“That’s also chicken…”
January 6, 2011 § 1 Comment
Yesterday was the first day of the language class. I am fortunate that my apartment is literally 500 feet from the humanities buildings here; many students have a 30+ minute commute by train and/or bus. Class starts at 9am… and it is basically always dark here. Sun isn’t up completely until around 10am, and it sets around 4pm.
The layout of the course is language instruction from 9am to 12:30pm, then half an hour for lunch, and then activities around the city some afternoons. Tomorrow we are going ice skating, and some other afternoons there is a visit to an art museum, a tour of the royal library, a viewing of a film, etc.
My instructor for the course seems nice. She is very young, maybe 25 or so, and I think this course is a part time job or something. Her name is foreign and hard for me to remember; all I can remember is it sounds vaguely like “solfège.” Thanks to my music major friends at CMU who have complained endlessly about that course (though not as much as eurythmics), that’s all I can remember.
Yesterday we were introduced to the letters, numbers, and a few simple statements including “what is your name?,” “my name is,” “how many are you?” “we are 18 students and 1 teacher, 19 in all. 6 boys and 13 girls,“ “where are you from?” “I am from the USA but I am half Russian; my mom is from Russia and my dad was born in Iraq,” “How many languages do you speak?” “I speak three; French, a little Danish, and obviously I speak English.”
I’m not sure why we learned the word obviously already, except that it is spelled with like a billion letters but you only pronounce about a quarter of them. The hardest part of Danish is the pronunciation. Their vowels are insane. They have A, E, I, O, U, Æ, Ø, Å, and half of them literally sound the exact same.
This is a little trick our teacher taught us to try to learn the vowel sounds:
A –> Æ –> E –> I: make your mouth unsmiling, and then smile bigger as you go through the vowels. So essentially (and this next part is my own transliteration so it’s not great), the sounds go “aye–>eh–>eee–>eeé”
Å –> O –> U –> Ø –> Y: make your mouth into a big round O, then make the O smaller and smaller as you go through the vowels. So, my transliteration is “oh–>oww –>who–>ooo–>ooua”
Yeah, doesn’t make much sense to me either. I just can’t hear the different between all the oooooos. Another place where I can’t hear the proper thing is when you say “my name is….” That is spelled “Jeg hedder…,” but pronounced “Ve hilla…” (Where they got ‘ve’ from ‘jeg,’ I have no idea.) However, our instructor emphasized that hedder, despite what we may hear, does NOT have an L sound in it. She said, “I don’t know why you guys keep hearing an L, there is NO L sound.” But that is a LIE, I tell you, a LIE. The L sound is there clear as day. To make the sound, you basically make like an L sound but stick out your tongue like a TH sound. An L with tongue is still an L. Skip this next sentence if you are tender hearted, but some parts of Danish kind of sound like you are throwing up a little in your mouth.
Today we mostly reviewed what we learned last class, and also learned how to say “I can understand Spanish when I read it but not when I hear it.” I love these super useful phrases. Another thing I learned I have been curious about since my last visit to Denmark. My mom and I went to a store that had these signs up for a sale that said “SLUT SPURT.” Of course, we found this hilarious, and my mom actually stole one of the signs, but I digress… So we listened to a story on tape today, then had to put these story boxes in the order of the story. One of the boxes said “Pause. Slut.” After we all had a good laugh, the teacher explained slut (pronounced more like sloot) actually means end. So “Slut Spurt” meant the end of the sale was going really fast.
Another thing about Danish is, like German, they just combine nouns together to make super long words, which makes it hard to figure out if you actually have seen a word before. For example, the story we read was about an office, which is kontor. It was, though, in fact about the head office, which is hovedkontor. That is an easy example, but the words could basically go on forever.
Yesterday, after class, a few other students and I took the metro to the university’s international student office to get our ID cards, which of course were not ready. Afterward, two other girls and I went to the grocery store. (If you are wondering why I go to the grocery store so often, it is that they don’t have huge stores here like Jewel or Geagle or Whole Foods, so not every store has everything and you have to travel around until you find what you want. This is particularly true of the cheap grocery stores.) I really wanted some ground turkey and chicken breasts and the two previous stores I went to did not have them. We went to the frozen meat section, and were trying to figure out what each of the meats were.
The first funny moment occurred when we were looking at this package of meat, that definitely looked like chicken, but it said “salmonellafri.” We were convinced that it must be packaged salmon, until one girl wisely realized it was saying salmonella free. The next funny moment occurred when we were trying to figure out the identity of the meat. There was a lot of writing on the package so we didn’t know what we should translate, so I went over to a Danish woman and asked her what is was, and she said chicken. Then we found another packaged of some ground meat, and we also couldn’t figure out what it was, so I went and asked her again, and it was embarrassingly also chicken. I’m sorry, but if it is chicken, at least write the Danish word for chicken in a large font so we know what the word is!
The final funny moment needs no words: