating breakfast. Now to find out if I can get my job to pay for the license fee.

Also – here’s the section about swearing. It’s free, enjoy!

 

Morgenkys

I’m learning Danish. When I learned French, they started us on colors and seasons, then moved on to verb conjugations. It was pretty dull. The first Danish I’ve learned is “morgenkys”. It means morning kiss. That is what happens in the morning during traffic when cars are too close together and they bump into each other.

I’ve also learned “skjold” which is shield, “sværd” which is sword, and “svært” which is hard, from a story about Thor that I read in Danish refugee school. One other word “ikke”, I haven’t figured out what it means yet except it seems to be a negation.

“Burkabilist” means burka driver, and refers to the people who wear burkas while they’re driving, even though they are not supposed to because it restricts their visibility. I suspect that this is a racist word.

“Motorvejen” means motorway, and the pronunciation is the same as English, despite the odd choices they’ve made about spelling.