Danish: A Scandinavian language spoken by some 5,5 million people in the Northern European country, Denmark. Most people wouldn’t pick Danish first when setting out picking up a new language. But Danish has it’s charm. It’s related to English and has many similarities, yet strangely different in the way it’s spoken. In this article, I’ll discuss how to learn Danish, and I hope it’ll help you getting started with this fascinating language.
Some people hesitate to learn Danish because of a false assumption of it being very difficult. Despite its strange pronunciation, Danish is actually an easy language to learn for an English speaker. All it takes is some good study materials, consistency and a lot of repetition.
A beginner course
Usually, I recommend the Assimil language learning series for beginning almost any language. (see my review of Assimil French) The problem is that Assimil never did a version of their Danish course, so unless you speak French (in which case you can find the volume on amazon)
Teach Yourself Danish is a viable option for a beginners course.
Teach Yourself does, however, have a higher focus on grammar than Assimil.
I’m generally not a fan of this.
I believe that grammar understanding should come naturally through repeatedly hearing correct use of the language around you.
When you rely too much on studying grammar, you have a tendency to loose focus. And it just doesn’t stick that well.
So I recommend that you focus on the sentences as a whole as well as the audio recordings. Do your daily lessons, do lots of revisions.
But don’t worry too much about the grammar explanations and drills. Consider them there as a reference.
No one gets the grammar down in the beginning stages, so don’t worry, it’ll come later!
The importance of doing several things at once
An important part of how to learn Danish is that you should vary your methods.
Do your Teach Yourself lessons in the mornings, for instance. Then listen to some podcasts or easy Danish stories on your way to work. (Here’s a link to some mini-stories I’ve recorded!)
During your lunch break, see if you can fit in a little reading, and try doing another kind of audio course in the evening.
The more variation in your study approach, the better.
The reason is that your brain downplays stuff it doesn’t think is important.
If you only listen to the recordings of one Danish speaker, revise the same lessons and study the same book, it all stays in the same category in your heard. “That thing you do each morning while drinking coffee”.
If you suddenly hear the language in loads of different contexts, your brain gives it much more attention. It’s like hearing a wild story from just one person versus having everybody talking about it. If everyone is talking about it, it must be true!
Here’s an article about how to fit multiple learning sessions into a busy day
So in the following, I’m going to mention a few of the things you could be doing in parallel with Teach Yourself as well as moving forward.
Glossika – A great program for vocab, pronunciation and intuitive grammar
Glossika is a language learning resource that I recently discovered.
Glossika offers a large amount of languages, Danish included. It has several thousand of Danish sentences in its system complete with audio, pronunciation and the English translation.
The idea is that you do study 5-20 new sentences a day and revise what you’ve previously been through.
Glossika is great in that it teaches you Danish in “chunks” rather than individual words or grammatical points.
Instead of learning about a grammar point, you deduct it from the context of a sentence. And rather than learning individual words, you see directly how they’re used but learning them in a sentence.
If you’re consistent with doing your daily reviews, Glossika is sure to get you a long way.
Or read about how I use Glossika for Moroccan Arabic.
Learning Danish through reading with LingQ
Another one of my favorite language learning tools is LingQ.
LingQ is a reading tool that helps you read native-language texts that are above your level. With a built-in dictionary that registers words you know as well as those you’re having trouble with, it allows you to read texts that would otherwise be very tiresome to study.
With LingQ, you either add articles or books you find online, or you might choose already existing material from their library.
I recommend using LingQ to study Danish blogs, news sites or other things of interest in the Danish language.
Or go check out my in-depth review of LingQ.
The way to fluency in Danish
With the Teach Yourself Danish volume behind you, a good chunk into Glossika and with daily reading sessions with LingQ, you’re now well on your way to becoming a fluent speaker of Danish.
There are many other programs and courses than those that I describe here. Some are good, some slightly less so. But these are the once I, personally, have had good results with.
You’re now at a point where you can start speaking the language.
If you’re not in Denmark, and don’t have any Danish friends in your neighborhood, I recommend that you make friends online.
There are many websites dedicated to doing language exchange. For example on Reddit. Or you might simply just look for Danish Facebook groups or chat rooms.