After I’d learned English, Danish seemed such a clumsy and sort of primitive language to me. I mean, how could it not? There are more than four times less the amount of words in the Danish language than in the English one. Where the sound of English is smooth and takes the shape of never ending spirals, like smoke rising from a steady fire, Danish is short and flat, never really rising or falling in pitch, but continuing in a monotone line of square words and abrupt stops.
It seemed to me that Danish music would have to fight to avoid sounding forced, or being dragged down by clichés, when English song lyrics and poetry could make the most ordinary things seem like great wonders of fate and mystery. I was left feeling almost betrayed by the universe to have been made grow up with this harsh and limited language that could never get me further than a bit South of the Danish-German border. I couldn’t wait to leave and most of all leave Danish behind.
Then I started high school. I started the IB. Suddenly I was surrounded by English. I spoke it with my class mates, read it for my classes, wrote it for my essays. For a while it was perfect.
But something was starting to happen. Now that I only spoke Danish at home my skills in the English language were improving dramatically, but my grasp of Danish was declining at a similar rate. I found myself searching for the right phrases, misspelling the simplest words, even though that was an area where I’d always gotten perfect scores. My reading pace was going down, and I started struggling to understand dialects of the language more than minimally different from my own. Against all my intentions I was terrified.
But since I am going to an international school, all around me were people who were new to Denmark, and new to the language. I started to feel pride in being able to help them learn, to correct their essays and explain grammatical structures.
I began learning German and French again; languages that I had previously given up on, as I initially thought they would only distract me from improving my English even more, and later that they would weaken my Danish even further. They didn’t. They just made me prouder of my ability in several languages.
Suddenly I found so much joy simply by speaking of every day things with my mother. Watching an old film would have me in stitches from the humor so specific to our country. Music would no longer make me cringe, but instead leave me in awe of all the different ways these select few words could be combined to constantly create new meanings where I’d thought they had all been discovered and used over and over till they were all but dead.
To me English is a language of great aspirations, possibility, diplomacy, and refinement. But Danish; Danish is the language of raw emotion, of bedtime stories from childhood, of being told off for ruining those stockings you got for your 5th birthday. Danish is the language of singing along to an old song with so much passion you can feel every inch of your chest burning. It’s the language of sunny days you wished would never end, of Christmas songs, of holding a hand so much tinier than your own, and of telling your family just how much you love them.
English is the deepest of purple, so beautiful and soothing, while Danish is the brightest of white, illuminating all, leaving no room for dishonesty or misinterpretation. I’m certain that I’m not the only one feeling this way towards their native language.
So that’s where I am now.
I love English. I love learning it, I love speaking it, I love reading it, and I love writing it, and I can’t wait to explore it even more. A huge interest in learning new languages and about different cultures has arisen in me through all this, and I work towards that every day; but Danish is my mother tongue, my father tongue, my sister tongue, and my home; and i am so proud of that.