In my comment on your ‘Europeans’ post I promised to write again about my experiences with the Danish language. It is very similar to the Swedish language when viewed in written form. However the peoples of the two nations make it sound quite different when spoken.
I had 50 hours of tuition back in the late 80s before leaving to live and work in Copenhagen for two and a half years.
Definite (et) and indefinite (en) articles are placed at the end of the noun. Hence ‘the house’ (hus) is ‘huset’ and ‘a house’ is ‘husen’. A noun that took me a while to master without running over and sounding like a tommy gun was ‘the university’ … ‘universitetet’…there, I think I may have done it again!
The verb to buy is ‘kobe’. The Danes call their capital ‘Kobenhavn’. Literally this is ‘the buying place or harbour.
Shops or stores can be termed ‘handels’ so I was amused one day to see a sign in large friendly letters above a shop which boasted ‘Bog Handel’ – bookshop.
The word for flower is very descriptive, and I love it … Blomst.
It is very difficult to speak Danish and be understood. Scandanavians generally speak excellent English. I believe the moment they determine you are a foreigner they switch to English mode. This means that if you deliver your finest Danish, it takes them quite by surprise and they are not expecting it. This I am convinced is why my Danish was always met with a quizzical look and the response … Vad?!
I was at the old fair ground of Bakken on the outskirts of Kobenhavn and in a bar I asked for a beer. I used the word ‘ol’ and not Carlsberg or Tuborg. I was served a Pernod. I drank it politely and resolved to stick to English in the future.
I belonged to the Copenhagen Theatre Circle – an amateur dramatics group. A Danish member was asked if he did not find Shakespeare rather difficult to grasp, as even the British do. On the contrary he said. Take for example the balcony scene. Juliet says ‘wherefor art thou, Romeo?’ Many English people understand this to mean ‘where are you Romeo?’ In fact she is exclaiming Romeo, why do you have to be Romeo? Why couldn’t you be from another family?’ The key word is ‘wherefor’. It relates to the Danish word ‘varfor’ meaning ‘why’.
The connections with English words is fascinating. Of course many of the scottish words are also closely related too: Kirk (church), Ken (know), Bern (child) are all common examples. If you speak Geordie then you are close to being a Danish speaker. There is a ferry link in the summer between Newcastle and Esbjerg. In Danish you might say: ‘ Skal vi ga hjem nu’. If you are a Geordie (or even if you are not) its not hard to work that one out.