Monday, September 23, 2013

That Time I Woke Up Danish

Just an absurd little anecdote for your first day of Fall:

Last Thursday, I had a very minor operation in what I hope to be the undramatic dramatic conclusion of my adventures getting an up close and personal look at Danish healthcare.

I've been conducting all of these meetings and examinations at the hospital in English, partially because I'm much worse at Danish when I'm nervous, but also because I don't want to mistranslate something that's said to me and have it lead to major confusion.  That was the case on Thursday, of course.  I chatted with all of the nurses in English, chatted with the surgeon in English, chatted with the student doctor who was watching the whole thing in English as well.

And then, they put me to sleep.

In my half-awake, drug-induced daze, I don't remember what questions they asked me when they woke me up from the anesthesia, nor do I remember if they asked them in English of Danish.

I do remember realizing almost immediately that I was responding to them in Danish.

In fact, the one thing that I very clearly remember saying as they rolled me back into the recovery room was, "Jeg ved ikke, hvorfor jeg taler Dansk."

Or, "I don't know why I'm speaking Danish..."

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Wait, what?

I've talked a lot about how difficult it can be to pronounce Danish words to a degree that the Danes will understand.

Today, let me talk a little bit about how hard it is to understand the Danes.

First, a clip from a Danish film that we watched in class yesterday, called "B├Žnken" or "The Bench, " in case you're not sure what Danish sounds like:


Our teacher has taken to showing us Danish films on Fridays that are in some way related to the material we've been learning.  The current chapter we're working on is about Danish drinking culture (the Danes drink a lot), and this film has a lot to do with excessive drinking.  So, not only are they speaking Danish (which is mumbly on its best days), but the characters are also drunk off their asses most of the time.

That being said, we always watch Danish films with Danish subtitles, just so that we can follow what they're saying.  Not such a shock for a foreigner to have an easier time if the subtitles are there, sure.

The thing is, the Danes use the subtitles too.  I was just chatting with a Danish friend earlier today who said that she often turns on subtitles when watching Danish movies.

Now, sure, a lot of countries have a variety of accents which people from other parts of the country have trouble understanding.  England is a great example, as they have countless different accents, and people from the south of England often have trouble understanding accents from the north.  The opposite can be said of the US, in fact.

The thing is... Denmark is a very small country.  There are only 6 million people living here.

It strikes me that 6 million people shouldn't have such a tough time understanding each other.

But the one phrase that you'll hear the Danes say to each other more than almost anything else is, "Hvad siger du?" which translates to, "What did you say?"