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An appetizer on the Danish language

 

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Old August 16, 2008, 10:04 AM
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An appetizer on the Danish language

I realize that this is a forum on the Spanish language, but although my native language is not Spanish, I want to share it with you. My native language is Danish, and this will be a small appetizer on the language. You may read it just for fun, or maybe to use it as a start, and continue learning the language elsewhere.

This appetizer includes:
  • Pronouns (only the nominative ones)
  • Verbs (only the present tense)
  • Noun genders and articles
  • Numerals

I will throughout the appetizer try to compare words and grammar to both English and Spanish, so that you, the reader, easier can relate to it. I will also talk a little about pronunciation, and how the language is used on daily basis.


Pronouns
As already mentioned a couple of times, this is only an appetizer to the Danish language, thus I will only briefly cover the nominative pronouns.
  • Singular
    • First person: jeg
    • Second person
      • Informal: du
      • Formal: De
    • Third person
      • Personal
        • Masculine: han
        • Feminine: hun
      • Impersonal
        • Common: den
        • Neuter: det
  • Plural
    • First person: vi
    • Second person
      • Informal: I
      • Formal: De
    • Third person: de
You may think that these look nothing like the English or the Spanish ones, but you can actually find similarities. Just take the first person singular, jeg. When pronounced, the last part, -eg, actually sounds like the English first person singular, I, but with a J on the beginning. Also, the second person singular, du, looks and sounds awfully much like the Spanish, .

Even though Danish has the formal word, De (in both second person singular, and plural), it isn't used much. Normally, you would simply just use du, or I, when you're addressing people, and not De. People will not be offended if you're not using the formal one, as nobody really uses it nowadays.
There's some situation where you still use it though. If you go into stores and alike, the people working in the store will usually address you formally, and if you're meeting some from the royal family, you shall remember to address them formally. Also, it's a good idea to use the formal pronouns when you're speaking to older people, as the formal pronouns were still used in their generation.


Verbs

Verbs are relatively easy to handle in the Danish language, especially in present tense. In the past tense, perfect tense, and so on, you will meet many more irregularities, than you will with the present tense. That's also the reason why I stick to the present tense, so that you're not getting overwhelmed immediately.

When you look words up in a dictionary, you will get the form: at (verb). It's equivalent to how the English looks like: to (verb). If the verb is very irregular, or has irregularities in some tenses, or alike, the dictionary will show you the correct forms. So basically, when you learn the Danish language it's enough just to learn the regularities, and when you hit against an irregular verb, the dictionary will guide you.

Some verbs:
  • at gå => to walk
  • at holde => to hold
  • at drikke => to drink
  • at sige => to say
  • at bære => to carry
  • at flyve => to fly

Like already mentioned, it's very easy to form the present tense of verbs in Danish. You will just have to append -r, if the verb ends on a vowel, and -er, if it ends on a consonant. All verbs following another pattern are irregular verbs. You may also note, that even though a verb follows the pattern in present tense, it can still be an irregular verb, if it's different in other tenses. I will however not take care of that here, but simply use all verbs which follows the regular present tense pattern.
There is no difference with gender, persons, etc. when you're working with verbs, they're all using the same form of verb.

Some examples, using the pronouns we learned earlier:
  • Jeg går => I walk
  • Du holder => You hold
  • Han drikker => He drinks
  • Vi siger => We say
  • I bærer => You (pl.) carry
  • De flyver => They fly
(Red = Pronoun; Green = Verb)


Noun genders and articles
In Danish you have two genders: the common, and the neuter. The common gender is a mix of the masculine and feminine, known from other languages, rough said. This means you will only have to learn two genders. To make it even easier, just learn the neuter nouns. There's fewer neuter nouns than common nouns, so learning the neuter will be easier, and if you know that a noun isn't neuter, it must be common.

You use the articles, (-)en for common nouns, and (-)et for neuter nouns. The reason why you see the hyphen is because that in Danish the articles are both used in front of verbs, and as a postfix, depending on whether it's indefinite or definite.

When you're working with indefinite articles, you have to use en for common nouns, and et for neuter nouns. These are the equivalents to the English a and an. And they are, like the English articles, before a word.
  • (c.) en bil = a car
  • (n.) et papir = a paper
  • (c.) en færge = a ferry
  • (n.) et træ = a tree
  • (c.) en pære = a pear
  • (n.) et æble = an apple
(c. = common; n. = neuter)

The definite articles are harder to get used to for English or Spanish speakers, as like I mentioned, they're appended to the words in Danish. The -(e)n, and -(e)t, are equivalents to the English, the. If a word already ends on a vowel, you normally only have to append either -n, or -t. But it's not true for all words, so it's by no mean a rule.
  • (c.) bilen => the car
  • (n.) papiret => the paper
  • (c.) færgen => the ferry
  • (n.) træet => the tree
  • (c.) pæren => the pear
  • (n.) æblet => the apple
(c. = common; n. = neuter)

Forming the plurals are slightly more difficult, so I haven't covered them here.

