Friday, March 20, 2009

Jeg kan ikke parle pas français.... whut?

A long time ago, I came to the realization that my brain was like a file department. Many rooms dedicated to holding various files on things that I know or think I know. This department is run by perennially stoned hamsters. Data reacquisition is slow and spotty and the little bastards get the munchies every now and then and eat some of my files. Which is why I can remember where I put my keys but have no recollection of that conversation last week about what's going to happen next Thursday. Getting them to concentrate sometimes is an exercise in futility. And their favorite place to hang out and munch is the language room.

So today during break I met up with two of the guys from my class. Ali is from Tunisia, he speaks Arabic, French, English and now some Danish. Marcus is from Switzerland and speaks German, French, English and a bit of Danish. When Ali and Marcus talk together, it's often in French. Ali completely forgot himself today and asked me a question in French.

The hamsters went nuts. One was screaming "That's not english!" and another yelled back "But I can't translate it from Danish either!!" About the same time that one managed to figure out it was French, Ali had caught himself and apologized. But from the depths of my file cabinet came the sentence "Jeg kan ikke parle pas français.... whut?"

There was much laughter.

But it happens quite frequently, when I'm in Danish class and I can't think of the word, I drag a foreign word out of the files and throw it out there. Default is often French, which is the language I know the most after Danish. But sometimes it's a brand new made up word. If I can't possibly come up with the word in any language, I often "Danglisize" it by adding -er at the end of the word. -er in Danish is pronounced "uh" or "oh" or even "eh" and sometimes it's even correct!! And sometimes I just get a completely blank look from the teacher.

At least I'm having fun. Our class has sort of a shared-misery vibe and we laugh hysterically at Danish. Especially the long words with k's and d's and too many letters that aren't so much pronounced as swallowed. I doubt I'll ever be comfortable using it around my husband's father's family, who seem to take life and Danish way too seriously, but so far I've been able to use it to talk to my dear oven-fairy and the very important CEO who called and wanted to talk to my husband (who is head of the board of the apartment complex, among the gazillion other things he does with his time).

At this point I'm handing out cool points to Danes who will speak to me in baby Danish and don't correct me or try to teach me new words. My husband's ex-step-father has points into the stratosphere. But then, he doesn't speak much English, so if we are going to communicate, we have to be imaginative. It's pretty nice that he still wants to communicate with me though, it's not like I am a great conversationalist in Danish or charades. Meanwhile, my husband is going to get himself slapped if he tries to correct my grammar or pronunciation one more time. My confidence in my hamsters is pretty low, it doesn't take much to send me into sullen English-only silence. The problem is that he wants me to correct him in English, so he's only trying to return the favor. I hate to turn down help, but at this point, it's not helping, it's hindering.

Now how the hell do you say that in Danish?


  1. Anonymous9:15 PM

    You know what, I have the same problem with you LOL esp with the "kan-ikke-ne-pas" stuff. I learned French language for years and was in quite a high level until Danish invaded my brain and messed up my knowledge neuron (or whatever it's called) in my brain *sigh*

    Shouted across a crowded staff room usually sorts people out.

    Danish has actually written over my French, as I discovered with horror on a holiday to France. But my German is way better than it should be.


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