woensdag 7 september 2016

The Danish surround system

Today I held a presentation about learning Danish outside school for a small company of expats under the wings of UIC, University International club in Aarhus.

While preparing it, new thoughts and things came to mind. I'll tell you about these here, while linking to an older blog here.

My point is that a lot of language-learning happens outside school. Learning a language requires practice, and there are lots of opportunities for that in your daily Danish life. Probably you have discovered most of them for yourself, maybe you have different strategies. If so, please leave a comment and tell me about it!


The trick of learning Danish outside school is to surround yourself with Danish. You can do that in a very simple way by turning on your radio and finding programmes on topics, or music, you are interested in. That way, you'll be able to fill in the gaps. Understanding a language is all about filling in the gaps, and the less gaps, the better.

The same goes for television and internet. Watch Danish films with subtitles (preferably Danish ones) and watch films in other languages also with Danish subtitles. Watch Danish news on internet, and repeat the bulletin several times. This way, you'll catch the words you missed before, you'll hear things you didn't concentrate on earlier.

Read Danish books, listen to Danish audio books, and use your library subscription up to the hilt. Everyone with a CPR number can be a member of a public library for free. Apart from books and audio books, libraries also have e-books on loan, and they have an online film library, too.

Engage the Danes you know in your 'surround system'. Ask them for their favorite music, book, film, food/recipe, furniture – anything favorite. You'll make them happy because they can share fun things with you, and you'll make yourself happy because you have found another inroad in Danish language and Danish culture. This way you'll be a master of conversation, because content is the fuel of communication!

Also, connect your daily life with your Danish surround system. Make shopping lists in Danish, do your planning in Danish, prepare a to-do list for the plummer, the carpenter or the car mechanic in Danish... the possibilities are endless.

But where to find those specialist words, you'll be asking me now. Well, get yourself an illustrated dictionary! It contains the most crazy words you would never find in ordinary dictionaries. Find the right picturem and more often than not you'll find the right word, too. Google Images works, too.

It sounds like a frightening thing to do, but change the operating languages of your devices to Danish. At least your smartphone, if you can afford one. The idea is to surround yourself with Danish, and what works better than 'danifying' a tool that you use a lot? And how about buying a Danish computer or keyboard, if the time is there to buy a new one? Those pesky å's, ø's and æ's are at your fingertips all of a sudden.

I can highly recommend the dictionary app DDO /Det Danske Ordbog). Yes, it is in Danish, but you'll be surprised how quickly you will understand that, too.

While you're at it: start using Danish on social media. See your posts as little writing assignment. Basically, posts are in everyday language, but since you are writing instead of speaking, there is a time lag that gives you the opportunity to use dictionaries as much as you wish – or need. Especially in the beginning of learning Danish, that is incredibly helpful. In real life, you hardly grab your dictionary if you want to say something, so you would be tongue-tied and silent in real-life company. But in the digital world you can speak and use the dictionary as much as you want, because there is a time lag anyway.

Also, you'll probably get feedback in Danish on your posts - maybe also corrections, if you've written something wrong... but that is part of the deal. You'll learn from it. The most important is that you have Danes to write Danish with. And that is very motivating!

Read more about motivation learning Danish here. And don't forget to tell me what your Danish surround system looks like!

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