Do you always speak Danish (if you can)?

DSC00001I am ashamed to admit that I don’t. I have been aware that, after spending eighteen months learning it a long time ago, that I simply don’t speak enough Danish. To be fair, as a freelancer and mum, I do spend half my day working on my own and writing in English and the other half with my son, to whom I speak English. But increasingly, for my own ease, I have been speaking English to Danish people I converse with. I excuse this by thinking it is easier (but for whom – me certainly but it is a big assumption to think that it is easier for them) or that I am with my son and I want him to understand and also not pick up my odd accent, which often makes people think I am Norwegian. But these are just that, excuses.

Recently I went to a craft workshop run by a Danish lady and attended by other Danes. I think they must have thought I was incredibly shy but the reality is – I was too shy to try and speak Danish. I came home tearful and frustrated – I know I can manage to communicate but I have lost the confidence to do so. I am fearful that my accent isn’t any good anymore and that, after the horrible experience of attempting to speak German in Berlin for 18 months and getting a negative reaction, people won’t understand me or just reply in English.

So I decided that no matter how nerve wracking it is, I am going to speak Danish to Danes as much as I can again. I have been doing so for a few weeks now and actually it is gong OK. They can understand me and are actually engaging in conversation rather than simply responding so my confidence is growing. I am going to watch The Killing (Danish version) again as a) it is amazing and b) it will help me get my ear back in tune.

I don’t want to waste all that hard work no matter how scary it is at times. As I tell my son being brave is being scared of something but doing it anyway (actually stolen from Tale of the Brave but nontheless a valuable concept).



  1. I know what you mean about Berlin, my husband has the same experience with his German. Such a shame. Best of luck with your Danish! I’m re-watching The Killing right now too, btw 🙂

  2. I speak mostly Danish now pretty much everywhere in public and with friends/ in-laws, however, I usually speak English at work, even with my Danish colleagues. I think it has something to do with the fact that I think it’ll be seen as unprofessional if I make mistakes. Plus, English is our corporate language, so I’m always safe there. I apologize for my fellow Germans for being rude! My experience is that Danes are usually very appreciative of someone trying to speak Danish.

    • I am always envious of people who have direct access to Danes to be able to speak to and learn from. Being married to another Brit it was never able to practice at home or with family. I noticed with my fellow language school students the positive difference this made.

      • I’m very thankful for my bf’s family, because my bf himself won’t speak Danish to me when we’re alone… when we met, I didn’t speak any Danish, so our default language is English, which we tend to use way too frequently! 😀

  3. Well done Melanie, the Danes will only respect you more for it. In my experience anyway. I tell my boys that same story, because really you can only be brave if you are scared. Feel the fear and do it anyway!

    • I think they do but it often confuses Danes as they think why bother? Which is a shame. I think it is important to have some basics and to be able to understand things around you to avoid feeling too isolated.

  4. The more we visit Copenhagen the more we find people speaking to us in Danish rather than realising straight away we are English. Would love to be able to respond even in a basic way as it feels rude not to. Hoping to learn a bit of Danish before we come again. Any advice on books that would be helpful?

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