Saturday, March 21, 2009

Ya-i taler lit densk, but not really

Lately I've been quite proud of my Danish. I even had a Danish conversation with an old man at the lake yesterday. Kinda...

It was sunny so I packed up the: kids, bikes, scooter, stroller, snacks, and bread and we... walked/rode bikes/carried the scooter, all the way down to the lake to feed the ducks and enjoy the sun.

While there I noticed that my son had started throwing bread to a dog instead of the ducks... he thought the little, yappy, jumpy dog was much more fun than the squawking ducks. After a little bit the dog's owner, a nice old man, came over and said Hi to us. Well, technically he said "Hej". :)

Little Note: When people start to talk to you in Danish it's really awkward because for their first few sentences they think you can understand them... but you can't ...and you can't really interrupt because that would be rude, so you sit there nicely listening... and then at your first chance to pipe up, you have to say, "I'm sorry, I don't speak Danish." At this point the other person either will decide to continue the conversation in English or they will just walk away - you have a 49/49 chance either way. ...of course you do have a 2 percent chance the other person won't understand your English sentance at all... when this happens to me I have to bust out one of my four Danish phrases:

- "ya-I taler Englesk." (I speak English.)
- "ya-I taler lit Densk." (I speak a little Danish.)
- "ya-I fustol egga." (I don't understand.)
- "Unschool, ya-I taler egga Densk, ya-I taler Englsk. " (I only pick this one when feeling VERY brave. It means: I'm sorry, I don't speak Danish, I speak English.)

Well, this dog's owner was the 2% that didn't understand what I said in English so he continued in Danish... he seemed like such a nice man. I had to bring out my Danish phrase number one - "Ya-i taler Englesk." (I speak English.) Apparently I said it poorly because he didn't understand, so I tried Danish phrase number two: "Ya-i taler lit densk" (total lie: I can speak roughly 32 words in Danish... most of them incorrectly). The old man smiled and repeated "lit densk?". I said, "Yes, muy lit"; then realizing that muy is Spanish for very, not Danish. (My mind often goes to Spanish when I know English will not work.)

...I'm not doing well in this conversation, but this old man is still smiling.

He then said, "something, something, something... feea born (four kids). OOUUU - I say, "yah, en, to, tre, feea" ...trying to fit in more of my 32 Danish words by counting to four. THEN he says - something, something, komma fra (come from). Now this is the moment I have been waiting for!!! Sierra totally knows how to answer this in Danish - she says it all the time!!! She can save me and she is standing right here!!! I say Sierra, "Where do you komma fra?!!". AND SHE SAYS... nothing. The ONE time she can use her Danish to impress someone and she says NADA!! - Uew, S, A ... TELL HIM "ya-i komma fra uew, s, a!!!" SAY IT!! Nothing... she says nothing. I can't blame her though - Danish is scary. :) But againI toss the conversation back at innocent little Bear. I point at her and say "du taler meer Densk". (You speak more Danish.) :) Silence from the Bear.

The man is smilng and switches to a little English. :) I think he realized I had used up all my Danish which is good because all I had left was to order a "stor menu" (big meal) or say the word "smuuur" (butter).

I miss talking to random strangers about nothing.


Kelli Nørgaard said...

"and all I had left was en store menu and smør"... PRICELESS!

honeypiehorse said...

I hear you. I totally remember those 'I've run out of German' days and my face still gets red. And even when you get really good, you still miss talking about nothing with strangers because it's just never as satisfying in another language. And no one talks about nothing like us Californians!

Gracey said...

I get your frustration (I felt like this every time I was my fiance's German family). I've missed talking about nothing with strangers so much - I guess it happens less and less anymore.

Archaeogoddess said...

This always happens to me at the supermarket - I can do all the basics in Danish and then suddenly the girl or guy will say something I don't know and I have to tell her "I'm sorry we've reached the end of my Danish." There is usually embarrassment all around. I did once have a great conversation about nothing with an older man at a bus stop. Once we figured out that I can't really speak Danish and he can't really speak English, but we could understand somewhat the other language, we nattered on about the weather and life in small towns. One of the reasons my husband loves California so much is that people will strike up conversations with him at red lights when he's out jogging. He thinks that's just fantastic.

Half-baked said...

Oh I really wish we'd come now so we could have random conversations in English! But I guess I wouldn't have been a stranger for long though...

C and H Romenesko said...

Ahh, thanks for the chuckle. I routinely mix in some Spanish when I can't come up with the danish word and I know English isn't right. So funny. On Thursday, I'll make the big exchange with Kelli, so soon you'll have a year's supply (almost) of Real Simple!

May said...

Well, ordering food is an important skill, in fact it's one of the only things I can remember from my French lessons, apart from "the dog is under the table" and "he's not here".

I know how you feel, though, I went through the same when I first moved to Switzerland. I even managed to explain to a whole dinner party that in Denmark we eat puppies (I meant to say chicken).

I'm May btw. I found you through Kelli's blog. I'm Danish, have lived several years abroad, before moving back to Denmark (Videbæk) with my Greek husband, who sometimes revert to Spanish as well when trying to speak Danish. :)


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