By Danish language lessons.
This week is my third week of lessons, and they are going well. But they’re 4 days a week for 3 hours a day, plus travel time to and from the school. (By bike. We’re trying to go native.) Plus homework, which can be a couple hours sometimes.
So some days, most days, it feels like all I’m doing is learning Danish. Or trying to at least.
For someone who never really thought she’d be in school again, this routine has taken some getting used to.
Some days I really love it. Being in a classroom is a very specific feeling, and there is a part of me that has missed it. (I miss my English Lit classes even more, but hopefully book club will soon fill that void!) Some days I come hope optimistic about my Danish speaking future.
Other days it feels like slogging through mud. I can’t seem to understand anything my teacher is saying. My
three week old vocabulary seems pathetically small. And no matter what I do I can’t hear the difference between a, e, and æ. These days are made worse when I go out into the Danish speaking world and realize that even if I am starting to understand my teacher, I am no where near understanding the average Dane.
Also, let us remember that these things get more difficult as you get older. (I get to say that because I’m the third oldest person in my Danish class. They’re all babies at 20, 21 years old.)
These are the days when it feels a little hard to justify all this time spent on learning a language that I may never use again after just a few years. It’s important for fully participating in the local culture and in our experience here in Aarhus, but it’s also a lot of work.
I get very mad at these articles – like this one – about how to be a Successful Expat. The first suggestion in this article? Become Fluent. That’s it. Become fluent. They don’t even say “learn the language” but insist instead on fluency. As if it were that easy.
First, duh. Second, I do hope they realize that fluency takes many years. An example. When Brian and I were in Ebeltoft, we met a fellow expat originally from Italy who now owns a café. He came to Denmark knowing only Italian. Within 6 months, he had learned English. It took him 5 years to learn Danish.
Yes learning the language will greatly help the expat in making friends, building a network, and fitting into the day to day life of his or her adopted culture. But in the years it will take me to become fluent in Danish, I’d hate to think of myself as a failing expat.
I do want to learn Danish, and I am working hard at it. But I resent the implication that becoming fluent is easy. One does it while one prioritizes the many other demanding and immediate needs of the expat: finding housing, finding a job, building a network, going grocery shopping, etc. Cut an expat a break. It’s stressful enough changing countries and changing lives.
But today was a good day in Danish class. I understood most of what my teacher is saying, mostly because in the last two days we’ve moved on to actual phrases (like “I go shopping” – Jeg køber ind) and past tense (“I went shopping yesterday” – Jeg købte ind i går). So I will remember my successes and continue to slog through!