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. 

NOT EVEN DANES.

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???

That’s BULLSHIT.

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.

face/palm

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

A Day Out With the Family


I really wish this post had photos, but we didn’t bring a camera.  Why should we, we only all decided to go to the recycling center because we were really hoping the Spawn would take a hint and TAKE A FREAKING NAP ALREADY, WHAT ARE YOU TEETHING OR SOMETHING???

And on the way home, having gone to the supermarket (maybe if we just drive a bit farther…), the DB mentioned that the hardware store was having an open house and would we like to stop by?  There’d be beer.

Would I?!  I’d only be more excited if he’d told me that there was a certain Swedish mega-store opening up down the road and they were giving away free kitchen gadgets to American archaeologists!  AND THERE WOULD BE BEER???  WHY DID THIS NOT GET MENTIONED UNTIL NOW?

See, the not-so-secret is, I love hardware stores.  Home Rhymes-with-Meepo?  I’d live there.  If you could graft Home Can-those-tiles-I-keepo onto an I-Swedish-home-store, I’d never leave.  Home Deliver-me-from-Repo lets me fantasize that I can Do It Yourself and then an I-can’t-pronounce-this-style-but-I-wants-it-store makes it a reality, one little hexagonal-headed L-shaped screwdriver thingy at a time.

I think it might be the smell of steel nails.  Or the 101 types of sealant.  Or hearing the following exchange:
Big Redneck Dude to Sales Clerk: I need caulk.
SC: What sort of caulk, sir?
BRD: Hard wood.
SC: Hard wood caulk?
BRD: I need something to fill my holes.
SC: Here, I think you’ll find this caulk will fit your needs.  But you’ll need a more pliable caulk if you have a bigger hole.

Okay, I haven’t actually *heard* that exchange, but I’m sure if I could just hang around "Tiles and Flooring" long enough I would.  I live in anticipation.

I’m also a big fan of small town hardware stores.  The one in my hometown was fantastic.  It’s gone now, but it used to be housed in the old assayers office.  Yes, assayer.  It’s a Gold Rush town; we had mines, miners, and assayers.  In fact, now that one of the mines re-opened, it’s an assayers office once again.  It’s like the circle of life.  Ore not.

Get it, ORE not?  Maybe I should have been more dead-PAN, eh?

Anyway, being the former… uh, and is again, assayers office, it was built with solid stone walls and the windows had solid iron shutters.  The floor was a patchwork of thick wooden planks that had been worn down by the feet of numerous fortune seekers. As a hardware store, it held large bins of loose nails and screws.  There was gold-panning equipment and paint.  I’d go in there during the summer with my dad, who would need a hammer or other odd tool.  No matter how hot it was outside, it was always much cooler inside.  You’d step through the doors and leave the heat behind; I’d always get goose bumps from the sudden drop in temperature.  And there was the overwhelming odor of nails and oil, with a slight hint of pine from the two-by-fours stacked out back.  You would buy nails by the weight, so there was a large scale that I’d use to weigh various odds and ends while my father chatted with the shop clerk.  To this day, the smell of nails makes me think of summer.

The local hardware store here isn’t quite the same.  It’s more modern with clean white walls and cement floor, but it does have the same smells and it has something the old hardware store didn’t: power tools.

Jigsaws, be still my heart! 

This being Denmark, where if you can’t do it slightly buzzed on beer, why bother to do it at all, the free beer was flowing and men in blue boiler suits and garden clogs stood around and chatted.  There was a treasure hunt, which invited the participants to go ahead and wander through all the back rooms and workspaces.  People took tractors for test-drives (I didn’t, alas) and the Spawn sat on one of the riding lawnmowers and said “Vvvvvvv!” while violently turning the wheel.  The DB got a slightly crazed look on his face and I had to remind him that she can’t mow the lawn until her feet can touch the pedals. 

All in all, it was a fantastic afternoon.  And on the way home, the Spawn fell into a nice deep sleep.  Happy days, my friends, happy days.