Fast Track to Danish Fluency: Using Chunks

Simple Danish Newsletter #11

Hi friends,

(I accidentally sent this email with a wrong subject line, so sorry for the double send 😊).

If you have been browsing language tips online, or if you have been watching videos on learning a language fast, you might have heard some people promoting the idea of “learning the top 1000 words” in a language as a way of becoming proficient fast.

It is usually backed up with something like, 80% of the spoken and written language is made up of 20% of the total words, so let’s just learn those 20% very quickly and call it a day.

The idea in principle is fine, and it might help you understand the language rather quickly (from inferring from the words you do understand), but this method tells you nothing about forming meaningful sentences on your own.

We would like to present an alternative that gets you speaking and writing much faster.

It turns out that words show up in certain combinations much more frequently than other combinations. We might call those combinations phrases, or linguistically “chunks”.

A chunk could be fixed, and not change at all:

Hvordan går det?

Or it could have some degree of flexibility:

Tak for … [hjælpen/sidst/i går/mad/kage/kaffe etc].

Learning chunks gets you speaking and writing with much less effort (which you can then use on ensuring grammar and more advanced sentences are correct instead).

Using chunks can also be motivating because rather than practicing the word “musik” (bad example, we know), and not knowing how to subsequently use it, you could practice surrounding phrases like: “skru op/ned for musikken” and immediately apply it in real life.

Unfortunately, we have not been able to find any good materials on chunks in Danish (or any good Danish materials for that matter, which is partly why we created Denmark&Me in the first place).

So for now we have compiled a list of 20 flexible and versatile chunks in Danish that you can use in everyday situations starting now:

  1. Tak for [kaffe/mad/hjælpen/sidst/i går/kage]
  2. Skal vi [gå/spise/snakke/mødes]
  3. Kan du lide [musikken/filmen/bogen/maden]
  4. Har du lyst til [kaffe/te/is/film/vin]
  5. Er du klar til [mødet/festen/turen/foredraget/i morgen]
  6. Hvordan går det med [arbejdet/familien/projektet/dit helbred]
  7. Har du brug for [hjælp/tid/en pause/penge]
  8. Jeg har brug for [din mening/din hjælp/en pause/mere tid]
  9. Kan vi tale om [projektet/dagen/dine planer/problemet]
  10. Hvad tænker du om [ideen/planen/resultatet/personen]
  11. Skal jeg hente [dig/kaffen/billetter/middagen]
  12. Kan jeg få [regningen/menuen/din adresse/dit nummer]
  13. Vil du have [mere/kaffe/dessert/en anden gang]
  14. Er der [nogen/ledige pladser/mere kaffe/nye beskeder]
  15. Vil du med til [koncert/teater/cafe/fredagsbar]
  16. Må jeg byde dig på [en drink/kaffe/middag/en tur]
  17. Kan du anbefale [en restaurant/en film/en bog/en bar]
  18. Har du hørt om [nyheden/eventet/artisten/udstillingen]
  19. Har du tid til [en snak/en kaffe/et møde/i næste uge]
  20. Er det muligt at [ændre tidspunktet/bestille nu/få en rabat/få et lift]

If you would be interested in more chunks or phrases related to certain topics (going to a café, work, getting a haircut or anything similar) then let us know, and we will keep it in mind for future blog posts or newsletters.

❤️ Our Favourite things

Danish Show we are watching: Nak og Æd

“Nak og Æd” is a unique Danish TV show where hosts Jørgen and Nikolaj explore the wilderness, hunting and foraging for food. Each episode is centered on catching a certain animal and preparing it. If you are into outdoor or wilderness type activities and food, this show is a must. The chemistry between the two is also quite hilarious.

Danish Pastry you might not know: Brunsviger

This simple pastry, originating from (and perfected on) Fyn, is a simple fluffy yeasty dough, topped with a rich, gooey mixture of brown sugar and butter. You can buy the pastries in most bakeries, but the best ones are found on Funen island. Although if you are far from Denmark, we found this recipe you can make at home here.

Danish Idiom of the week: At gå som katten om den varme grød.

Litterally; to walk like the cat around the hot porridge. We use this idiom when someone hesitates to speak directly about a sensitive subject, when they skirt around the issue. I imagine a cat, interested in eating a nice bowl of hot porridge, but the cat is hesitant because it is afraid of burning its tongue.

Example: I forbindelse med spørgsmålet om klimaforandringer, gik politikerne som katten om den varme grød.

Danish Word of the week: Ildsjæl

This one is a great one. Ildsjæl translates directly to “fire-soul” and is used to describe someone who works enthusiastically and eagerly for a cause. Most often, this would be someone volunteering in charities, or local organisations. In Denmark, we have quite a large “foreningsliv”, meaning there’s lots of local organisations (from various sports like football and handball, to hobbies such as knitting, bird watching, hiking, sailing or music). Almost any city you visit will have numerous organisations, mainly run by volunteers and here you will find the local heroes, sometimes singlehandedly keeping things going.

That’s all we have for you for now. We hope you liked it and as always, feel free to reach out with feedback, comments or suggestions by replying to this email.

Have a great week 😊

Best regards,

Antonina & Rasmus