Thursday, January 31, 2013

Studieskolen - Module 3.1, What's This? Another Test?

There I was, plugging away at my Danish classes, when out of the blue...

An unexpected test.

Okay, it wasn't entirely unexpected.  Our Thursday/Friday warned us last week that we would be having a test to move forward from module 3.1 to module 3.2.  She didn't, however, specify when until earlier this week.  And the test was to be today (Thursday).  She also didn't tell our Monday/Wednesday teacher what kinds of things would be on the test, so that we knew what to study.

So, it was a big giant mystery when we arrived in class today.  I was feeling fairly confident that I understood that grammar that we'd learned so far, until she handed back some recent homework and I realized that I'd gotten about 80% of it wrong.

While some of the previously taught grammatical rules are becoming more and more clear, we've started to learn more that seem to tie my head into knots.

Thursdays are always a little bit tougher than other days, with class the day before followed by a cappella rehearsals at night.  I find myself rushing through the homework without really focusing on what I'm doing.

Something to work on, for sure.

Oh, and have I mentioned that the puppy is going through a phase where he's forgotten how to sleep through the night?

My husband brought home ear plugs today.  Maybe a full night's sleep will help solve the concentration problems I've had in class lately.

When in doubt, blame the dog.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Studieskolen - Module 3.1, Words, Words, Words

I'm a little over two weeks into module 3 now.

So far, so... okay.

I'm still following along well enough, but I still have a tough time deciphering our younger teacher's accent.

The good news is, from what I can tell, we've basically learned all of the major grammatical rules.  It seems that module 3 focuses more on expanding our vocabulary and solidifying the grammar rules that we've learned.  And the latter is certainly working for me.  Rules that I'd learned in module 2 but had always had a tough time remembering seem to be making more sense to me now.  And I'm glad to be finally learning more words.

Danish is a much more compact language than English.  While some sources claim that English has over 1 million words, Danish has 150,000 at the most.  I think one major difference is that English has a lot more words that are obsolete, while Danish uses a far higher percentage of its words on a regular basis.

Pronunciation is still a bit of an issue for all of us in the class.  We can all understand each other fairly well, but Danes (our younger teacher specifically) seems to have a tough time understanding us some of the time.  Danish is not a language spoken by foreigners very often, so Danes often have a hard time understanding the language when it's spoken with any kind of accent, no matter how subtle.

There are some words in Danish, though, that make a lot of sense and should be considered for stealing by the English language.  For example, the Danish word for "mother" is "mor" and the word for "father" is "far."  Simple enough.  And then they take it a step further with grandparents.  Your mother's mother? "Mormor."  Mother's father? "Morfar."  And of course, "farfar" and "farmor."  It makes so much sense, and saves time from having to clarify if you're talking about your "maternal grandmother" or "paternal grandmother."

On an unrelated note, this is the Facebook page for the Copenhagen Rugby League Football Club.  "Like" it!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

5 Things I Wish Were Easier to Find in Denmark

So many things that seem commonplace back home home in America seem weirdly and unnecessarily difficult to find here in Denmark.

I've already posted my rant about how difficult it is to get cold medicines that aren't someone's grandmother's home remedy packaged and sold at the local Matas.

But there's more.  Here are a few:

1.  Painkillers:  Sure, you can go to the local apotek and pick up some painkillers there, but they're much milder.  And as I mentioned in my last post, if you don't live near a 24-hour apotek and happen to have a horrible headache or backache or whatever, and it's past 6pm... you're kind of our of luck.  

2.  Office supplies:  I was looking for binders today so that I could organize my music for my a cappella rehearsals, so I hopped onto Google, expecting to find something like a Staples or an OfficeMax like I would find all over the place back home.  No luck.  So, I jumped into the Facebook group dedicated to Americans living in Denmark and asked them.  They suggested a few websites that sell office supplies online only, or suggested I go to a bookstore.  I ended up finding a few flimsy ones at a local Tiger (which is similar to a Dollar Store back home), but I don't think they'll last very long.

3.  All of your groceries in one store:  There are 4 grocery stores near me, all clustered in a two-block area.  Plus several convenience stores.  I find that I go into 3 of them on a regular basis, sometimes in the same shopping run.  There's really no reason why they shouldn't just all combine into one big store and have everything all in one place.  And that right there is me sounding like a spoiled American wishing everything was like Walmart... Oops.  I don't wish they were like Walmart at all, actually.  I wish they were like Wegman's.

4.  Real nachos:  I've mentioned this before, back in this post.  I've been to 3 restaurants in Copenhagen that have served Doritos with cheddar cheese and called them nachos.  This must be stopped.  It's so bad that I don't even want to try the nachos at other restaurants, for fear of losing it and chastising some poor waiter/waitress.  Seriously, though... This is what nachos are supposed to look like.  Work on it, Denmark.

