Danish: God fornøjelse!

Hey there Dansk, I’m ready for you. Are you ready for me?

(I’m running out of clever introductions, sorry.)

Danish is the last language in the Scandinavian triangle with Norwegian and Swedish, completing the final piece of the puzzle. It’s spoken in Denmark, Greenland, Iceland, other parts of Scandinavia and the Faroe Islands by six million people. It also marks number 33 in the project:

1. Romanian
2. Macedonian
3. Spanish
4. Vietnamese
5. Norwegian
6. Bulgarian
7. Slovenian
8. Malagasy
9. Japanese
10. Moldavian
11. Hindi
12. Finnish
13. Azeri
14. Arabic
15. Czech
16. Albanian
17. Cambodian
18. Serbian
19. Chinese
20. Xhosa
21. Portuguese
22. Armenian
23. Korean
24. Croatian
25. Afrikaans
26. Greek
27. Swedish
28. French
29. Thai
30. Turkish
31. Dutch
32. Hebrew

33. Danish

34. Filipino
35. Polish
36. Lao
37. Catalan

REGIONAL HISTORY: Like the rest of Northern Europe, Danish history is filled with sagas about the Vikings, who were part of a sphere that conquered areas of western Europe in the Middle Ages. Danish evolves from Old East Norse or Runic Danish; the Runic alphabet was used to write Germanic languages at this time.

Hardegon, a Norwegian ruler, helped unite Denmark around the end of the 800s AD and his son, Gorm the Old, set up the first Danish monarchy. Later Harald Bluetooth, Gorm’s son, made Christianity the state religion, introducing the Latin alphabet that Danish uses now. At this point, Denmark was ruling England but it would only last for a short while.

The period following this was quite violent as ruling classes and those in power battled it out for control of the country. Queen Margrethe I, who became the country’s first female monarch, established the Kalmar Union, a pact between Denmark, Norway and Sweden (you might remember this from the Norwegian and Swedish posts), but it didn’t last for very long. Sweden left and declared independence and the union dissolved, but Denmark continued to rule Norway for 300 years. Around the same time, the Danes had also published the first Bible in Danish.

In the 1600s, the Danes dealt with threats from the Swedes which were later quelled a century later. Things were peaceful until 1801, when the British attacked Denmark, who saw them as a challenge to their global status. Things got so bad between the British and the Danes that the British created a blockade in Norwegian and Danish waters causing famine and poverty in both countries and Sweden, who had paired up with the British, to demand Denmark give up Norway. In the meantime, Denmark had also went from an absolute monarchy to establishing a parliament and instituting democratic reforms.

Denmark continued to progress economically, socially and went relatively unscathed in both World Wars. It is now known as one of the world’s happiest nations.

WRITING SYSTEM: As I said before, Danish uses a Latin alphabet. It’s identical to the English alphabet, except there are three extra letters: æ, ø and å. There are quite a few differences in how some letters are pronounced. I used this page as a reference:

æ – a as in ache
ø – a rough “uh” sound (no similarities in English)
å – o as in old
d – d as is dog, except when between vowels or final letters and sounds like th; not pronounced after l, n or r or before s or t
h – h as in his, but silent before j and v
r – an h sound when first letter or after a consonant; becomes part of the vowel elsewhere
t – t as in tin, except before vowels and last letter, becomes a th sound
w – v as in van

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Written Danish pretty much identical to Norwegian’s Bokmål. But from listening to it, the language seems to use more guttural and throaty sounds when compared to the other Scandinavian languages, which makes it stand out a little. I tried saying some Danish words and apparently Danes use every part of their mouths; there also seems to be a lot of  “rounded” sounds.

Anyway, while comparing the sounds of the Scandinavian languages, I found this little gem. It’s hilarious:


DK Headlines – Learn to speak Danish
Lonely Planet’s page on Denmark – History
Wikipedia page on the Danish language

2 thoughts on “Danish: God fornøjelse!

  1. Have fun with it!

    Danish pronunciation is a bit tricky. I’ve heard that it’s like talking with potatoes in your mouth.

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