Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Stød: Nails on a Chalkboard

And now, back to your regularly scheduled Danish language talk.

I'm just about halfway through the 6-week program that is Studieskolen's Danish module 1.1, and I'm still feeling really good about it.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that, if you have the means, it might be worth taking the first few weeks of the full-time course even if you're only going to be in Denmark for a month or two.  They pack so much basic Danish into the first few weeks that I already feel so much more comfortable interacting with Danes in my every day life without having to tell them that I don't speak Danish.

The class hasn't been perfect, though.  Today, I thought I'd discuss the few negative thoughts that I have about the program.

I'll start with the teachers.  The problem with my particular class is that there are two teachers.  One on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and a different teacher just on Tuesdays.  I don't think this is the norm, but I also know this isn't all that unusual, as one of the other daytime classes I was offered had the same type of breakdown.  It may not always be a bad thing, as getting different perspectives on the language could be very helpful.  But I find that the Tuesday class isn't as productive.  To be frank, as nice as our Tuesday teacher is, I think it's more about her teaching style in particular.  She's certainly as nice as can be, but she doesn't seem to really listen.  When she asks us a question, she barely gives us enough time to respond before answering the question herself.

I also think that our Tuesday class tends to focus too much on differentiating between the many Danish vowel sounds.  Don't get me wrong, this is important.  But I think it takes a while for the non-Danish speaker's ear to tune in to the differences, and I think it's too early to discuss this as in-depth as she's trying to discuss it.  My opinion is that we need to spend more time on the basics in the first module, and less time trying to process the differences in sounds that we cannot hear yet.

And finally, there are the glottal stops, also known as "stød" in Danish.  Both teachers have discussed the use of the stød in spoken Danish, but our Tuesday teacher seems to be pressing the concept more than the other teacher.  She has, on several occasions, said "In Danish, we use stød every few words."  That's certainly true when Danish is spoken with a Copenhagen accent, but my understanding is that much of the rest of Denmark doesn't use it nearly as much, if at all.  Now, I've barely been outside of Copenhagen since moving here, but I'm under no illusions that Copenhagen is all of Denmark.  And I also feel that Danish pronounced without glottal stops on every other word is just as easily understandable by most Danes.  I'm not saying it shouldn't be taught, as it's clearly important to a lot of Danes, but I think that it's not something that needs to be so heavily stressed in the first module, when we could be learning more useful things.

Not to mention my inner vocalist shudders at the idea of using that many glottal stops in day-to-day life.  My fellow theatre school and vocal training alumni will back me up on this: After all of the time we spent in voice lessons and vocal production classes learning not to use them, as they're terrible for the vocal cords...

It kind of makes me cringe.  Like nails on a chalkboard.


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