Learning the Danish Language–Det er rigtig godt! Shariananda aka SDiane Adamz Bogus

“Det Dansk sprog er hard”. This I am told by the new Danes that I meet in casual circumstances. “Danish is hard.”  At first I did not want to agree with the native speakers. I took their observations to be the collective  agreement of a people who think that newcomers to the language ought to be duly challenged and respectful. I thought their warning about the difficulty of Danish was a matter of national pride like the white, cross-pathways on the red field of the Danish flag.  It didn’t  scare me.

As a matter fo fact, when Vivi, my beloved, first spoke it, Danish sounded so melodic to my ears, it was as if an old friend had called and sang me a greeting. “Hvordan gaar det?” (vor daan gor day?)” How goes it?” or  “What’s going on?” That could be felt in the words. And though the unpronounced “h” in hvordan was different and the unfamiliar words “gaar” and “det” piqued my curiosity,I definitely fell hard for Danish. I remember asking Vivi:”How do you say ,’My heart is melting’ in Danish?” and “How do you say, ‘I love you in Danish?'” She said “Jeg elsker dig” was the phrase for “I  love you” (yii  el skaa die ). “Den smelter min hjerte” was the other.  But it wasn’t the hailing phrase of  “Hvordan gaar det” that attracted me, nor even the fact that I was falling in love with Vivi and wanted to express it in her language, but after I got a glimpse of the language in an online program, it was the apparent use of the word “good” and “God”  in so much of the daily language that won my heart. Never in all my language training had I seen a language that was so unself-consciously optimistic, so full of God and goodness.

My beloved and I first met on the Internet where I learned she was a Dane and that her spoken language was Danish. But so many phrases she shared with me seemed to convey goodness. “Godmormorgen” “Goddag” “Godaften” “Godnat” “Sov godt!” “God rejse” “Det er godt vejr.”Det er supergodt”. As a newcomer to the visual appearance of the language, the word G-O-D looked familiar, and was pronounced “G odd” as I was accostumed to doing in American English , but here, it is pronounced with  a kind of glottal stop that makes it sound like “gu” (goo), or a short cough–“Goo daa!”  where the “d” is unvoiced and the “a”  in day is long and the “y” is replaced by an unvoiced “g”.  To my surprise, the word is not God at all. It is the word for “good.” And ,given how often it is used,  I came to feel the language was full of nothing but good. Things are “dejlig”, meaning lovely or “nice” or “good.” “Det er merget dejlig”  which means that things are very good or nice, or lovely. In some cases, the Danes say,  They are “rigtig dejlig”, meaning righteously or downright good. Even the bad is expressed as good. Things are said to be “ikke godt” or not good. The cultural millieu is expressed as something called “hyggelig” (who gail lee), a cozy, good time, mellow with one’s loved ones,friends, even at a public event. Cool and good.

Last year, I visited Denmark or Danmark for two months in April and May. I attended a school called Copenhagen Danish Courses in Osterport, the west gate of Copenhagen. I took three weeks of a five week course, which I will finish this year, and I attended three days per week. It was intense and frightening for me. I have some hidden disabilities that challenge me more than does the language. First, I have hearing loss in my right ear ;second, I have dyslexia and tend to invert words or read right to left, or have trouble distinguishing my left from my right; and third, I am high strung and often become very anxious when I am trying to master a new skill or feel I am to be tested. Coupled with my late age and physiological changes, I am hard pressed to master Danish, but very determined–and motivated–to do so. I have moved to Denmark this year, and am taking short instruction twice a week at Frivillagecentre in Gentofte,a small community fifteen minutes from my home. I am working with a volunteer Danish  tutor, a woman near my age,Bente Kronemann. In order to get permanent residency, I will need to speak and write and understand Danish.

That aside, in last year’s class,I got the basics by  learning vocabulary, verb forms, and expressions. We also read and were required to memorize a single dialogue about Danish life or circumstances. Things like how to invite friend to the movies; how to count, tell time, give personal information, how to ask about a lost personal item; how to introduce oneself, and how to affect the rhythm and pronounciation of Danish. I was quick to get basic understanding of the alphabet and it’s whine, especially the fricative “T” “F”  and the sibilant “S”and “C”, but Danish does things with vowels that go beyond long and short. They have three additional sounds that add alpaphets to the 26 we share: “aa” “oe” “ae”. Every Dane pronounces the language differently and enunciates as she or he pleases—except maybe the newscasters, who talk so fast I hardly understand a word beyond “Godaften, velkommen til ….Nyhedsudsendelse.” (“Good afternoon, welcome to this station’s newscast.”). Not only does the ordinary Dane speak a little differently from another, but the quality and content of a given word/mouthful may be enunciated or garbled in the most unusual fashion.  Viv says Danes “swallow” the words. To me they mumble.

