Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Danish language is trying to kill me and I am divorcing my head

Danish is trying to kill me. Yesterday I took part one of my test, the reading and writing bit, and came home emotionally and physically exhausted. There were hysterical tears and I'm well past PMS! Next week I have to do the speaking half and I expect to take to my bed in horror afterwards.

Language is NOT my thing. It just does not stick.

Take for example Tirsdag and Torsdag: Tuesday and Thursday in Danish. Tuesday comes before Thursday and I comes before O so it should be a simple matter of remembering which comes first. Added that I know Torsdag is named after Thor and from which we English speakers also derive Thursday. It even SOUNDS like Thursday for crying out loud.

And yet, every time I see Tirsday or Torsday I get them confused. I stand there and gape and say, what day is that?

Honestly, it's like I'm missing a link in my head.

It doesn't help that I don't really want to speak Danish. I didn't grow up thinking, "you know what would be great? Living in Denmark! Yeah! I want to learn a language that sounds like a throat disease that only 5.2 million people speak, but not to the extent that they can actually understand each other if they grew up in different regions! Cool beans, sign me up!" This lack of desire for Danish language may cause some to say, "ah, see, it is because you are so opposed to it that you are creating a mental block that keeps you from learning it, you horrible Danish hater you!"

What I say back to those people is unpublishable.

So I drag myself though Danish language classes. Pushing myself to learn the grammar rules, trying to pronounce the unpronounceable, and continually repeating to myself "this stupid language is NOT smarter than I am."

My husband, trying to be helpful, asked me why I was learning Danish. Because your stupid country told me to! I cried. But there is also:
- I hate being left out of conversations because I don't understand
- I will not (if we end up raising children here) have my children speaking in a language I don't understand
- I would like to tell people who piss me off exactly why they are pissing me off IN THEIR OWN LANGUAGE (because they just don't take you seriously if you don't)

But I just don't think that learning a language should include making a person cry from frustration and misery. That just doesn't seem right.

In other news, I'm divorcing my head.

It's been quite a while now since we've gotten along. Last week my head tried to trick the rest of me into a sinus infection. Inflamed sinuses, aching head and face, neck pain, and a runny nose. I was not fooled however and I have continued to be fever free and my snot is still clear (gross? Yeah, but see it's the color of your snot that will tell you what you have, clear to white is allergies, yellow is a cold or the start of infection, green is VERY BAD). Now my head has decided to clog up my right ear. The pain is immense. Radiates down from my ear to my jaw and my teeth. Is it an ear infection? Probably not, I still have no fever and my ear is not red. It's my head again stuffing up the sinuses in some evil attempt to make me stay in bed and read (which my head likes to do) and not go out and about doing the things that need to get done (like photocopying a vastly overdue interlibrary loan book, which my head does NOT want to read) and enjoying the little sun there is.

My head is also refusing to learn any more Danish until I make more space in my memory and, sorry, but I still need that French and German, thank you very much.

I tried beating my head into submission by continually standing up quickly in the wrong half of my bedroom, where the ceiling slants down to a measly 2.5 feet of head space, but this only resulted in a loss of equilibrium that culminated in stubbed toes as I fought for balance. (Anyone seen the movie "The War of the Roses" because it's like that.)

At the moment we are not speaking to each other, except when I told my head I was out of here and it told me to get a good lawyer because I'd need one. If you could pass along a message to my head, since I am NOT speaking to it AT ALL, could you please tell it that I MIGHT be willing to do some couples therapy, but only if it would stop filling up my sinuses because I am sick and tired of going to the store for more tissue paper.


  1. Anonymous5:28 PM

    I feel your pain. Hang on :(

  2. We have the same infection. We are like infectious sisters. I don't think I could attempt a test with this infection, so you have to remember you were on the back foot.

    Ok, there is a podcast called "learn danish with copenhagencast" what you have to do is fast forward through the crap "oh, it's such a beautiful day" and wind on to the bits where she is saying stuff like "på belob" and just copy away. Drill it like mad. You will see that it is genuinely uncomfortable to speak Danish properly BUT you should see that by speaking it with an American accent you are making a positive choice to help Danish people broaden their horizons!

  3. I am right there with last class at the sprogcenter starts tomorrow night. the thought of working all day to subject myself to this all night, just does not excite me in the least!!
    Hang in there!
    det kommmer....

  4. Hilarious!! :) I will totally catch up on your blog tomorrow with a few cups of coffee...

    I feel better about mixing up Tuesday and Thursday now.

    Good Luck with your head too. If some American drugs would make you feel better I'll march on down to the post office and send some your way!

  5. I was placed in Norsk II instead of Norsk I, and the first thing my teacher told me was, "You've never taken Norkkurs? Oh. You're not ready, you'll have to start Norsk I when it starts, you can't stay here." And then she chose to ignore the fact that I a) understood every word she said and b) answered her with my reasons why I tested in, and why I should stay. So now learning Norwegian is, for me, completely personal. Ain't no way that lady is breaking me down!

  6. Sometimes I'm amazed that I ever "mastered" Danish. I was never good at languages at school and I never imagined that I could ever be fluent in any foreign language. I'm not sure how I got from there to here, but one thing that helped a lot was working my way through ELias Bredsdorff's Danish Elementary Grammar and Reader. This is the standard textbook for Danish learners at university level, and its terse, precise, academic style clicked with me far better than the "Conversational Danish in 36 Easy Lessons" type of self-learning course I had tried before. I mention it because I wonder if you, as an academic type yourself, might find it helpful. I've checked, and we have a copy on-shelf at Statsbiblioteket :-)

  7. Garkbit, you are my hero!

  8. :-)
    I can't wait to hear how you get on with Bredsdorff!


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