Language

How to Learn Danish: A Beginner’s Guide

Siobhan Fisher September 18, 20193-min read

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Starting to learn a foreign language from scratch is never a simple task; it requires motivation, clear goals, and a strict learning structure to really succeed. Here at Tandem, we like to think we’re pretty knowledgable on the whole “learning a language” thing, so we’ve rustled up this post on how to learn Danish for beginners!

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Before we get to the tricks and hacks on how to learn Danish, let’s start with the obvious question.

Why should I learn Danish?

The Danish language is spoken by approximately 5.6 million people worldwide. Outside of Denmark, you’ll find people speaking Danish in Germany, Greenland, Norway, and Sweden among others.

Compared to other Scandinavian languages, like Norwegian and Swedish, Danish is a tricky language to learn. Danes pronounce words completely different to how they are written, which can be a bit mind-boggling at times! On top of that, there are also extra letters (Æ, Ø, and Å) that aren’t in the English alphabet. But the fact that it’s a challenging language to learn is another reason to give it a go!

For those planning to live and work in Denmark, learning the language will increase the amount of work opportunities available to you. Similarly, if you’re to planning to enter into education in Denmark, it’s also a good idea to start learning the language well in advance so you don’t limit the types of courses you can enroll in.

Either way, complete beginners in Danish can start out slowly with the words for “hello” (halløj or hej), “please” (vær så venlig) and “thanks” (tak) and build up their vocabulary bit by bit.

How can I learn Danish as a beginner?

1. Take a language course at a language school

Admittedly, language classes aren’t for everyone, but they’re a great way to get you into the routine of learning a language and meet other new people in the city. It’s usually less daunting practicing languages with other non-native speakers! There are plenty of public and private language centers in Denmark with flexible courses depending on your schedule and language level. If your schedule is tight, you can also sign up for an online course.

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2. Live with native speakers

Sometimes being forced to speak the language is the best way to advance your skills. Step out of your comfort zone and find a room in a flatshare with Danish natives. Simply being in an environment where you hear the language being spoken helps to tune your ears to the new sounds. You also tend to pick up colloquial or slang words and phrases quicker this way, which is one of the elements of language learning that isn’t easily taught.

3. Flashcards

It may be a lot of repetition but flashcards are a great way for Danish beginners to get to grips with all the new vocabulary. Quizlet or Duolingo’s Tinycards are both great tools for this. Alternatively, if you want a handy way to save new words you come across on the web, check out Fluentcards!

Not totally sold on flashcards? Stick post-its with the Danish words for objects around your flat. That way you’ll see them every day and slowly familiarize yourself with the word and the spelling.

4. Listen to Danish podcasts

There are plenty of podcasts available for Danish beginners, covering everything from Danish news, to culture, and politics. We’ve heard very good things about The Snak, described as a “bite-sized podcast about Scandinavia” as well as DR’s extensive podcast library.

For those wanting to learn more about the Danish culture (in English), check out How to live in Denmark. It’s a great resource for newbies trying to find their way in Denmark, with topics such as what to wear to work in Denmark, Danish Christmas traditions, and even the Danish dental care system.

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5. Download language learning apps

We’re big believers that language learning apps are one of the best ways to advance your language skills! Most vocab trainers, such as Duolingo, Memrise or Drops, offer Danish courses to get you started with the basics. Once you’re confident and want to put what you’ve learned to the test, download a language exchange app like Tandem and find a native speaker to have a real conversation with.

6. Read the news in Danish

Don’t neglect reading in the language your learning! Taking five minutes out of your day to read the news in Danish is an ideal way of expanding your vocabulary and staying up to date with what’s happening in Denmark and the rest of the world. We’d recommend reading DR’s news site as it’s a little easier to read and perfect for those still getting to grips with the Danish language.

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7. Don’t stress about the pronunciation

We already mentioned that Danish pronunciation is hard to grapple with at first since Danes tend to only pronounce small sections of the word. For example, “God morgen” is the Danish translation of “Good morning.” When spoken, it’s actually pronounced gor morn. Concentrate on the vocabulary and grammar first and once you’re more confident with that side of the language, your pronunciation and accent will come more naturally.

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