Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Studieskolen - Module 2, Back to School


Module 2.

Class started Monday, we this time the classes are longer, but only 3 days a week.

So far so good.  It mostly feels like a continuation of module 1, since we're in the same room with the same teacher, and almost all of the same students.  We have a few new people, and a handful who didn't continue with us for one reason or another, but it's mostly the same.

We're starting to get a bit more into the nitty-gritty of Danish grammar, and that's good.  I wish there was a bit more focus on vocabulary, but that's probably just me being impatient.

I've found it kind of funny that the few Danish speaking people who I've told that I passed module 1 have assumed that I am now pretty much fluent.  From friends to my hairdresser, as soon as I passed the module 1 test, they started speaking to me and sending emails in Danish that were way beyond my current skill level.

I think it's easy to forget how long it really does take to get to a conversational level.  I'm definitely not there.  I can understand most of what my teacher says, but that's because she knows what she's taught us, and tries not to stray too far from that when she speaks to us in Danish.

We've been told that module 2 is longer than module 1.  Twice as long, in fact.  So it won't be until December that we take our test for module 2.  My impatience to be fluent made that news a bit frustrating.

But they know better than I do how long it takes to learn the language.  Best to trust the professionals.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Studieskolen - Module 1.1, THE TEST

Today was the big test to see if I would move on to module 2 in Danish at Studieskolen.  Here's how the whole thing went down, in as much detail as I can remember:

Since the module 1 test is a spoken test, the teacher gave each of us a 10 minute time slot.  My test was scheduled for 11:50, so I spent the morning doing some last minute studying, and writing down key words for the stories we were supposed to talk about (we were allowed to bring one page of notes containing key words into the test).

I left my place by bike around 11:40 and was home again by 12:05.  The test itself took a total of 8 minutes, and seemed much shorter.  For a big test, it was an awfully small test.

Walking into the test, I was feeling mostly confident, but with that little, irritating voice in my head whispering "Don't choke..."

The teacher had me pick from a few overturned scraps of paper on a desk, on which were written either "A" or "B."  The letters indicated whether we were supposed to tell her about our day-to-day life, or tell her about our families.

I pulled an "A."

I decided it couldn't hurt to start with a bit of humor, so I spoke about how I wake up at 6am, when my husband gets up for work... and then go back to sleep.  Until 9am.  Once that got a laugh, I started feeling like I was going to be okay.  I went on to tell her about how I study Danish, and how I make dinner during the week, but my husband cooks on the weekends.  She seemed amused by that as well.

Next, it was time to talk about the little stories we'd read in our textbook, for which I'd spent the morning writing out key words.  She chose to have me talk about Katrine's family.  So, I spoke a bit about Katrine's half-brother, whose father is an artist in India, and who moved out when he was 16 because he didn't get along with Katrine's father.

These are not the kinds of stories we read when I was learning Spanish in high school.

And I hear the stories get more and more tragic as the classes get more advanced.

Finally, the teacher had some cartoons taken from our workbook, and we had to figure out the dialogue for each picture.  That wasn't all that difficult either, which meant...


She then handed me a slip of paper with the details for starting module 2, and we chatted briefly about the class itself.  It was really nice to hear her talk about what a smart, nice, balanced class we were.

I have to say, I completely agree.  I'm not sure I've ever been in a class where everyone seemed to like each other so much and be so genuinely curious to get to know everyone else.  I guess that's just how it is with expats.

On to Module 2 on Monday!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Studieskolen - Module 1.1, Week 5 of 6

Less than a week to go until the end of module 1 in my Danish classes at Studieskolen.

Providing I pass the test, that is.

What I know of the test itself so far is very little.  It will be a spoken test consisting partially of re-telling a couple of stories from some texts we were given over the last two weeks, and possibly some talking about ourselves (where we're from, what we do, etc.).

In yesterday's class, we were told to turn to a page in our books that had a page of text and read through it looking for anything we didn't understand.  My first instinct when I opened to the page was to be overwhelmed and assume I wouldn't understand much.

I was actually completely floored by how much I did understand.  A few words and phrases stumped me, but not really enough that I didn't get the context of the story.  As disastrous as my previous attempts at learning Danish were, I really didn't expect to have much luck with this method either.

