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To want to move to Copenhagen...but be worried about learning the language

(46 Posts)
Alisvolatpropiis Tue 11-Dec-12 20:01:20

It's been consistently voted the happiest place to live in the world (or in the top 10).

It's beautiful,I've visited it a couple of years ago and loved everything about it.

Childcare (not an immediate concern granted) is wonderful,as is healthcare.

I don't have a permenant job at the moment and DP though not keen to relocate to another part of the UK would move to mainland Europe. We don't have children yet so this would be the best time to go I suppose?

The thing is...I am terrified I won't be able to learn to speak Danish. Or learn to speak it well. Obviously I would want to work, have friends,be part of society. Are there any MNetters who are Danish/can speak Danish who could give me advice regarding the language?

wildstrawberryplace Wed 12-Dec-12 13:40:28

Sorry, forgot to add that my friend had to do a compulsory Danish course as a condition of entry to the country.

wildstrawberryplace Wed 12-Dec-12 13:39:02

I've been to CPH a fair bit recently and was attracted to it for many reasons - Scandinavia and Denmark in particular has got pretty trendy to UKers in the last 5 years or so due to scandi books/films/tv/design etc however, my friend who moved there for a job a few years ago is a bit more sanguine. His friends are all mostly non-Danish as well.

Health and dentist costs are high, food and housing costs are high. The Danes are also pretty conformist and can be quite judgemental although obviously this is a generalisation. Makes you realise how varied British society is.

My first visit I loved it and would have moved lock stock and barrel. Now I go over there and I'm like "If I see one more silly hipster with a 1930s haircut, horn rimmed glasses, riding a black sit up and beg bike and looking earnest..."

MrJasc Wed 12-Dec-12 13:19:21

My DP of 3 years is Danish, and I’ve been learning in earnest for about a year, but obviously picked up quite a bit before that. It’s actually reasonably easy to read, especially if you have a bit of German. But speaking and listening can be difficult. Danish has a handful of sounds that we don’t use in English. You will have to learn to not only hear, but create them yourself, but once you’re over that hurdle you’ll find things a lot easier.

As with English, the way that a word is spelled does not have much bearing on the way that it’s said. So you have to learn the pronunciation of each word individually. The good news is that the grammar is relatively simple, so if you’ve not studied much language before and don’t know your adverb from your adjective then it is much much easier than, say, German. One of the delights of Danish is that it does have a common root with English in Old Norse (think Vikings), and it can be really fun to find the cognates and parallels that still exist between the two languages.

If you are anywhere near London, Westminster Uni do a really good evening class in Danish done by this guy

Be careful in choosing a danish course in the UK. Many of them are done by Danish ex-pats, with no actually trainig in teaching Danish, who are just trying to get some extra cash. (I know this because my DP was one of them...)

spoonsspoonsspoons Wed 12-Dec-12 13:06:47

Search youtube for Rødgrød med fløde and you'll get an idea of pronunciation issues smile

surroundedbyblondes Wed 12-Dec-12 12:43:54

I have no experience of learning Danish, but I found the links between Swedish (living in Sweden for 2 years now) German (A level many years ago) and Dutch (lived 12 years in Belgium and spoke/wrote it fluently at work and socially) to be very close indeed.

Generally Scandinavians are able to understand each other when each speaking their own language.

spoonsspoonsspoons Wed 12-Dec-12 10:27:06

"I think Danish is a lot easier than say Swedish or Norwegian just cos Danish is SO similar to Dutch and German"

Just noticed this comment, Danish and Norwegian are virtually the same language (to read and write) so this isn't true and imo Norwegian is easier to pronounce. Danish is also far more similar to Swedish than German, this is why in 'the bridge' the swedish and danish police could talk to each other

KateB74 Wed 12-Dec-12 10:18:07

My FIL moved to Copenhagen 15 years ago (step MIL is Danish). He says it took about five years of lessons and total immersion at home before he could reliably hold a conversation in Danish and be understood by a stranger.

