Saturday, November 24, 2012

How to Learn Danish From Your Dog

I don't think I realized how rarely I actually spoke to Danes until I started speaking to them every day.

In fact, the only times I really even heard Danish spoken was either by my classmates and teacher in my Danish classes, or when I overheard conversations while out and about.  I would generally tune out the latter, assuming I wouldn't understand anyway.

Now, however, Danes come up to me and start conversations almost every day.

How have I achieved this sudden conversational miracle?  After all, Danes are not known for being terribly outgoing while amongst strangers (unless they've had a few drinks, but that's true of anyone).

Here's the secret:  Find yourself a tiny, adorable puppy (He's so adorable that he now has his own YouTube channel).

I take my high energy puppy out for a walk 3 times a day, so I have conversations with strangers every day now.  And since they're the ones starting the conversation, and I'm tall and blonde, they have no reason to assume that I am not Danish.

Now, I'll be honest, a lot of the time I still have to stop them and explain that my Danish isn't very good.  But if I understand what they're asking, and know the answer in Danish, I'm actually able to have short conversations in Danish!

Granted, I hear a lot of the same phrases every day.  "Han er så sød!" is the most common.  It means, "He is so cute!"  I also commonly hear questions about how old he is, and if it's a boy or a girl, and what kind of dog is he.  Just being able to respond to a few simple questions has helped to boost my confidence and also seem to be helping me to tune my ear to everyday Danish as well.  While I can't always respond, and I still don't understand a lot of the words that people are saying, I find that I am suddenly having more luck with understanding the gist of what people are saying.

In my mind, this is one of the biggest reasons that it's so difficult to learn Danish while outside of Denmark.  The sound of the language is so different from what folks outside of Scandinavia are used to that it takes some getting used to.  And unless you hear a lot of different people speaking the language on a regular basis, this can be extremely difficult to do.

So, my advice if you find yourself in Denmark and don't have a lot of Danish colleagues or university classmates to listen to:

Get yourself a tiny adorable dog.  Like this one:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Updated Comment Policy

Hello all!  A reader recently brought to my attention that it was quite difficult to comment on my blog posts.  In response, I've decided to open up commenting on my blog to everyone!

I do reserve the right to change the comment policy again if things get too spammy or trolly, of course.

Feel free to re-read and comment on old posts!

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Shortest "Must See in Copenhagen" List Ever

My in-laws were in town this weekend, visiting from England.  They'd been here once before, so it was actually a little bit difficult to think of things to show them.

That may sound strange.  European capital city, tons to do, right?  Well, sort of.

Copenhagen is a lovely city, with plenty to see.  But it doesn't have the spectacular sights that many other European capital cities have.  The few sights that it does have can usually be seen within a day or two:

- The Little Mermaid statue (which most people are generally disappointed by for one reason or another.  It's either too small, too large, too close to shore, surrounded by too many tourists, etc.),  Probably best seen from one of the boat tours that leave from Nyhavn, as you can then also take in some of Copenhagen's interesting modern architecture (The opera house, the "black diamond" library, etc.)

- Nyhavn (meaning "new port" in Danish, this is a line of bars and restaurants lining the lovely port seen in the background of this blog); as I mentioned above, you can hop on a boat tour from here, or you can eat or have a beer at one of the cafes.  In the warmer months, the locals bring their own beer and sit along the water, while the tourists generally sit in the (more expensive) cafes.

- Helsingør (better known to Shakespeare readers as Elsinore, or Hamlet's home town) can be reached by taking a quick train north.  The castle there is lovely, and the town center is also quite nice.

- Christiania (Copenhagen's hippy commune); I actually haven't been yet.  I have no good excuse other than that I've had other than that I've had other priorities, but my Danish teacher mentioned possibly taking us there for the final module 2 class, which is after we've had our test.

- Noma (foodies will recognize this as one of the best restaurants in the world, with prices and a reservation wait list that reflect this); this is another place that I have yet to see for myself.  Maybe some day.

- Strøget, or The Walking Street; this is the shopping center in Copenhagen.  Lots of stores (both local and international) and lots of restaurants and cafes.  During the day, it's almost always packed with people.  I prefer to walk it at dusk or after dark, when there's a little more room to breath.

