I go to class once a week. Socially, I hang out with ex-pats, and our common language is English. I have a couple of Norwegian friends who can speak Danish when necessary, but even they mostly speak English here. I have no one to practice with, I speak English at work.
I’m due to test out of Module 1 on April 11. It’s a verbal exam where I have to talk about myself and one of 3 Danish books I’ve read. I thought I was doing pretty well. My instructor read my book report and the paragraph about my personal details and had very little to correct, then he asked me to read it aloud and my word came crashing down.
The thing is, it’s relatively easy for me to read and write this language, but when I’m learning mostly by reading and writing, and words like “morgenmad” are actually pronounced something along the lines of “mooremal,” it’s not hard to see that there’s little chance in hell of me passing this test.
Today, my instructor asked me why I was learning Danish. I honestly don’t need it to get by. My life would be a bit less stressful if I could speak and understand Danish, but I’m many lessons away from reaching a useful level of proficiency.
My answer to his question is that I’m living in Denmark and as a guest in this country I feel I should learn Danish. Yes, the majority of people speak fluent English, and I’m beyond grateful for that, but I don’t think I should expect it.
I used to be annoyed in the US when it seemed like everything was in English and Spanish. Of course Spanish isn’t the “universal” language, but somehow I feel like living in Denmark and not speaking Danish makes me a hypocrite.
On the other hand, my Danish will most likely reach the neighborhood of par right around the time I’m planning to leave the country. So, does it make sense to struggle with a language that I’ll probably never use?
The instructor himself said that some people have a knack for languages and some people don’t. I, unfortunately don’t. He said if we look at my proportion of effort to progress, it might make sense for me to put my effort into something else.
But am I willing to live here as a guest who doesn’t speak the local language and has given up on trying? Can I accept that I’m one of those monolingual Americans? Should I try a different language? Maybe I’d do better with French, Italian or Spanish. But is there any point in learning a language just to be bilingual?
The thought of giving up feels like an anchor disappearing from around my neck, with a side of failure in the pit of my stomach. Which makes me wonder, which is worse, an anchor or failure?