Saturday, July 28, 2012


Truth be told, I'm not really all that great with foreign languages. I'm a stickler for English grammar but aside from my near perfect use of parallel structure and hatred for the Oxford comma, I wouldn't consider myself particularly gifted when it comes to mastering a new tongue. I've run in to Swedish a few times (mainly by watching the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo movie) and I have this awful habit of always recalling the hilarious quote from Mean Girls whenever I think about the language. Aside from that, I have no prior experience with any Scandinavian language and I don't know a word of Danish.

My pre-departure packet just arrived in the mail yesterday (the original got lost when my mom tried to mail it from my house back in Denver to my summer residence in DC). As I flipped through the handbook, I was thrilled to find a few pages on the Danish language. They gave a rundown on how to pronounce the vowels as well as a list of common phrases and words. Georgetown requires students studying through DIS to take Danish while abroad and I have every intention of making the most of the class.

Living in DC, it's not uncommon to hear several different dialects on a given city block. I placed out of Spanish when I got to college and for a while never really considered getting back in to it. When my family traveled to South America this past winter, I was amazed at how much I understood. When the gate workers in the Cusco airport told us we'd have to check our carry-on luggage, I was able to relay the message perfectly to my family. The problem, however, was that I really couldn't talk back (due in small part to my dad's use of strong slang). Even though I understood every word about why our bags were too big to carry on, I was frustrated that I could only reply in the most elementary sentences and only in the present tense.

After that experience, I became much more aware of just how monolingual I am. More than one person has told me that getting around in Copenhagen won't be too hard because "basically everyone speaks English." As convenient as that is, I feel a new sense of obligation to learn their native language too. Odds are I won't be anywhere near fluent after 4 months but I owe it to myself to try. When I return to Georgetown in the spring, I plan on starting Spanish again. If the rest of the world can speak English, it's the least I can do to master a second (or third, after Danish) language as well.

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