Back to school

How to learn Danish
The smell in the corridors took me back to my childhood and instantly gave me a memory of pure dread. The first day of school was always a daunting experience for me, as I was always afraid of new teachers (or at least the rumours that surrounded them) and having to get to grips with difficult subjects like maths and science.

But today was different. Pleasant, in fact. The sun was shining, the lady in the cafeteria was pouring out pots of steaming “fresh’ coffee and the brand new external elevator seemed to be working just fine (workmen had been toiling away at it throughout the last few weeks of term back in May). But more importantly, over ten weeks on from my last visit to Copenhagen Language Center, I was looking forward to expanding my Danish vocabulary and improving my conversational skills.

I was surprised at how much I could remember and how much easier it was to understand both the teacher and the almost-fluent students in my class. Thrown in to the mix was a ‘new’ student who had lived in the country for 10 years and whose friends laughed when he explained to them on the phone (in Danish) that he was at school. Also new to the class was a Polish student who reminded me a lot of myself several months ago. Upon hearing the quality of Danish spoken by our aforementioned friends, the poor girl instantly decided that she was far from ready for the final exam in November.

That exam will be the last for us in our class (today we started Module 5 after passing our exams back in May) and in theory we should be ready to tackle whatever the Danes can throw at us (conversationally) at that stage. Personally I’m not convinced, but I’m willing to give it a go and will do my best to get better. Previously I wrote a blog about how to learn Danish and back then I felt like I was improving but still struggling with listening and understanding. So it gives me great pleasure to add a new technique to that list today and it’s something that I’ve been doing a lot of during the summer holidays.

Basically I’ve been sitting outside in the sun (either the garden or down by the water’s edge) with a Danish text book that also comes with audio files on CD. You can find these books anywhere so it’s not important which one I’ve been using. Then, I’ve simply listened to the audio line-by-line and written down what I think I can hear. It means having to go over it again and again many times, but this obviously helps. Once the audio is finished, which normally takes a couple of minutes, I then check my answers with the text provided. This is all I’ve been doing all summer and today I got to see for myself how effective it’s been. Let’s just say that I understood every task that our new teacher gave to us today, and that is a great feeling.

So if you’re like me and find that your listening skills are not how you want them to be, give this technique a go for a few weeks and see how you get on. I hope you find it helps…