Dansk modul 3 er slut

Last month was a very busy month for me. I went to two countries: Italy (for holiday) and Germany (for work). For the latter one, I gave a presentation to our research and industry partners. The problem was, I only knew about the trip a month before I was supposed to go and give said presentation. At that time, I hadn’t even started working on that topic! So cue frantic simulating, analysing, and handwaving. Not necessarily in that order.

Studieskolen Module 3
Studieskolen Module 3

Anyway, after I returned, my quest in learning Danish continued on. In fact, we just had our test for Danish Module 3! This time we had only reading and writing tests to do. The reading test involved scanning for relevant information on the text to answer given questions; inserting sentences into paragraphs of text so that they make sense; inserting missing words so that a given text makes sense; and reading a few passages and answering questions related to them. The writing test involved writing two e-mails: one job application, and an e-mail to a friend who asked us about our new abode.

I have to say that the test was not as bad as I thought. Our teacher said that everyone passed the reading test. So it was down to the result of the writing test. But really, unless we really stuffed it up, I’m sure everyone did ok. We will know for sure on Thursday. The main problem we had was that time passed very quickly, especially for the writing part!

So what now? Most of us seem to be continuing on to Module 4. I and another student in the class were actually thinking of taking a break. We had been doing Danish two days a week for 9 months now, and we wanted to take a break for a while. But then, our teacher said that she was also going to have a break for 6 weeks in (the northern) summer. So that convinced the two of us to continue on with Module 4. But who knows if we would continue on to Module 5 after that.

Anyway, I do feel that we are starting to understand more of the language. One thing I did notice was that my vocabulary isn’t so big at the moment. And I still have problems with listening to what people are saying. I don’t know if it’s because of me or if it’s because Danes just speak so quickly. At times, I and several others would listen to what our teacher was saying, and we had problems keeping up. But then she would say it again either slower or in a different way (e.g. pronouncing words that would have been swallowed by Danes speaking “normally”) and then we would suddenly get it. It’s weird.

Edit: I started writing the title in English, then decided to switch to Danish. But I neglected to correct what I had written. Oops! Det var min egen skyld.

Dansk modul 2 er slut

Studieskolen Module 2
Studieskolen Module 2

So, this week we had our Danish Module 2 test. The test was on two separate days. The first day was a listening/reading/writing test and the second was a speaking test. I have to admit that I was quite apprehensive about the test, as I didn’t have much time to prepare. But nonetheless, it went better than I expected.

The previous week, our teacher talked to us one by one and told us how we were going. She told me I was doing fine, but I just needed to use different sentence construction aside from what we have learnt, by maybe reading Danish newspapers or books. Fair point.

The listening part of the test consists of several tasks: listening to bits of information and then answering several questions (on paper) that best fit the information given; listening to a story and putting numbers sequentially on pictures so that they fit the story sequence; and listening to several dialogues between two people and choosing from a selection of situations which one was most appropriate.

The reading part also consists of several tasks: we were given several questions and we had to scan several passages to find the answers; reading several paragraphs of a story, where in each one of the paragraphs there was one sentence that didn’t fit; writing/choosing words to fit in into a text with several words missing; and choosing and matching several paragraphs with their headlines.

In the writing test, we had to write a fairly long e-mail to someone. For the speaking test, we came in pairs. Each one of us had to pick one card out of five, corresponding to a specific book or subject that we had previously chosen. We then had to talk about the book/subject and then answer questions from our teacher. Afterwards, I and my partner were given a sheet with two pictures, and then we had to talk with each other about them.

For me, the hardest part of the test itself was the listening part. There was one particular task where I thought I was completely lost: the story sequence. But it turned out that I did better than I thought. One thing I did notice in the listening test was that I could understand my teacher’s Danish better than the recording for the test. Maybe this just means that I should listen to more samplings of Danish.

The speaking test was also nerve-wracking. While preparing for it, I found that I still couldn’t think and speak at the same time… okay, perhaps this doesn’t come as a surprise to some of you. But seriously, for me anyway, sometimes I would stop and think “should I do an inversion here?” or “what preposition should I use here?“. Of course, all of this comes with experience. I guess because our workplace is a very international, we all use English for everyday communication. A lot of my classmates either work with mostly Danes or they have Danish significant others, so they have a lot of chances to practise.

Anyway, so Danish Module 2 is over now. Next week we will start Module 3.1!

Finished Danish Module 1

Last Thursday I had my Danish test with the rest of the class which marked the end of our Module 1One by one, we had to go into the classroom and spend 10 minutes on the oral test. I was number four, but decided to go to Studieskolen early so I could do some more last-minute revising before taking my test. However, I didn’t end up doing much revising and instead just chatted with my fellow classmates who were taking the test before me.

So, the test itself consisted of three three tasks:

  1. Tell a story from five possible topics that we had to choose randomly – all of which we had to prepare for. We had about two minutes to tell the story. We were allowed to bring in a sheet with keywords, but were encouraged not to use it if we could.
  2. Converse with the teacher, who would ask us questions based on the story that we have just told her. In my case, she actually interspersed her questions as I was telling my story.
  3. Make up a conversation for the stickmen which the teacher had chosen randomly from our workbook. The stickmen are an important part of our learning. They have speech bubbles filled with keywords, which gives us clues as to what they are supposed to be saying.