I've been visiting the city on and off for ten years or so, and have got to the stage where I can order food and drink, and shop. You can get by very easily in English in the city. Not so easily further afield though. Or if you have to work.

It is very expensive, as others have pointed out. My inlaws now split their time between Denmark and the UK, and step MIL can't get over how much cheaper supermarket prices are here.

Having said that, public transport is brilliant, and tenants' rights positively utopian. They can even cope with snow, although we did nearly get snowed in one Christmas visit.

SledsImOn Wed 12-Dec-12 09:42:55

My closest frined is Danish...I've learned a little but it's nothing like German imo, which I always found very instinctual.

It's a very sing-song language and sounds funny when he speaks it. I find the pronunciation quite hard.

I think if you've no kids then do it - I would love to have done something like that.

spoonsspoonsspoons Wed 12-Dec-12 09:35:51

Yes, my OH says a lot of things he has got for free on the NHS he would have had to pay for in dk. Irritates him greatly when people moan about the NHS and make out the Danish solution is perfect.

redexpat Wed 12-Dec-12 07:57:58

You really need to think about this.

Childcare (not an immediate concern granted) is wonderful,as is healthcare. You have to pay the first £100 for perscriptions. You have to pay for a lot of specialist care. In one region you have to ring the out of ours dr to get permission to turn up at A&E. And having worked at an afterschool club I wouldn't leave my child at that club. I do however leave him with a wonderful childminder.

I found reading not too difficult at all as the word order is the same as early modern english. So if you can read Shakespeare you''ll be ok reading danish. You can get free lessons for 3 years from the date of your first lesson. I passed the level 3 exam (about a GCSE) after 2 1/2 and did the A-level in another year. I'm now training to be a social worker.

Are you prepared to live a life without danish friends? Because honestly, after 5 years here I have a lot of aquaintances, but no friends. All my friends are other foreigners.

I wouldn't come here without a job. Get your degree recognised here before you come so you'll have a better idea of the level of qualification yyou have. Getting a job usually happens through your network. I think it is something like 80% are never formally advertised. If you don't have a network it is very difficult to find anything.

You shouldnt believe everything you hear about the wonderful welfare state. You can pay into a private social security through the trade union. You have to pay into it for a year if you work full time, or 2 if you work part time 17hours or more. If you get made redundant after 11 months, they wont pay out. I'm not sure if you will be entitled to the dole.

Really really think about it.

JeezyOrangePips Wed 12-Dec-12 07:48:26

Danish may be easy to learn to read and write, but the pronunciation is incredibly tricky. I found German easy to pronounce as they share a lot of the gutteral sounds with the area I live (it's supposed to be harder for English people as they don't say 'loch' the way us scots do, for example).

Being able to speak German didn't help with (trying to) speak Danish. You need to start before you go.

I've heard really good things about Rosetta Stone for learning to speak a language (as opposed to reading/writing), but I don't think it's cheap.

spoonsspoonsspoons Wed 12-Dec-12 07:38:14

My Danish OH agrees with what jennydoc has said. He always says that Danish people are only voted happiest because they have low expectations.

I also wouldn't agree with those who say Danish is relatively easy to learn. The pronunciation is very difficult for English speakers. After 6 years with Danish OH I can understand a fair bit of spoken Danish (I can tell when they don't translate stuff correctly in the Killing!) but can speak next to nothing. The ability of most Danes to speak great English also means it's harder to immerse yourself and just try to speak Danish.

fedupofnamechanging Wed 12-Dec-12 06:49:37

If you do go, they sell the most gorgeous chocolate called Guld bars - worth moving for those alone!

Alisvolatpropiis Tue 11-Dec-12 21:21:04

It's really helpful to hear of first hand accounts of living in Denmark! smile

As I've not had children yet I can't say how much it would bother me it being expected to return to work. But it pretty much is expected in Britain (or at least in my family, long line of working mother's) and the childcare is extortionate so I guess it's swings and roundabouts there.