In that former Danish course, I learned that the spoken language often bares little resemblance to the written. In the written language the “d” and “g” may be silent and often is.  The “h” in question-words like “where” when” “how”–that is “hvor,”hvornaar”,”hvordan” is silent.  The “j” may be pronounced like an “I” and the “Y’ like a “U”.  These variables with the awesome collection of pronouns that play musical chairs in sentences is enough to send one to the Engelsk/Dansk dictionary every two minutes. I tell you this Danish plays tricks on my ears, eyes, and my mind.

But the Danes know English. They speak it well or haltingly depending on their closest friends,family and work environment. Vivi is well-spoken and has an impressive vocabulary, although she may be hard-pressed to translate Danish cultural idiom to English, but her sister, who has good command, shys away from English because she is not often required to speak it and feels the limitations of concepts and conjugation of irregular verbs. Personally, I like the various constructs that Vivi makes to convey her thoughts. Instead of saying, Dinner is ready; she might say “Skal vi spiser os nu?” or “Can we eat our meal now.” The Danish language has terrific courtesy and democratic consideration built in. One doesn’t stay things in an autocratic or authroritative tone of voice. One invites the other to cooperate. “Come in and have a seat,” we Americans might say. The Danish will do the same,but avoid a directive. “Komindefore, det er dejlig til se De!”

There are many spellings and words in Danish that look or mean the same as in English. For example:

at=that  bus=bus  kan=can  dog=yet  end=than     familie=family

graffiti=graffiti  hund=hound/dog    is=ice or ice cream   journal=journal   kapital=capital

lease=lease  magnet=magnet  normal=normal  over=over  park=park  quiz=quiz

resume=summary  sekund=second  trods=in spite of    unacceptabel=unacceptable

vat=cotton  weekend=weekend   xylofon=xylophone  zoo=zoo

But the pronouncation is often so radically different, one knows it will take a while to acclimate and internalize the particular aggregation of French/German/Swedish/English and old Danish that the Danes speak. It’s a proper language, and I feel one morning I will awaken after all this exposure and find I can hear and speak it fluently. Even now, I catch a phrase on two during televison commercials, and recognize (maybe after a 20 second delay) that I actually understood what was said. Because I am telepathic and intutitive, I often “know” without actually understanding the exact content of the spoken utterance. I also hear the music of it and understand. Praise God for these gifts. Speaking of which, the word for being married is “gift!”. “Er du gift? Ja, jeg er gift!” (Are you married? Yes, I am married.)

Two ladies at the traffic light, and bus stop,respectively,decided to speak to me. One asked the time. The other commented on the sunshiny day.

“Hvad er klokken?” She said without preliminary introduction. Stricken and called up short, I glanced at my watch. It was 4:30 o’clock.

“Den er fire. Nej, nej! Den er tretten. No, uh, nej, Den er fjortende….”I garbled the time,trying to remember whether 4:00 PM is 13:00 or 14:00 and if the half hour is kvater or kvart. Neither. It’s “halv” or half. The woman (“kvinder”) at the light then smiled and gave me a quick review: “Danish is a difficult language. The “h’s” don’t sound. The “d’ is soft.” and she said more, “Det er halv fem,” (quarter to 5) amused with the absurdity of it. I laughed too. I see. I begin to see why they say it is so hard.

The other woman, next to whom I sat as I waited to take a bus to my favorite restaurant, said, “Det er god solenskinner i dag!” It was said so naturally and easily and quickly that I wasn’t sure she was talking to me nor if I even heard and understood. For there was my usual delay in realizing what was said and that I had a response to generate. “Oh, ja, det er det!” I said, having recognized the phrase for “sunshine” and my favorite word,”good.”  “Yes, that’s so!”

There is one more thing I am learning –Danes like the tradition of exchanging known greetings. When one says, thank you, or “tak for det”, the other is to say “Velbekomme” (you’re welcome) or “Det var saa lidt!” (That was so little). At the table, one is to say “tak for mad” at the end of dinner,not during or before the meal. If one did something in return for a favor or worked with another, one can say “Tak” but the other will say “det lige mode” or li’moede.” One uses “skal”, “kan”, “hvad”–that is–shall/can/or what to ask some specific questions that are to include two: “skal vi se et film?” “kan du lige en slik?” Hvad laver du? Want to see a movie? Do you like candy? What are you up to? or Where do you work?  There are nuances of politeness built into the language, cultural mores insinuated and made to carry the intention to be fair or cooperative. These are not only learned behaviors; they are transmitted by the language.

So I go on with my apprehension of Danish. Being transformed and acclimatized. Det er rigtig godt!” Oh, by the way, the Divine Source, God, is called “Gud”, and “Herren” (the Lord).