I recognize that some of these things become a bigger issue than they would be otherwise because I don't have a car.  It would, for example, be no big deal to hop in a car and drive the few kilometers to the nearest 24-hour pharmacy, or to head out to Føtex (which is as close to a Walmart-like store that they have here), but a car is out of the picture.  The reason for that is my number 5 on the list:

5.  Reasonably-priced cars:  It's not the cars in Denmark that are expensive.  It's the registration fees.  A car can easily cost you twice the list price or more just because of the fees to put the car legally on the road here in Denmark.  I'm not saying I'm complaining, exactly.  To be honest, not having to buy gas or worry about driving a car in the snow, or if the car will break down... it's a huge relief.  And the public transportation system here is the cream of the crop.  But sometimes... it would just be nice to be able to hop into a car, hit a store a few miles away, and head back home.  All within a span of 10 minutes.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Post in Three Acts

Hold on to your hats, 'cause this is gonna be a long one.  So long that I've split it up into 3 acts (one of which is a fun announcement, so it's worth reading all of them).

Act I - Forced Home Remedies

Having a cold in Denmark is a pain in the ass.  In America, I would head over to the 24-hour convenience store and pick up a bottle of NyQuil and some cough drops, and I'd be good to go.  Unfortunately, they don't sell NyQuil, at your local corner store here.  And while they might have something similar at the local "apotek" or pharmacy, the pharmacies keep hours like most places in Denmark... they close by 6pm.

So last night, when it was 9pm and I was hacking up a lung, I didn't really know how to proceed.  I've had this nagging cold for a few weeks now, but it's gotten worse over the past week, to the point where tea and cough drops aren't cutting it anymore.  Some quick Googling told me that there are a few 24-hour pharmacies in and around Copenhagen, but the closest one is 3 kilometers away.  That wouldn't have seemed like much if I still had a car, but with a bad cough and temps below freezing, riding my bike there struck me as possibly counterproductive.

As luck would have it, my husband happened to be visiting a friend who had some cold medicine in his medicine cabinet that he was willing to part with, so I managed to finally get a bit of sleep last night.

I can't speak to how the prescription meds are here, but I can say that it's not easy to get over-the-counter stuff that isn't basically someone's grandmother's herbal remedy.  Today, when stores opened again, my husband went out and bought some kind of liquid that smells like licorice and is mixed with water, and made me some tea made from thyme.  Will they work?  Unlikely.  Will they taste good?  Nope.

Act II - Studieskolen Redemption

Earlier in the week, I was feeling a bit pessimistic about my new Danish class because of this.  Well, just as I'd hoped, the woman who will be teaching the class on Thursdays and Fridays is absolutely wonderful.  She's been teaching at the school basically her entire career, and really knows what she's doing.

So, I'm still not convinced that I'll learn much on Mondays and Wednesdays, but I'm hoping I can make up for it by learning everything I need to know later in the week.

Act III - The Announcement

I think I neglected to give an update on how my audition went after posting this.

It went poorly.

I was exhausted, nervous, and had just biked to their rehearsal space in the rain.  I had worked really hard to warm my voice up enough, and to try to learn the Swedish for one of the auditions songs, and then promptly forgot everything I'd learned.  They were extraordinarily nice and patient with me, but it really wasn't good.  I knew I could do better, but I knew I was only getting that one shot.  I blew it.


Turns out I didn't actually blow it.  They called me earlier this week and told me they'd chosen me and one other girl.  So... Hey, I'm in an a cappella group now!

We had our first rehearsal on Wednesday, and despite this plague that I'm working through, I think it went pretty well.  I'll try to post in advance when we have shows coming up.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Studieskolen - Module 3.1, First Impression Fail

The good news is that I have two teachers for this module (a guy who is new to Studieskolen on Mondays and Wednesdays, and a woman on Thursdays and Fridays who has been teaching there for many years).

The bad news?

The new guy hasn't started out on good footing as far as first impressions go.

Now, keep in mind that the class schedule has been in writing and available to students since maybe November or December.  And I can only assume that this schedule was agreed upon by both the teachers and the administration...

So, there isn't really any reason why the teacher should have been unclear as to which days of the week he was teaching.  Apparently, he thought he was teaching on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so after we'd sat outside our locked classroom for 15 minutes, and someone finally went down to the office to find out what was up, the teacher rushed into school.  Entirely unprepared to teach.

And maybe it's because he was so unprepared, and was flustered about the confusion and showing up more than half an hour late... But he seemed to be extremely awkward.  He spent the entire class sitting at a table in front of the room, and seemed frustrated when students would ask him to go to the board to spell a word or phrase.

