Friday 7 December 2012

I’m not learning Danish, but I am…

What I’ve learnt by watching 7 episodes of Borgen.


If you still haven’t heard about it, Borgen is a political Danish series (the Danish West Wing) set up in Borgen, the Castle, in Copenhagen, where the Danish Parliament is based.

The series is available on Lovefilm in Danish with English subtitles and this is what I learnt in 7 episodes watched in 8 days, without wanting to learn Danish, but with a strong interest in languages and other cultures. And this is an answer to the question I’m asked at pretty much every dinner or phone call at Voulez-vous parler: ‘How quickly can you become fluent in a foreign language?’ Well, very quickly, if you’re language obsessed and have a natural talent for it, and quickly if you’re less of a linguist but an avid learner, because…this is what I’ve learnt whilst watching the new Prime Minister’s life of Birgitte Nyborg:

  • Greetings
  • A key word that will open lots of doors: Tak
  • Some numbers
  • Cognates
  • Some countries, such as France, Denmark, the States, Greenland, England
  • TV channels
  • A few swear words 
  • Food and drink such as pancake, beer, wine
  • Sports such as spinning, running (Katrine often runs and goes out with a spinning intstructor at some point)
  • Clothes
  • Political and economic vocabulary
  • Some elements of the Danish way of life: relationships, politics, issues regarding gender ratios in companies, the Greenland issue, childcare, MP and PM expenses (scandal) etc.
  • Last but not least, I’ve learnt a lot more than a book will teach you about intonations. You can speak a language really badly if don’t have the right intonation, think: English & French train drivers reading their health and safety sheet as quickly (and as badly it seems) as possible in the Eurotunnel shuttle (I have very good tutors Eurotunnel management if you read this, ring me, your staff is eager to learn).


The conclusion is that if you want to learn a language fast, of course, take lessons, but what you do outside classes, like going to meetups to practise with native speakers, find a girlfriend/boyfriend who’s native in the language - hey, Pourquoi pas? It’s the best way to become fluent - and the hours you will spend watching films, youtube videos, listening to the radio in the language you want to learn will make wonders. I’ve just been watching Sex and the City in English with Greek subtitles to revise my rusty Greek. Talk about a woman crazy about languages!