More Danish Oddities – linguistics

So I still don’t have Internet access at home.  Blogging, therefore, is just squeezing in between other things when I have the chance – so I hope my quick glimpses into life as an ex-pat in Denmark aren’t too spotty.

Surprisingly, some things are super easy to deal with, despite my earlier complaints.  But, IOIHMCPRN!  (If Only I Had My CPR Number! – Yes, I say it enough that it needs its own acronym.)

For instance, dealing with written Danish isn’t bad at all… you just need a quick handy guide to pronunciation:


Å = Oa (oar)
aa = oa (oar)
ej = i  (vine)
y = u
j = y
g = silent
d = l, but don’t dwell on it
l = l, but you can take your time saying it
ø = eu (like the french word for fire – feu)
r = back of the throat r.  It doesn’t exist in English.
a,e,i,o,u = take a guess (you’re probably not going to get it right anyhow)
q,w,x,z = haven’t actually met them in Danish yet.
b,c,f,h,k,m,n,p,s,t,v = about the same as English, just try to swallow them a bit, which makes it sound more Danish.

And with that, you can probably at least figure out a few things, for instance:

Streets here seem to end with -vej, -gade and allé. (Ignore that danish keyboards don’t actually have an “é” key for the moment.)

As far as I can tell, they are pronounced as “vi”, as if you’re saying vine, but ignoring the second half of the word, and as “alley” and “alley”.  I unfortunately pronounced -vej as “way” for the first few days I was here, but I think I’ve kicked that habit now.  And, figuring out that “gade” is alley required rewiring my brain.

If you ignore the proper pronunciation, however, it’s almost possible to pretend you’re reading really poorly written English…  like spending time online with 14 year olds.

So, all in all, it’s not too bad.  I just fear for when my colleagues will test me with the usual danish tongue twister: Rødgrød med fløde.  When that happens, Ignore all the rules above and run for your life!

3 thoughts on “More Danish Oddities – linguistics

  1. I’m not sure you’re hearing your colleagues correctly. They’re probably actually asking you to say “rugbrød med flød”. It’s not actually a dish, just something they try and get us to say. I come from England and fortunately I’ve been here long enough to both be fluent and have got over the “say this…” stage.
    And ‘gade’, is street. And in, for example, York and Leeds, all the streets with ‘…gate’ at the end, actually are corruptions of ‘gade’. And towns that end with ‘…by’ (Wetherby, Selby, etc)…

    • My colleagues haven’t actually tried to get me to say anything yet – so that’s all good, but the one above is a pretty famous “tongue twister” although it sounds different from the ryebread version you’re suggesting. You can google it, if you don’t believe me.

      And yes, all three of the words -alle, -gade and -vej are all “street” of one sort of another – though I’ll just have to trust you on the part about -gate being a corruption of -gade.

      Having only spent 2 weeks total in the UK, I’ve never come across cities that end in -by… but that would make sense. Never occurred to me, really – but I’m happy to learn something new. (=

  2. You’re right, Anthony–it is “rødgrød med fløde.” And your friend is right about gade and by. The Vikings settled Dublin and York in the 900s, I think, so we have several words in English from that time period–knife and gate come to mind quickly. Another town with -by on the end is Whitby. Looking forward to meeting you soon.

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