I’ve decided to try to learn Danish. Mostly because I am an idiot. My Swedish isn’t even that impressive. I can trick people for a decent amount of time, but sooner or later I slip up and suddenly I sound like a five year old unable to decide between en or ett. So what better way to mess that up even more than to learn another Scandinavian language? And one that sounds like there may be a handful of potatoes shoved down the throat of its speakers.
But here I am. In Denmark. Trying to learn Danish. And I feel old. I’m 27. I’m losing my hair on my head and growing hair everywhere else. I have a bad hip. I am nearly blind without my contacts in. If I drink for more than one night in a row I feel like I was trampled by a small herd of elephants. It’s not a pretty sight really. But my boyish charm usually makes up for the outward appearance. But suddenly I am taking classes with a bunch of people that are no older than 21. Most of whom are still teenagers. Some of whom are still in high school. And I feel old. The 18 year old British kid referring to me as “old man” doesn’t help.
The other day a 19 year old British girl (damn those British) asked me how old I was. I answered. Truthfully. She responded by saying that she was surprised and that’s he thought I was only 22. Max. I couldn’t decide if I should be happy that I was mistaken for that age, or sad that I even considered taking that as a compliment. Despite the loss of hair and bad hip, there may be no more definite sign of old age than feeling complimented by someone mistaking you for a younger person. And here I was doing just that.
Worst of all though is not the age difference, it is the inability to make my mouth, tongue, and head do what the Danish language wants me to do. I feel like it’s stuck in Swedish. Which is enough of a challenge what with the sju sjösjuka sjömän sköttes av sju skönsjungande sjuksköterskor på det sjunkande skeppet Shanghai and the Knut knöt en knut bakom knuten, och när Knut hade knutit knuten så var knuten knuten.
I have never really learned a language. I took four years of French in high school, but that was a while ago and I could only just get by in France. Because I speak Swedish and English well, it is assumed that I am good at languages. People tend to forget that I got those for free. I didn’t have to learn Swedish. Or English. They came with my mom speaking English to me and my dad speaking Swedish. Essentially, I cheated. So suddenly I find myself struggling to make glottal stops. And remembering that Danes love apocope. Or tongue tapping certain letters. It’s exhausting. And a challenge. And a great way to spend the summer.
It also gives me a newfound appreciation for the multi-lingual friends I have made over the years in Europe. And a newfound appreciation for all those students who put up with my teaching this summer. And for my mom and her willingness (and badass-ness) in learning Swedish damn near 30 years ago.
Welcome to Denmark. And rødgrød med fløde.
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