Here's some examples using both the pronouns, verbs and nouns we have learned:
  • Jeg kører bilen => I drive the car
  • I bærer træet => You (pl.) carry the tree
  • Han spiser et æble => He eats an apple
(Red = Pronoun; Green = Verb; Blue = Noun)


Numerals
The numbers from zero to twenty have all different names. But from twenty and onwards up to hundred, one pattern is used, and from hundred and onwards another pattern is used. We will start out by the first twenty numbers, including zero.

(0 ... 10) => nul, en, to, tre, fire, fem, seks, syv, otte, ni, ti
(11 ... 20) => elleve, tolv, tretten, fjorten, femten, seksten, sytten, atten, nitten, tyve

Now, to say the numbers between twenty and hundred, you first say the ones, followed by an and, and then the tens. It sounds difficult, but here's some examples to show that it isn't.
  • 23: tre-og-tyve => three-and-twenty
  • 34: fire-og-tredive => four-and-thirty
  • 45: fem-og-fyrre => five-and-forty
  • 56: seks-og-halvtreds => six-and-fifty
Note that the English translations are literal translations.

(30, 40, ... 80, 90) => tredive, fyrre, halvtreds, tres, halvfjerds, firs, halvfems

To say the hundreds, the thousands, and so on you follow another pattern. Instead of saying it "backwards" like with the tens up to hundred, you say them as you read the numbers visually.
  • 100: et-hundrede => one-hundred
  • 200: to-hundrede => two-hundred
  • 3000: tre-tusinde => three-thousand
  • 4000: fire-tusinde => four-thousand

Now you can combine them to form all numbers, basically. You start with the greatest unit, if we can say so. In the number 234, the hundreds will be the greatest unit. Note that between the different units if there's more of them (like thousands, and also hundreds), you shall not say and, but always between the last unit, hundreds, and then the tens, an and, shall be put in.
And if there's no hundreds, or other units between a greater unit (like in the number, 1001), you simply leave them out, and continue to the next unit.
  • 123: et-hundrede-og-tre-og-tyve => one-hundred-and-three-and-twenty
  • 1234: et-tusinde-to-hundrede-og-fire-og-tredive => one-hundred-two-thousand-and-four-and-thirty
  • 3004: tre-tusinde-og-fire => three-thousand-and-four

The End
Here at the end I want to say, that I hope you've learned something from this small appetizer. Maybe you haven't thought about continuing learning Danish, but it's always good to have some understanding of various languages.
There's lots of things I haven't covered in this appetizer, and it would require a small book, if I should go in the depth and details with the whole Danish language, but after all, it was just an appetizer.

Enjoy, and thank you for reading it.


Update: You can find sample sentences in this post, and recordings of pronouns and verbs in this post.
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Last edited by ElDanés; August 18, 2008 at 05:56 AM.
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  #2  
Old August 16, 2008, 11:48 AM
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Wow! Long post and great introduction to the Danish language. Frankly, I enjoyed reading it and even though I have never studied Danish, this orients me to a lot of the basics of the language. For example the pronouns are very similar to German pronouns and in fact I see a lot of similarity both in structure and vocabulary with German and English. Like the way numbers work: (German) vier und fünfzig (54, litterally four and fifty).

I'd love to see a few more sample sentences in Danish, with a literal (word-for-word) translation, along with a real translation of meaning. That would also help me get an idea of word order and get a feeling for the language.

One question: de is the personal pronoun for they (3rd person plural), but it's also used for the formal 2nd person singular and plural?

Another neat thing would be to hear some sample pronunciation to go along with this. When I read about the personal pronouns and read jeg I read it as /djeg/, which from the description would be wrong, and should be something like /djai/. ElDanés, I know it might be asking for too much, but if you had a chance to record a couple samples, I would love it. Feel free to upload them as attachments to a post and then (if they are mp3s) they will appear in an mp3 player right in the post. Of course if you don't have time to do it that's ok too.

But I would love to hear the pronunciation of the personal pronouns and a few sample sentences.

