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Generally, there is a very high standard of English spoken in Denmark. In Copenhagen, general day to day things like shopping and asking for directions can all pretty much take place in English. There’s no real need to speak Danish in those situations. A fun way to for me to get around this obstacle is to think of myself playing a game of ‘pretend to be Danish’, and see how far I can through an interaction before we resort to switching to English…

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Here is a short review of some of my Danish interactions, and how well I managed to keep it all in Danish.

Interaction #1: purchasing a bus ticket

This conversation was very simple and straightforward. “tre zoner, tak” I confidently said, after being briefed by my girlfriend how to request a 3 zone ticket into the central Copenhagen. After seeing the price of 36DKK flash up on the display, I hand him a 50DKK note. “Værsgo!” cheerfully replies the bus driver as he hands me a ticket and puts some coins inside a black plastic box.

‘This is going great!’ I think to myself, moments before I find myself meeting the bus driver’s stare and sharing an awkward moment of silence as I wait for my 14DKK change. At this point, the bus driver reaches over and pulls a little switch, neatly dispensing my coins all over the floor at the front of the bus. “undskyld!” cries the bus driver apologetically, as I frantically gather the coins, flash an embarassed smile and hobble over to an empty seat.

WAS I SUCCESSFUL IN MY ATTEMPT AT PRETENDING TO BE A DANE:
Technically yes, but I may have seemed like a complete idiot. I also now know how bus drivers give out change using special neat coin dispensers.

Interaction #2: shopping in a 7/11 convenience store

I’m buying a drink at a 7/11 store, and the girl at the till happily greets me with a “Hej!”. “Hej!” I reply, then she tells me the total in Danish and I go to pay her. “allers andet?” She enquires, completely catching me off guard. I know from my Teach Yourself Danish book that this means ‘anything else?’, but at that time I completely forget what words to say and meekly reply: “umm… that’s all, thank you”. Suddenly, the conversation switches to English. “Have a good day!” she says, with perfect accent and pronunciation.

WAS I SUCCESSFUL IN MY ATTEMPT AT PRETENDING TO BE A DANE:
No, I almost made it through the interaction but I was caught off guard towards the end.

Interaction #3: later that day, shopping in a Spar convenience store

I find myself in an identical situation as I’m asked “allers andet?” once again. “nej tak” I respond, politely answering his question.

WAS I SUCCESSFUL IN MY ATTEMPT AT PRETENDING TO BE A DANE:
Yes I was! It was a very short staccato interaction, but it was entirely in Danish and I have to start somewhere, right?

The most important thing is that I feel I’m making progress with my Danish, and I’m feeling more comfortable and confident talking to strangers in this foreign language. Can you remember your first real world interactions in your foreign languages?

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