I'm not expecting to move there and my life suddenly be transformed into a soft lit dream or anything,I am if nothing else a worrier hence this thread really. grin

I'm finding all this advice really helpful! Thank you!

jennydoc Tue 11-Dec-12 21:09:22

I am married to a Dane and lived there for 3 years. Copenhagen is great but far from the utopia these 'happiness studies' suggest - I think that Danes are happy but mainly because their expectations from life are lower (not necessarily a bad thing though).

I learnt Danish at an intensive language school (classes every morning) and it took about a year to be relatively fluent in speech, reading and writing. However, I did have a Danish family who talked nothing but Danish to me at home and this really helped. I knew a lot of people who did not have this and they often really struggled. If you know German or Dutch/Flemish it is not hard to learn to read/write, but the pronunciation is very hard and I don't think I ever grasped how to say certain words correctly. If you cannot pronounce things correctly people will simply not understand you, they are not used to hearing 'foreigner Danish' as we are in English. This can be very frustrating at times.

Almost everyone under retirement age speaks good English so you can get by without knowing Danish to an extent but all your bank letters etc will be in Danish and you need to be able to understand them. I was lucky as my husband could sort all that out.

I read that back and it sounds really negative - sorry, I didn't mean it to be like that but it is important to be realistic and I do think it takes time and hard work to get fluent. Danes are hard to get to know but there is a large international community there who are fantastic. It is a wonderful city and I'm sure you would have fun.


fedupofnamechanging Tue 11-Dec-12 21:00:51

Another voice of doom here, wrt childcare. In Denmark it seems to be expected that women return to work and make use of their lovely childcare facilities. Being a sahm is not really understood there and among the people I met, it seems to be frowned on, as if a sahm is wasting their skills/not contributing to society.

That might not bother you if you intend to work full time, but is something to think about.

HazleNutt Tue 11-Dec-12 20:54:21

Finnish is actually very similar to Estonian, but yes, they are both very difficult to learn. Danish is indeed relatively easy.

kirstytate Tue 11-Dec-12 20:41:41

I think Danish is "relatively" easy to learn if you know German/Dutch etc.

I knew a guy with a Finnish girlfriend once and apparently Finnish is fiendishly difficult to learn as it is one of those languages with no common root with other European languages - it is unique!

Alisvolatpropiis Tue 11-Dec-12 20:41:23

Weissdorm that is exactly my worry! I'll be there making stuttering attempts of speaking Danish and because they all speak English well they'll try to make it easier by speaking to me in English!

That happened when I went to Germany,initially I would be speaking in German and they would answer in English,so everyone got to practice!

Bue Tue 11-Dec-12 20:41:17

Well their Australian crown princess managed to do it, so I'm sure you can too!

Alisvolatpropiis Tue 11-Dec-12 20:37:50

Fellatio I read Cozy's question and did a panicked interview style answer grin

HelpOneAnother Tue 11-Dec-12 20:37:19

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Alisvolatpropiis Tue 11-Dec-12 20:36:31

Those sites look great ilovesooty and roseum thank you! Good to know that they're keen that immigrants learn the language and have provisions for it!

I'll have a look at Memrise thanks Revenge

I intend to have a job lined up before making any big moves. Or at least DP having one,his line of work might be easier to get into prior to moving.

FellatioNelson Tue 11-Dec-12 20:34:26

I can just see Alis at her very important Denmark interview, and Cozy sitting on the other side of the desk with her half moon glasses pushed down her nose, saying 'So...what do you have to offer the people of Denmark?' and then opening the trap door to the gunk tank if she doesn't have the right answer. grin

FellatioNelson Tue 11-Dec-12 20:32:22

What do you have to offer the people of Denmark?

Snort. grin I don't know why, but that has had me crying with laughter!

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