Double-thumbs up to you ElDanés y gracias por tomar el tiempo para escribir esto.
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Old August 16, 2008, 12:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomisimo
[...] and even though I have never studied Danish, this orients me to a lot of the basics of the language. For example the pronouns are very similar to German pronouns and in fact I see a lot of similarity both in structure and vocabulary with German and English. Like the way numbers work: (German) vier und fünfzig (54, litterally four and fifty).
Yes, that's true. Danish is close to both of them on many points. I used to study German myself, and both the grammar and vocabulary is identical in many cases, like you noted yourself. And the same for English.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomisimo
I'd love to see a few more sample sentences in Danish, with a literal (word-for-word) translation, along with a real translation of meaning. That would also help me get an idea of word order and get a feeling for the language.
It's getting a bit late, so I will post the sentences tomorrow. If you want to, you can send me some sentences through PM, and I will translate them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomisimo
One question: de is the personal pronoun for they (3rd person plural), but it's also used for the formal 2nd person singular and plural?
Notice how the formal version has an uppercase D. Many people do not realize it, but it's wrong to write the formal De, with a lowercase d. It's the same with the plural second person informal, I, it's simply wrong to write it, i. It's like the rule German has on nouns and their uppercase starting letters.
Some examples with the usage of de and De:
  • Hvad laver De her? => What are you (one person, formally) doing here?
  • Hvad laver De her? => What are you (multiple persons, formally) doing here?
  • Hvad laver de her? => What are they doing here?
You will still have to figure out the amount of people from the context, when using the formal De, like you see in the examples, but that's normally easy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomisimo
Another neat thing would be to hear some sample pronunciation to go along with this. When I read about the personal pronouns and read jeg I read it as /djeg/, which from the description would be wrong, and should be something like /djai/.
I forgot to mention how the j is pronounced, I did only concentrate on the -eg part, sorry. The j is not pronounced with the d-sound, like in English, but more with the English y. So, /yai/ would be more correct.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomisimo
ElDanés, I know it might be asking for too much, but if you had a chance to record a couple samples, I would love it. Feel free to upload them as attachments to a post and then (if they are mp3s) they will appear in an mp3 player right in the post. Of course if you don't have time to do it that's ok too.

But I would love to hear the pronunciation of the personal pronouns and a few sample sentences.
I'm just glad that someone is actually interested!
I will love to record some samples, but I don't have the right equipment. I have however a so-called MP4-Player (cheap Chinese technology) which can record MP3-files, but like all other cheap technologies, I'm having troubles with it. I will take a look on it tomorrow though, and see if I can get it working.

If I get it working, how shall I record it? Shall I record it in rigsdansk (i.e. formal/standard/official Danish) or in the dialect I speak (which is a bit different when it comes to pronunciation)? Maybe both?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomisimo
Double-thumbs up to you ElDanés y gracias por tomar el tiempo para escribir esto.
¡Gracias, David - y ningún problemas!
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Last edited by ElDanés; August 16, 2008 at 12:50 PM.
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Old August 16, 2008, 04:34 PM
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Thanks for your long post, El Danés. I'm sorry I don't feel up to learning a new language at the moment (my three kids are still on holiday...).
David, I know your German is a lot better than mine, but I noticed when you wrote a number in a previous post in this thread you wrote it as three words instead of vierundzwanzig or whatever number it was.
Have a nice Sunday.
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Old August 16, 2008, 11:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by María José
Thanks for your long post, El Danés. I'm sorry I don't feel up to learning a new language at the moment (my three kids are still on holiday...).
That's okay, I wasn't really thinking that anyone would really get started. I must admit that Danish wouldn't be on top of my list of languages to learn either, if it wasn't my native language. You can only use it in Denmark, and some small parts of Germany and Sweden, while you can use Spanish both in the Americas and Europe.
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Old August 16, 2008, 11:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by María José View Post
David, I know your German is a lot better than mine, but I noticed when you wrote a number in a previous post in this thread you wrote it as three words instead of vierundzwanzig or whatever number it was.
I can say it with an ok accent, but honestly it's been so long that I didn't remember how the numbers are written.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ElDanés View Post
That's okay, I wasn't really thinking that anyone would really get started. I must admit that Danish wouldn't be on top of my list of languages to learn either, if it wasn't my native language. You can only use it in Denmark, and some small parts of Germany and Sweden, while you can use Spanish both in the Americas and Europe.
I don't mind learning some Danish, as long as I have a willing teacher. I may not become fluent overnight, but I'm sure it'll come in handy.
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Old August 17, 2008, 12:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ElDanés View Post
I'm just glad that someone is actually interested!
I will love to record some samples, but I don't have the right equipment. I have however a so-called MP4-Player (cheap Chinese technology) which can record MP3-files, but like all other cheap technologies, I'm having troubles with it. I will take a look on it tomorrow though, and see if I can get it working.