The story that I picked was one that I was not terribly confident about. I found that one to be the hardest to describe. So I had to resort to using my sheet quite a bit. I think I did OK though. The section that I don’t think I did well enough was answering the teacher’s questions. I must admit, I am still not used to using Danish on the spot. There were times when I started speaking, but didn’t think through about what I wanted to say. As a result, I missed a word or two. But the teacher didn’t seem to mind it. She corrected me and I immediately realised the mistake I had done. I did much better in the stickmen. As I mentioned, the stickmen are an important part of our learning. I guess we had done them enough times that I just remember the conversations that they are supposed to be having. The teacher also made a comment which I am sure every single one of us in Module 1 got: that I mispronounced some of the words. So I guess we will all have to work on that.

This coming Tuesday, we will start Module 2! It is hard to believe that 3 months ago, we didn’t know any Danish whatsoever. We have definitely learnt a lot. I am not sure if everyone in our class passed or not. But I do know that some will be leaving us: one will take a more intensive course and one will be leaving Denmark for a while. I think there are also another one or two who will take a break from the classes. So I guess it’s as good time as any to get together and celebrate our accomplishment – small that may be.


More Danish

Danish Module 1.1 test and textbooks
Danish Module 1.1 test and textbooks

Pictured above is my unofficial test for Danish Module 1.1. The test consisted of a listening test (the teacher asking questions in Danish, and then we had to write our answers) and a writing test (we had to make conversations for some stickmen who are providing us with clues as to what they want to say). I managed to get a pretty good score for it. But that doesn’t necessarily mean anything!

So the whole Module 1.1 gang (except for 1 person who dropped out, 1 person who decided to retake Module 1.1, and 1 person who has switched to a later class) decided to proceed to Module 1.2. We also got a few new people: an American, another Spaniard, an Israeli, and a Serbian (although, we may have lost the latter as she could speak Norwegian, and therefore Module 1.2 would be too easy for her). This module also goes for 6 weeks – the same as Module 1.1. I find it hard to believe that we are now two-third through this module.

We are certainly progressing quickly. Module 1.2 seems to focus more on active conversations and reading long passages. We will have a test… an official one this time. The test will be conducted orally and consist of talking about a particular topic (which will be chosen randomly) and making stickmen conversation. I am actually rather anxious about this test. I think at the moment I am better at written Danish than in spoken Danish. But I guess this also gives me an incentive to get better at the spoken version.

On another note, I really should try to blog a bit more regularly.

Learning Danish

Learning Danish
Learning Danish

Just over two weeks ago, I applied to learn Danish at Studieskolen. There is no obligation for me to learn it, as the everyday language used at the University is English. Indeed, most Danes speak English very well. However, since I will be in Denmark for at least a few years, I thought it would make a lot of sense for me to learn Danish. Besides, I found that learning a language helps one in understanding the culture.

So I had my entrance interview with a nice lady from Studieskolen. She gave me a sentence and asked me to identify parts of the sentence (subject, verb, object, noun, adjective, article, pronoun, preposition, and adverb). Uh-oh… I had forgotten my grammar theory. Some of them were obvious, but some were not, at least to me. I last learnt grammar theory 16 years ago, and I have been putting theory into practice ever since. Just when I thought I had blown it, she gave me another test. This time I had to repeat some sentences in Danish that she read from a book. Then she asked me to translate the sentences to English. Some parts were obvious, but some parts I didn’t know about. Like any self-respecting scientist, I then started looking at the picture that accompanied the text and managed to translate some more parts. My interviewer said she was impressed and said that she had never seen anyone done that before. But I’m sure she said that to anybody who had bothered to look at the picture.

Anyway, so I signed up right there and then, and had my first class in the afternoon that very same day. Danish is certainly not the easiest of languages (and probably not the hardest either) to learn. The problem is simply that the spoken language is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike the written language. Letters and sometimes entire words get dropped with seemingly no pattern whatsoever. For example, the word “selvfølgelig” (meaning “of course”) has 6 letters dropped from it, and is pronounced se-fø-li (approximately like saying “say-foe-lee”). The sentence “det ved jeg ikke” (meaning “I don’t know that”) has the last letter from each word dropped. The sentence “jeg er australier” (meaning “I am an Australian”) has the “g” and the entire word “er” dropped. Learning Danish truly is like learning two separate languages. And don’t get me started on the (lack of) logic of counting numbers and telling time! A fellow student said to me that it is as if the Danes deliberately chose the hardest and non-obvious/non-logical way possible.

I am in good company, though. There are eleven of us plus our teacher. Our teacher is a Dane (selvfølgelig!) and then we have three Spaniards, a Romanian, a Frenchman, a Croat, a Nigerian, a Pakistani, a German, an Austrian, and me. We come from different backgrounds: three physicists (yeah, really!), a mathematician, two designers, an architect, a programmer, a psychologist, a business student, and a banker. We have our classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays in late afternoon. Each class goes for 2.5 hours plus 10-20 minute break. We usually have pronunciation and dialogue training which we either do individually or with 1-2 partners (depending on how many people turn up). It is now halfway through our module (module 1.1), and the material is getting more difficult. There are plenty of new words and new phrases to remember, and it is obvious that everyone is a bit overwhelmed. But it is good to see that no-one has dropped out yet. The next module (module 1.2) will start straight after this one finishes. The people I talked to said that they wanted to take some time off for a while and then pick up module 1.2 in the next cycle (each module takes 6 weeks to complete). I am also thinking the same. However, the downsides of taking the time off are: we might forget some of the material that we’ve learnt, and we won’t get the same teacher. We all like her; she’s very good and patient with us. So maybe I’ll continue on until I at least finish module 1.2 (i.e. the entire module 1). We’ll see. But at the moment, I am certainly enjoying the classes. And in any case, we will all go out to celebrate the completion of module 1.1.