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What's rewarding about learning Danish?

Hey friends,

I'm an avowed language nerd who recently decided to try Danish, due to it having recently been made available here on Duolingo. I find Danish fun to learn, especially how to pronounce the words.

But I have one question for those who have been learning Danish for longer than I have: What do you find particularly rewarding about the language?

86% of the population of Denmark speaks English (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_English-speaking_population). That means there isn't much practical value to learning Danish if you're an English speaker like me. Not many people will need a Danish-English interpreter or translator, just because most Danes speak English.

But, for example, is there any Danish literature you enjoy reading? Danish films? Danish video games? Danish YouTube videos? Essentially, have any cultural doors have been opened to you because you learned Danish?

Basically, I want to know what really makes Danish worth learning.

September 20, 2014



I've been learning danish here on Duolingo ever since it launched 27 days ago and I would say the most rewarding thing is to see how suprised my danish friends are about how well I can write and read danish already. When I am here in Denmark, I can watch tv now and read danish subtitles and get a lot out of it, which motivates me to continue to learn more and more danish. Speaking and understanding spoken danish remains very challenging for me though.


There is a rich tradition of Danish humor to which you will gain access. Well worth the effort.


What do you recommend?


Back in the day I used to enjoy Linie 3 http://da.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linie_3. You can find some of their things on Youtube. There is also a whole universe of summer "Revy" comedy going back decades, which I only know slightly. Danes on this forum can make better recommendations about that than I. Danish song is treated on another post, but some Danish songs are delightfully humorous. I used to enjoy the Nattergale. :)


Learning another language awakens and stretches my brain and for that alone, I find it worthwhile. It is neat to watch TV shows or movies in Danish and be able to pick out bits here and there. And one day I would love to visit Denmark. I realize most of the population speaks English...but I think it would add another dimension to be able to converse with the people I meet in Danish.

At the end of the day: I am having fun. :)


I pretty much feel the same way. With this post I wanted to see if anyone could tell me about some extra benefits of learning Danish, but really ultimately I'm going to keep learning Danish just 'cause it's fun. Thanks for weighing in.


If anyone is interested in Danish drama, The Bridge and Borgen are both great shows.


Another suggestion could be the classic TV series "Matador", which is held in extremely high esteem in the Danish population. It follows life in a provincial Danish town from the early 1920 up to the late 1940s and show a lot about how society changed over those decades. A bit like Downton Abbey just better and less sopey.


Forbrydelsen (called The Killing in the US and UK) is good, too. It was the first Danish TV show I'd ever heard of here in the US. It was apparently a big hit in Europe. I remember seeing the show spoofed in a dream sequence on the Absolutely Fabulous 2011 Christmas special (titled Identity) with the original actress Sofie Gråbøl reprising her role as Detective Lund.


I'm from Denmark and lived in the USA for about 5 years. Whenever I talked to someone and we came upon the topic of Denmark and Danish (which always happened, Americans are a lovely, inquisitive people) I would often mention that I only saw 3 good reasons for learning Danish (other than if you want to live here): Benny Andersen, a poet who played beautifully with the language. Dan Turèll, a poet and writer, kind of a Danish beatnik, who also did wonderful things with the language. Peter Høeg, a writer (Smillas Sense Of Snow among others) who just gets Denmark, god and bad. His book, Borderliners (De måske egnede) is probably the best book ever written and gives a good insight into the Danish "soul", if you will. There are other fine authors and media, but I feel these three can only be truly appreciated in their native language. Other than that I don't really see a reason for learning Danish, there's less than 6 million of us and most of us speak English :-)


Thanks for answering so honestly.


Thanks for your thoughtful post :) I'm a definitely a fan of Benny Andersen and Peter Høeg; will have to check out Dan Turèll. I have actually read De måske egnede in Danish and agree it was a very powerful and amazing piece of literature. Would you care to elaborate on your comment, "gives a good insight into the Danish "soul""? I'm very interested in your opinion.