If I get it working, how shall I record it? Shall I record it in rigsdansk (i.e. formal/standard/official Danish) or in the dialect I speak (which is a bit different when it comes to pronunciation)? Maybe both?

¡Gracias, David - y ningún problemas!
y ningún problemas or even better no hay problema.

If you're actually interesting in recording, I use audacity, which is a free open-source program for recording audio. It's a snap to download and install. Then the only thing you'll have to do to be able to export as mp3 is download and install lame. The lame homepage is here, but they only distribute the source code for the program. You can download compiled Windows binaries here. Just unzipp the zip file and keep it somewhere on your computer, and then audacity will ask you where it is when you export your recording as an mp3.
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Old August 17, 2008, 12:23 AM
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Some Danish texts, as promised:
(Red = Danish; Green = Literal English; Blue = Normal English)


Selve Danmark består af tre store dele: Jylland, Fyn og Sjælland. Ved siden af er så de mange øer, blandt andet Bornholm. Jylland er den største del, og derefter kommer Sjælland og så Fyn.
Itself Denmark consists of three big parts: Jutland, Funen and Zealand. At side of is so the many islands, in between other Bornholm. Jutland is the biggest part, and thereafter comes Zealand and so Funen.
Denmark itself consists of three big parts: Jutland, Funen and Zealand. Beside them comes the many islands, one of them being Bornholm. Jutland is the biggest part, followed by Zealand and then Funen.


Danmark er det land i verden der producerer flest grise om året. Det er faktisk sådan, at der er langt flere grise i Danmark end der er mennesker.

Denmark is that country in world-the there produces most pigs about year. It is actually like that there are long many pigs in Denmark, than there is humans.
Denmark is that country in the world which produces most pigs per year. In fact, there's many more pigs in Denmark, than there's humans.


I Danmark er der et monarki, og det betyder at vi har en royal familie. Der er delte meninger om monarkiet, men langt de fleste danskere er glade for det.
In Denmark is there a monarchy, and that means that we have a royal family. There is splitted opinions about monarchy-the, but long the most are happy for it.
In Denmark there is a monarchy, and that means that we have a royal familiy. There is splitted opinions on the monarchy, but most of the Danes are happy about it.


Der er mange kendte danske personligheder. En af de større er H. C. Andersen. Han blev kendt for sine mange eventyr, og digte. Derudover har vi også kendte inden for andre områder, såsom Niels Bohr inde for fysikken, Søren Kierkegaard inden for filosofien, Tycho Brahe inden for astronomien, og jeg kunne forsætte...
There is many known Danish personalities. One of the major is H. C. Andersen. He became known for his many fairytales, and poems. Thereoutover have we also knowns in for other areas, so as Niels Bohr in for physics-the, Søren Kierkegaard in for philosophy-the, Tycho Brahe in for astronomy-the, and I could continue...
There is many famous Danish personalities. One of the major of them is H. C. Andersen. He became famous for his many fairytales, and poems. Beside him do we also have famous people in other areas, like Niels Bohr in physics, Søren Kierkegaard in philosophy, Tycho Brahe in astronomy, and I could keep on going...
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Last edited by ElDanés; August 17, 2008 at 12:24 AM. Reason: I had a hard time figuring out what to write, so I just wrote about Denmark...
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Old August 17, 2008, 12:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomisimo
y ningún problemas or even better no hay problema.
¡Gracias!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomisimo
If you're actually interesting in recording, I use audacity, which is a free open-source program for recording audio.
My problem is that I don't have a microphone of any kind, not even built into my computer. The MP4-player I was talking about has a microphone which I can use, and then connect it to the computer and receive the MP3-file. But I'm having troubles with it because it keeps starting, closing, starting, closing, ...
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Old August 17, 2008, 07:03 AM
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Wow!! Very, very interesting. Unfortunately, wouldn't know how to properly pronounce the various words. I have heard German but no way am I even close to pronouncing German words or sounds. I am not as smart as David so I need more help!

I have a question for you. In the following example you gave us I noticed the difference in the word "de" -vs- "De"...is this because it went from you to they? Is it just a typo?

Hvad laver De her? => What are you (one person, formally) doing here?
Hvad laver De her? => What are you (multiple persons, formally) doing here?
Hvad laver de her? => What are they doing here?

Thanks for the very interesting lesson....

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