Furniture design and architecture immediately spring to mind when when they think of Danish lifestyle and culture. Yet today, Denmark is perhaps equally famous for food, films, and sports. The world’s best restaurant “Noma” has introduced a whole new way of cooking with New Nordic Cuisine. Filmmakers such as Lars von Trier and Susanne Bier have won a multitude of international awards, and one of the world’s best female tennis players, Caroline Wozniacki, is Danish. Denmark is also world-known for its focus on sustainability, bikes, and for being the happiest country in the world!
What characterises the Danes as a people? Many non-Danes living in Denmark suggest that the Danes are open and welcoming. Others may call them reserved, especially during the long winter months. For many Danes, the word ‘hygge’ is essential when describing something uniquely Danish. The word is best translated into English as ‘coziness’ or ‘conviviality’ and reflects the sense of community and sense of security which comes about when Danes spend quality time with people they care about.
The Danish language
Danish is a very creative language. It is easy to form new words – and the Danes love to do so. Furthermore, Danes like to speak in metaphors. A rapid extension of the vocabulary is therefore useful. As Danish is a Germanic language, most speakers of other Germanic languages find that vocabulary acquistion does not demand unreasonable effort. There are many compatibilities to be found, but also lots of ’false friends’ (words that look similar to words in other languages, but have different meanings), and, of course, many words that are completely different.
Danish grammar is relatively simple for other Germanic language speakers. The conjugation of the verb is the same in all genders, and like Dutch and German, Danish makes use of inversive sentences when posing questions. One of the most important differences is that Danish, just like the other Scandinavian languages, does not use articles when declining a noun, thus ‘et hus’ becomes ‘huset’ (a house – the house).
Danish sounds are, however, quite something on their own. Danish is known as one of the few Indo-European languages with a (partial) glottal stop. This glottal stop is very important when it comes to differentiating the meanings of many words in Danish. The Danish also have a tendency to pronounce only half of their words, which can lead to a feeling of inconsistency between the written and the spoken language.
Speaking, listening and practising pronunciation are important factors in learning the Danish language.