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SDiane Adamz-Bogus—alias–Shariananda:Denmark Journal

Denmark Journal #1

4/21/2013

 

I find Denmark refreshing in its literal approach to life. The people take things at face value and are unguarded in offering friendship. But they are also self-contained and unobtrusive. They will not easily make eye contact with one as she passes. But if one—namely me—speaks, they will light up and smile. It is a “privacy” thing in the culture. But in the same way, they are rude in the public places, bustling past you with a bump or a swipe and rarely saying excuse me” though they have a word for it “undskyld.” They reach across you and over you in stores and at the table. They give no ground in passing on the street. It annoys me but when taken on the whole, I am inspired by these people.

They live between old values and new technologies. The old values assume  a certain sturdiness. For example, there are stairways or “trappenen” everywhere in public and private buildings:movie theatres, the train station, churches. Not simple three step or 5 step stairways but 20 or more steps. Elevators–where in use–are “ud af drift” out of order. Unlike at home in the USA, Denmark posts no signs that say “Watch your step” nor is there any assumption that it will be the stair owner’s negligence in any slip, fall, or exhaustion. In Denmark, as far as I can tell, there are no attorneys’ standing ready for a complaint about the city’s negligence. It’s as if the understanding is “fend for yourself; watch your own feet , if you can’t climb–send somebody else, and don’t bother anyone with your troubles. We’re all in this together as one time Vikings.” Vivi (my new spouse) says the Danes are “relaxed” about many things that we Americans sue each other about. “Relaxed?” What a word!

I am told by my love that Danes work cooperatively toward a mutual win-win solution in most settings. This is apparent to me in watching the workings of the Immigration service office, the “Udlaendingestyrelsen”. The office opens at 8:00 A.M., but they announce that it is okay to start to line up at 7:30. They have an information line, 13 windows of service, an electronic counter, and a “voiced” electronic bulletin board that announces what’s what and how in several languages. That is also supported by the welcome of a living person in Danish and English, at the opening of all windows of service. The bulletin board runs a ticker scrawl that states how many persons (“mennesker”) they have served in the past and in what amount time;they report how many theyhave sewrved since opening that very day–this they do  reliably and cheerfully. They take the time needful with everyone. They tend not to become indifferent or annoyed or weighed down by the crowds. My love says, “We are civilized. We are practical. We keep it simple and fair.” Yes, so it seems where service is concerned.

At the Immigration office in particular, the people seeking services come from everywhere. Romania, Turkey, Israel, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Pakistan, Frances, and so many more, including, as in my case, the USA. They wait their turns calmly and patiently, largely because the State provides vending machines with hot and cold drinks and sandwiches, a free daily paper. Everyone can sit at a four -seat coffee shop style table. Some are those elevated bar seat tables and chairs. So the feel is as if one is in a cafe or restaurant. While all wait, right at the opening of the windows, an employee who goes from one table to line to the other in order to get an idea of what are the concerns of those waiting and to direct them. It works like clock-work. There is this homey feel to the service in a highly technical environment partly fostered by the plainly and ordinarily dressed employees.

I am also impressed with the timeliness of the buses and trains. One needs no car in Copenhagen. It is not a huge city, and the country while divided into areas such as Soulland (Sjaelland) Jylland, Bon Holme , so many people travel by public transportation or bike. I will talk about this in future blog journal entries. Since I want to hear from my fans and family, loved ones and associates, I write lots of cards and letters, but it takes between 6 and 10 days to get  a letter to the USA and viceversa. The mail service leaves a lot to be desired in pick times, delivery and postal costs. A letter can go at the “A” speed or “B” speed with a stamp or “frimaerke” to indicate when it will be sent along. Postage for a letter is 14.50 Danish crowns (or” kroner”). Converted to American that’s about $2.53 American to mail. But here at is almost 2/3 of a twenty kroner coin. And 20’s are the coin of the realm as our $20.00 bill is. Post card are 12 kroner. So I figure I’d better get this blog going if I intend to keep connected with you all.

I have decided to use my former name as a pen name–SDiane Adamz-Bogus so as not to loswe those who know my former writing and that which is to come. I am Shariananda Adamz and that is how I am known in Danmark. I feel brand new, born freshly and now that the spring is finally here, I am ready to blossom and leap forth. You will want to know so much about the differences and the commonalities between the USA and Denmark. Many things suprise me and many dumbfound me. For example how the doors open opposite those in America, and how the toilets flush by pull lever or push down button. I hope you will follow my journey here on Word Press.  You may contact me at this address: Handvaerkerhaven 23, 2 TV   2400 Copenhagen,NV  Denmark (postage $1.05).

You may also contact me on line through Facebook as Shariananda Adamz-Bogus or my email:Shariananda@gmail.com.

Anyway, I find Denmark fascinating. The written language, the dress, the time-telling, the spoken word, the beauty, the way people dress and interact, so so much. So I begin.