Friday, May 25, 2012

Danish is going to kill me

So I’ve taken the first half of my Danish exam; the half that covers reading and writing.  I won’t know my grade for a few weeks, but I’m fairly sure I passed.  Probably not with top marks, however. There were problems.  Like, I forgot to put the location and date at the top right hand corner of my “email.”  (In quotes because it was an imaginary email sent to an imaginary foreign friend.)

This will cost me points and while I don’t particularly care about getting a high grade, all I want is to pass, it does cheese me off that a stupid error like this will be marked down.  Because putting the location and date at the top right hand corner of an email is THE STUPIDEST FREAKING RULE ON THE GODDAMNED PLANET!

First of all, NO ONE DOES THIS. 


I went back through buttloads of emails I’ve gotten from Danes, official ones, informal ones, company emails, doctor emails, immigration emails, and not one, NOT ONE, has the following:

København den 25. maj 2012
Kære [name],

Blåh blåh blåh

You get the picture. 

The reason for this is because it’s THE STUPIDEST FREAKING RULE ON THE GODDAMNED PLANET!  Emails are time and date stamped!  You don’t need to write the date in the text because I already know that!  It appeared in my email box with a little tag telling me what day it came!

Secondly, I don’t freaking care where you were when you sent that email!  When the lovely people in my computer store wrote to tell me that my Mac had been shipped from China (we’re talking about an event many years ago), I didn’t care if they were sitting in Copenhagen, San Francisco, or Shanghai.  They gave me the tracking number and an arrival date and really, that’s all I wanted. 

Thirdly, do you have any idea of the time and effort it takes to get one line in an email to align to the right hand side of the page? Yeah, you say, you just have to include “rich text” and hit some buttons and VOILA!  But it’s an email!  You’ve got it set up to include an automatic signature because you are too damn lazy to type your name (and contact information if you are an official person or like to pretend to be one).  My father-in-law wanted help getting his email signature set up so he didn’t have to type “Kind regards, XXXX” every time he sent friends and family an email.  And yet I’m supposed to write information that no one gives a shit about or already is included elsewhere in the email WITH SPECIAL FORMATTING or you will take points away???


Whatever.  I’m going to lose more points because of all the terrible errors I’m sure I made when writing my essay. “Write simply,” advised my teacher.  “Don’t try to write at a high level, keep it to what you know you can say.”  This is all very well and good until I’m facing the clock and an essay question.  Years of academic training mean that when I’m in test mode, I can only operate as I have been trained.  There will be an opening paragraph that ends with a thesis statement.  There will be paragraphs that back up this statement, using personal experience, scientific experience, and historical experience, if I have time.  I will include and discuss whatever various points you tell me to include and discuss.  I will write a concluding paragraph in which I restate the thesis in a different way that points to the evidence I have outlined above.  I will do all of this in the time provided and leave myself 15 minutes to check for errors.

In English, I can whip out a well-reasoned essay of varying length and complexity in a very short time.  I can type almost without pause.  Doing it in Danish is a bit harder.  Part of my brain composes in English and another part translates into Danish.  Great, right?  Uh, no, not really, because Danish grammar is close but not quite the same as English grammar, and sometimes it is violently different.  The position of adverbs, for example, change based on whether or not you are in a subordinate clause or a main clause, whether you have begun the sentence (or clause) with the adverb or a question word or a conjunction or a verb, and whether or not you intend on emphasizing the subject or the verb. 

To write simply, I would need to stop writing sentences JUST LIKE THIS ONE, and instead make sure my clauses were arranged in descending order.

Alas, this turns out to be impossible to do in the allotted time. 

As for the reading portion, I thought that I’d done fairly well.  After all, reading is my strongest skill and I can breeze through a newspaper and get the gist of the stories (except for opinion pieces and editorials, which often use more complex grammar and vocabulary, in any language - check out your newspaper at home and you’ll see the difference immediately).  BUT THEN, the next day, my phone rang a little after 10.  Italics=Danish.

AG: Hej.
S: Hej.  Did you forget that we had a mother’s group today?
AG: No.  You cancelled it.  You sent me a text.  You have work today.
S: No, I have to work later today.  I wrote that I’d have to end it early. “Afslutter” not “annuller.”
AG: Balls.

So yeah, I can read a text on noise pollution and find within that text three examples of things you can do to reduce the impact on your ears, but I can’t understand a simple text message that relates to my daily life.



  1. If it makes you feel any better for the essay portion of my Norwegian test we had to write about climate change or something like that. My dumbass self thought I would ace it because I had just finished several semesters worth of courses about...climate change. And through the entire essay I unfailingly write about climate "difference" rather than change. D'oh. We also had to write formal letters or invitations during the written portion of our exams, and use formal salutations. Which is dumb, because you never see those any more in REAL life.

  2. I'm 99% sure I will have made an error like that in my essay. But I'm not going to let any Dane (or anyone else for that matter) look at my essay (saved on my computer) until AFTER I get my grade. Otherwise they'll just point out all my errors and I'll be convinced that I failed. At the moment I'm convinced I passed. I'll stay delusional, thankyouverymuch.

    I did remember to write "Thank you for your email" which is a standard You-Must-Do-This-Thing that we are taught. But who the hell writes "Thank you for your email" to FRIENDS??

  3. Okay, as a Dane, I can honestly say that I have never writen location and date in the upper right corner of an e-mail. Never. In letters, yes, I do it all the time, but e-mail? Nope.

    It doesn't make sense, unless the location is important.

    I can't remember writing "Tak for din e-mail" to friends either, only use that one for business.

    Good luck with the exam! I'm keeping fingers and toes corssed.

  4. Urgh. Danish exams.

    Yep, those rules are ridiculous. Even in business EMAILS, you don't do that. It's like old fashioned snail mail from one old lady to another. Perhaps those Danish (exams) and books need to be revised. It's the 21st century ffs!

  5. During my Greek gov't exam, I marked everything that was multiple choice with an x, and only at the end realized you're supposed to mark with a +. I went back and scribbled out all the x's and put +'s next to them. They accepted it, thank goodness, but I hate that b.s. Good luck with your exam!!!


Keep it clean, don't be mean....