Well, the theme of "coming into the light", that everyone can be saved, is very Danish. I'm sure it's the same in a lot of countries (Scandinavia perhaps), but we Danes have a tendency to think that all the ills of the world could be solved if people would just act sensible and follow the rules. We generally believe that all people are good and that there is only one way to be "right".. hmm. Not sure I can explain it well. So, in the book they try to rehabilitate the protagonist and his friends, to bring them into the light of reason, because they cannot accept that A: there are some people who can't be saved and B: there are other ways to be saved (to be a good person & citizen) than their basic middle class way. Denmark is the definition of middle class, which is why we are rich. It makes for a dull society, but it also means that we trust each other and work more or less together. There's nothing wrong with trying to help people, as long as you accept that it's the people choice how or if they want to use that help. That's what I got out of the book, but I was never good at analysing literature, so who knows :-) Hope that makes sense


Some people might be happy to read the fairy tales of H.C. Andersen or the philosophical works of Søren Kierkegaard in the original language. For fans of contemporary TV shows like Borgen, The Killing, The Bridge etc. it would also add a dimension.


My French teacher told me that Kierkegaard was Norwegian! Huh. The more you know.


Might have been thinking of one of our other great writers, Ludvig Holberg, who was from Norway, but wrote in Danish since it was part of the Danish realm in those days.


This is fascinating. Thanks so much for weighing in.

[deactivated user]

    I guess my reason for learning Danish and other languages other than Spanish is so I can enjoy book and TV shows in the language as well as maybe find penpals to talk to. Outside of that it doesn't have too much use for me.


    Cool. What are some Danish books and TV shows that you enjoy?

    [deactivated user]

      Haven't looked for any yet. I'm a beginner and I won't be able to understand them yet. I want to wait till I learn a little more.


      Fair enough. Thanks for weighing in.

      [deactivated user]

        No problem ;)


        I use Danish pretty much every day, even if it's just 3 words to my girlfriend. I think it's more a matter of interest in the language and the culture. If you want to do anything in Denmark, Danish is still quite important, if not for a job then at least integrating. I'm learning mostly so I can actually converse with my girlfriend's family. Although most do speak English, not all of them have the confidence to speak in English to me and it really helps to know what's going on around me. Nor do they speak in English while they have a conversation (such as at the dinner table) while I'm around, and I used to end up being left out, but now I can at least join in even if my contributions are small and mostly meaningless


        That makes sense. Thank you!


        If you live in Denmark you will need the language for social reasons. Sure, people know English but an underapreciated fact is how silly it feels for them to speak English to each other. That means that if you go to lunch with a bunch of danes they will make a brave attempt to speak English in order to be polite, but invariably they will swich to Danish eventually. It won't come back to English until you break in.

        Now, one trick that works is to only learn to understand. They speak Danish you speak English. That works well.


        That's true. The social value of learning Danish is probably important too for traveling to Denmark.


        The american series "The killing" is based upon the Danish television series "Forbrydelsen". I have watched the original version with Swedish subtitles and I definitely recommend it.


        My interest in Danish started for heritage reasons. I wanted to study abroad and choose Denmark where I first learned the language. It is rewarding to know something of the culture and language of my ancestors.

        As others have mentioned, I can appreciate literature/film/TV/music better when I understand the original language and am familiar with the culture that produces the creative work.

        It is fun to know a language spoken by few people because I can eavesdrop on Scandinavians who think no one else can understand them when they travel abroad.

        Finally, leaning Danish has helped me develop my sense of humor and sarcasm ;)


        I love learning new languages and thought I would see if I liked it. Turns out it's very easy to grasp, a little more difficult to pronounce. But I love a challenge!

        With regards to your comments about many people being able to speak English there, I'm always trying to tell my pupils at school that just because many people understand/ can speak English doesn't mean you have to speak it to them. In my experiences abroad, the locals love you trying to talk to them in their language, even if you can only say a few things.

        I've always wanted to visit Denmark so will be hoping to use my skills over there if I can ever master the pronunciation! Why did you pick Danish?

        Learn Danish in just 5 minutes a day. For free.