I’m sad to report that my Danish learning process has taken a turn for the worse. After holiday travel caused me to miss a few classes of my Level 1 Danish class, I was rescheduled into a phonetics class, with the idea that, if I can pass it, I can proceed to level 2. However, there are several changes from my prior class that are making me realize how good the earlier class was. First, the original instructor, Steen, was the headmaster of the school. He has decades of experience, is quite unflappable, and seems to be the author of the special technique for teaching pronunciation that makes K.I.S.S. the top DSL (Danish as a Second Language - I think I just made that up) school in Copenhagen. The new guy is very nice, very enthusiastic, a trained linguist, and reminds me a lot of me as a teacher. In other words, he’s one big long rookie mistake. Please allow me to enumerate the deficiencies in the new class:
- We meet from 5:15 pm to 9 pm Tuesday and Thursday, compared to 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm M/W/F. This is just too long.
- The old class had a strictly graded test at the end of each day. The new teacher explained his theory that the stress of preparing for the test was using up cognitive resources that could be better spent. Well, speaking for myself, a primary reason for going to a class instead of just sitting at home with a Danish workbook is that I need the external structure and pressure. With the old class, the pressure was to memorize written Danish sentences, certainly a good step in learning a language.
- The teacher subconsciously cheats his pronunciation when he is trying to emphasize points. Some students thought that the difference between the [e] and [i] vowels, which are my personal bugaboo because they are nearly identical, was that the [e] is long and the [i] is short. They thought this because the teacher pronounced them that way for three hours. He wasn’t intending to, and he didn’t realize he was doing it; he thought he was just speaking clearly for us.
- The old class had a set routine. This is critical in making the time pass quickly. The new teacher has no firm plan and so we spend all of those freed up cognitive resources wondering what we’re going to do next.
- The class is too large. The instructor said he wanted only 9, but we have between ten and twelve. The last class had about 13 and felt smaller. I heard that of 18 students in the last T/Th level 1 class, only three passed. So maybe if I stick it out class will shrink.
- Many of the students are sullen. They have completed two or three full three-week courses and then been told they need to take a phonetics class, perceived as remedial. They speak enough Danish that much of the classroom instruction is in Danish. This makes me feel stupid for not knowing enough Danish, which is silly because I’ve had two weeks of class and some of them have had nine weeks.
- With the M/W/F format and constant preparation for tests, learning Danish becomes a constant part of your life. You’re stressed, but it’s a productive stress. With T/Th classes and no clear homework or testing, I have four-day weekends from learning; all of Monday, and Tuesday morning and afternoon, are filled with Sunday-night-style “end of the weekend” dread.
- The new class is four and a half weeks long, instead of 3 weeks. So I have three and a half more weeks of this to look forward to. That which does not kill you, makes you resent Danmark.
More things you wouldn’t guess about spoken Danish by reading it: os, meaning us, and også, meaning also, are pronouced identically in fast spoken Danish. They share a vowel with the o in kop (cup) and the er in cykler (a bicycle).
Gulvet is pronouced something like ghoul and means, a floor. Køkkenet means kitchen, not coconut, and is pronounced kook-nuh. Hundrede does mean 100, but only half of the letters (hun and either of the es, take your pick) are even implied by the pronunciation.