- Tivoli; I almost forgot this one, which is silly considering I was just there last week.  Tivoli is the 2nd oldest amusement park in the world, opened in 1843.  Wikipedia tells me that the oldest is also here in Denmark, but Tivoli is the one to see.  When I was there last week, they were just setting it up for the Christmas season, and it was really nice.  Christmas decor is so much more tasteful here in Denmark than it tends to be in the US.

Like any capital city, Copenhagen has lovely art museums, and like most European cities it also has its palaces and castles that are worth a look.  And I'm sure there are plenty of sights that I've missed.  But these are the top few, in my mind.

When it comes right down to it, though, Copenhagen's culture of "hyggelig," or coziness, makes it more of a nice place to settle down and live, rather than an exciting city to spend a week-long holiday.

It doesn't help that it's an extremely expensive city, making shopping and eating out every day a bit of a financial burden.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Theater and The Theatre

I took in some light-hearted culture this week.

I really enjoy going to the movies and to the theatre, but I haven't had much chance to since moving to Denmark.

In fact, on Sunday I went to the movies for the first time since we arrived.  My husband and I decided to have a date day, and went off to the Palads Teatret in central Copenhagen to see Skyfall before going to dinner.  I had to ask my classmates the following day about some of the differences in going to the movies here.  Turns out, America is the oddball when it comes to seating in movie theaters.  In America, you buy your ticket and then go sit wherever you want.  I was surprised by the assigned seating here in Denmark, but it turns out that's the norm in many other places as well.  I have to say, I kind of like it.  No need to worry about getting to the theater an hour early to get a good seat for a popular movie.  The screen and theater itself were also far smaller than what I'm used to.  It felt more like going to see an independent movie at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Boston.

In class on Monday morning, a classmate asked if I had any interest in going to see the Crazy Christmas Cabaret in Tivoli on Tuesday night.  I didn't know anything about the show, but I'm always up for a trip to the theatre.  It turns out that the Crazy Christmas Cabaret is in its 30th year.  It's an English language comedy show that has become extremely popular.  This years theme was Hitchcock movies, and my classmate and I had a good time.  The show was silly and completely ridiculous, but fun.

The biggest downside, though... the woman sitting in the seat directly behind me who thought EVERYTHING that happened on the stage was the most hilarious thing that she'd ever seen.  That in itself wouldn't bother me, but her laugh... I've never heard anything like it.  Her laugh alone was louder than the combined laughs of the rest of the audience.  There were moments when it was clear that the actors on stage were struggling to keep focus.  Good for her for clearly enjoying life more than most people, but... yeesh.

All of that being said, I did enjoy my movie- and theatre-going experiences this week.  I enjoyed them enough that I might just hit up a matinee in an hour or so.

Don't judge me for going to see Breaking Dawn on opening day...

Or do.  That's fine.  I deserve it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Giving an Early Thanks

Today, everything feels like a huge relief.

With the American election finally over, and Obama re-elected to 4 more years as president, plus the passage of some really great, really progressive legislation, I have this feeling that everything is going to be okay.

It also helps that today felt like a really positive day at Studieskolen

It's been a while since I've posted an update about my Danish classes.  As I've just come to the end of the first half of module 2 (also known as module 2.1), I feel like things are going really well.

I have to say, I'm enjoying class quite a bit now.  Maybe it's because we can all speak enough Danish to make jokes, or maybe I'm just enjoying the fact that I can now read (with the help of a dictionary or the occasional check of Google Translate) some short Danish novellas.  Either way, I feel really focused and as though I'm making progress.

It probably helps that I've managed to get a lot more sleep this week than I did last week, now that I'm only having to get up once in the middle of the night to take the puppy out.  And that the puppy has been amazingly well-behaved today.

So, a big thank you to my classmates for being warm and kind and funny.  And a big thank you to our puppy, Wooster, for behaving so well.

Most importantly, of course, thank you to everyone who voted in the American election yesterday.

Today, it feels like I can breath easier.