It feels pretty good to be wrong sometimes.

I certainly can't pick up a Danish newspaper and understand any of the stories yet, but the progress doesn't seem to be slowing at all.

In fact, providing I manage to pass the test on Wednesday, I move right onto module 2 the following Monday.

I'll spend the weekend cramming, and we'll see how it goes.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

"9/10 of the Way to Fun"

There's a word in Denmark that we don't have in English, and it's so prevalent here that it's basically a preferred way of life.

The word in Danish is "hyggelig" (pronounced kind of like WHO-glee)

The word roughly translates to a sense of coziness.  Like getting together with friends, lighting some candles, having some drinks and conversation. Hyggelig.  When everything is just nice.

Or, as my husband likes to call it, "9/10 of the way to fun."

This concept of hyggelig is one of the things that makes Denmark a great place to settle down and have a family.  But it may also be why some people find Denmark to be a little bit dull.

On Friday night, we went to a "garden party" at the home of one of my husband's colleagues.  It was supposed to be exclusively a work party, but they made a very kind exception for me, as I actually haven't met many Danes since moving here.  Most of the people I know are expats.

There was a tent set up in the back, under which were two long tables to sit at, and a table loaded full of food provided by the office cafeteria (office cafeterias in Denmark often put up amazing food, and this was certainly the case on Friday night).

Lots of food, plenty of wine and beer, a sing-along of a Russian song along with a shared shot of some kind of pear schnapps, as well as really nice conversation with a bunch of Danes... it was an evening rife with hyggelig.  It wasn't a party where people were rocking out to loud music, or hooking up, or drinking so much that they got sick (at least not while we were there).  It was a party where everything was just... nice.

The older I get, the more this is all I really need from a social gathering.  I guess that makes moving to Denmark a pretty good idea.

It also didn't hurt that, on the few occasions that I spoke a few words in Danish to the Danes at the party, they seemed really impressed with my pronunciation.  Feels pretty good to hear after only a month of classes.

Now I just have to work on remembering all of the words.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pronunciation Problems

When I was back in America, there were a few standard questions that I was asked every time I told someone that I was moving to Denmark.  One stood out as the most common question.

Is Danish a difficult language to learn?

At the time, I would laugh at what an understatement it was to call it difficult.  If you've never heard Danish spoken before, here's a sample from the original Danish version of the TV show "The Killing" (known as "Forbydelsen" in Denmark).  For comparison, the guy on the phone is speaking Swedish, while the man and woman in the field are speaking Danish:

It's definitely a difficult language.  Though, my own experience hasn't been nearly as rough as I expected it to be.  After several failed attempts when I was back in Boston, I was worried that I was going to seriously struggle.

I seem to be doing alright, though.

What I found especially interesting this week, though, was how the level of difficulty varies a lot depending on what language you were brought up speaking.

I recently wrote about how I felt that our Tuesday teacher spent too much time focusing on the minutia of pronunciation, and not the broader picture (vocabulary, grammar, etc.).  Turns out, quite a few of my classmates prefer the focus on the pronunciation details, as the pronunciation is what trips them up most.

For me, my own memory is what trips me up.  I can say the words, I just have to remember what the word is and which pronunciation is used, and then I seem to be okay.

On Tuesday this week, the teacher mentioned that she would not be teaching us on Tuesdays for the next module, as she'll be giving classes focusing only on pronunciation.  And not only that, there are different pronunciation classes for people from different countries.

It makes sense, but I'd never considered it: being brought up speaking some languages gives folks different speaking habits than others.

So, the teacher is teaching one pronunciation class for Asian students, and another for those brought up speaking Slavic languages.  The Russian girl in my class seems incredibly relieved, and said that while she knows how the words are supposed to sound in her head, she's realized that her mouth doesn't know how to make those sounds.  It's a matter of muscle memory, I think.

For me, I think I'll skip the pronunciation classes for now.  My focus is going to be on forcing myself to remember all of the words and phrases we've learned, and using the various grammar rules.

The good news is that, much like getting a song stuck in my head, I find myself getting Danish phrases stuck in my head fairly regularly.

It's either a sign that I'm learning, or a sign that I'm losing it.

Either way... Fun!