Friday, February 8, 2013

4 Tips to Learn Danish Quickly

Danish is an extremely difficult language to learn.  However, it turns out that there are a few factors that can greatly improve your chances of learning it before other people.  Today, I give you a few of those factors.

1.  Have a Danish boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse.  Your Danish teacher may very well assume that you have one, and therefore some of the homework that you are assigned will involve talking to said significant other.  For those who do not have a Danish significant other, see option number 2.

2.  Regularly go to a job where most of your colleagues are Danish and will happily be patient with you while you struggle to express yourself in Danish without switching to English, despite the fact that speaking English is far easier for both of you than speaking Danish together might be.

3.  Be a highly logical person who already has a fairly firm understanding of grammar rules.  Learning Danish will test the grammar skills of even the most literate of native English speakers.  If you don't already have a basic understanding of grammar, learning Danish will teach you more about the structure of the English language than you ever thought you needed to know.

And finally...

4.  Already speak either German, Dutch, Swedish, or Norwegian.  There are a few classmates of mine who, from early on in our Danish classes, were able to understand most of what the Danes said.  At first, I found this extraordinarily frustrating.  What was I doing wrong that I just didn't know what all of these words meant, even if I could understand what words were being said (which is a challenge unto itself, especially early on)?  Turns out, the only thing I was doing wrong was not knowing one of the aforementioned languages.  Enough of the words in those 4 languages (and possibly a few that I've forgotten) are similar enough to words in Danish that it's entirely possible to understand Danish very quickly.

Those who are lucky enough to fit into 2 or 3 of these factors will find themselves racing ahead of the others in their class.

As for me?  The only category that I even vaguely fit into is #3.  In most cases, I'm able to understand and remember the grammar rules easily enough.  Unfortunately, it's the words that I have a tough time remembering.

There's very little that one can do with even a perfect understanding of Danish grammar if they can't remember any of the words.


  1. Re 4. are there seriously native speakers of Norwegian or Swedish in your class??

    Don't forget a few other factors:
    5. Live in Denmark
    6. Take (free) Danish Classes in Denmark
    7. Have time to study

    1. Not native speakers, no. But there was a girl from China who had lived in Norway for several years before moving here, so she could speak some Norwegian. Definitely not necessary to be a native speaker of those languages for it to be helpful knowing them. We also have a Brazilian girl who speaks some German, and she can understand most of what people say.

  2. Hi Ruby, I found your blog via the expat blog website. Great stuff! I moved to Denmark in October from the UK and am learning Danish at school at the moment. I fit into the 1, 3 and a little bit of 4 as I learnt some German at school (though this only helped with reading and writing at the beginning).

    If I may also add one, it would be to get creative! I have labelled up my entire flat with the Danish word for things. Everything in my kitchen and living room is labelled. I even have a grammar sheet on my front door with says "jeg tager ... " followed by the correct prepositions with example destinations. I'm writing about it in my own blog at the moment (though I will not plug it here!).

    This is a great blog to follow, keep it going :)

  3. I'm still in the States, but have just submitted an application to do a PhD at the University of Copenhagen. I've been reading phrasebooks, speaking the phrases, listening to them being pronounced on the internet, and so forth. Maybe it is just me, but it doesn't seem that difficult. The only language I am fluent in is English, but I do speak a smattering of German phrases, and had a couple years of Spanish many long years ago. The difference, I think, is that if, like me, one had an Irish granny, one will be more familiar with stress being placed on different parts of the word, like is done in Danish. So if you read the words in Danish, but place stress on the parts of the word that someone from Donegal, as opposed to the part of the word that someone from Chicago would, it seems to make it easier.

  4. Lovely read! I am similarly troubled by Danish and love the categories...I started my Danish lessons but due to my job, and to be fair relatively active social life, because I also want to settle and be happy here, I just don't have the time to do the two whole lessons a week...maybe when the weather is warmer I will build up the energy to try again! :-)

  5. I'm learning Danish with tutors on It’s a good source and I started to practice speaking. But even now I'm looking for new opportunities  to try something new in language learning. If you know some great ways you tried yourself, let me know, please.I'll be glad.