The biggest issue to start, though, is that his Danish is much less clear than our previous teacher.  Now, I think this will be a good thing in the long run.  It sounds like he speaks much more standard Copenhagen Danish, as opposed to the Danish of someone who's been teaching the language to foreigners for 20+ years.  It's harder to understand him, but it will be good to tune my ear to his pronunciation, so that I'll have an easier time understanding people out and about in the city.

So, here's hoping that he's more prepared and less nervous on Wednesday.

And here's hoping that our Thursday/Friday teacher can pick up the slack if he's not.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Studieskolen - Module 3.1, Irrational Incredulity

After a 3-week holiday break, I'm heading back to Danish class later this morning.

As I start module 3, I'll admit that I'm a little bit apprehensive.  For a few reasons:

First, this will be my first class with a different teacher.  The teacher that we had for modules 1 and 2 was really great, and I learned really easily through her teaching style.  I have this (mostly irrational) fear that I was only doing well in Danish before because her style of teaching worked for me.  There's no reason to worry about something like that, and in a few hours I'm sure I will decide that I was being silly.  But the worry is there nonetheless.

It should be noted that all of my apprehension is equally irrational, if not more so.  For example, I worry that I'm not as up-to-speed as I should be, despite easily passing the module 2 exam, and that makes no sense at all.  But we've all had that dream where we show up somewhere and are expected to know something, but don't.  So we're forced to fake it.  I have more experience having that stress dream than I do with being a Danish speaker, so some part of my brain expects that scenario.

See?  Irrational.

And then finally, there's this weird rewiring of my own concept of myself that needs to start happening.  Sure, I took Spanish in middle and high school, but I certainly didn't learn enough to consider myself bilingual.  Some insecure part of me thinks that there's a ceiling to the amount of any foreign language that I can learn and that I'm nearing that ceiling.  To expect myself to be fluent in any language other than English is simply not something I'd ever planned on, so I've never looked at myself as someone who would be able to do so.

Is it possibly to be irrationally incredulous?

Because I am.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Food, Glorious Food...Sometimes

In the spirit of helping you keep your New Years resolutions to lose weight or eat less, or just generally think about food less... Here's a post about food in Denmark.

It may or may not actually help at all.

Since my perspective is that of an American, I can really only compare Danish food to American.  So, don't be surprised if you don't agree with my opinions on some things.

If you've been reading for a while, or if you've managed to scroll all the way back to my first few months of posting, you might remember this post.  Since moving here, I've had plenty of smørrebrød, and I have to admit... I've come around to it.  Not the pickled herring.  I still hate the pickled herring.  But otherwise, I'm a fan.  It's filling, fairly healthy, not too expensive... As far as eating a lunch out in Copenhagen, it's definitely the way to go.

Before we moved here, my husband warned me that he had been pretty disappointed in the food options when he'd lived here before we met.  In America, we've got this culture of eating out a lot, no matter the budget, so you can pretty easily find something decent in whatever price range you want.  Denmark, however, is just starting to have more of a restaurant culture, perhaps thanks in part to Noma (a fancy pants restaurant here in Copenhagen) being called the best restaurant in the world for a few years running.

It's easy enough to get amazing food in Copenhagen if you're willing to spend a lot of money.  Finding a more reasonably priced meal, however (if you're not eating smørrebrød, of course), is tougher.  Possible, but tougher.  There's this idea in restaurants here that as long as you have the recipe, you can make anything amazingly.  It's why you find a lot of mediocre Italian food here.  They know the recipes, but not the long-taught cultural secrets that make food from other countries great.  And it's also why Denmark is so good at smørrebrød - they've been doing it for so long that the little details come as second nature.

One thing that they do love in middle-of-the-road Danish cafes and restaurants is BIG PORTIONS.  Huge.  And they love to pile a plate with a wide variety of different things.  Often, you'll get your plate of food and everything will be lovely, except they'll have added one strange ingredient that just doesn't make sense.

Here's example of the portion sizes:

This brunch plate is found at a local restaurant that claims to be an American style diner.  Having lived there until this past Summer, I can honestly say that I've never seen a plate like that in America.  I don't really know what half of that stuff is.  Not saying this is a bad thing, though.  This particular restaurant (Cafe Luna in Christianshavn) happens to have really good, reasonably priced meals.

One thing that is NOT okay, though, is this monstrosity, which ended up on my husbands plate at a cafe in central Copenhagen earlier this week:

You're looking at Doritos with melted cheddar cheese.  The menu calls them nachos.  This is NOT what nachos are.  This is something you make at home in a microwave when you're in college and it's 4am and there's nothing else in the house.  Not something you go to a restaurant to spend money on.  This particular treat, once it sat on the plate for a few minutes, was so congealed that it could be picked up in one solid mass.  Appetizing...

So, I guess the take-away from all of this is that the food scene in Copenhagen is pricey, but getting better.  But it's still hit-and-miss, so be prepared to either spend a ton of money or take your chances.