Friday, August 28, 2009

What Gets Lost In Translation

For starters, "please" and "excuse me."  The Danish don't have words for them.  I think it's pretty revealing, but Danes use a word, "undskyld," AFTER they've pushed or shoved you or what have you.  That's the norm.  I've been using unskyld a lot more than the average Dane, but I'm also a lot more clumsy than the average Dane.  I also have no idea if anyone's heard it yet, since I'm a bit freaked to use Danish so it comes out both soft and, quite probably, completely wrong.

It's pronounced something like "ooun-skuhld."  Yeah, try that one on for size.

I keep wanting to say "please" and "thank you," and that makes you stand out as a foreigner.  They do have a word for "thank you" -- tak.  The Danes sort of just toss it off, as a really short syllable, "tahk" or "tek."  My prolonged "ahh" sound is a dead giveaway, as is my tendency to try for "thank you very much," which most Danes wouldn't bother with.  I said "tusind tak" (thousand thanks) to a Danish barista today at a cafe near my flat and she looked at me suspiciously and said, "Already very clever."  This was likely an example of the local pastime, dry mocking.


  1. Well, I don't know about the Danes, but I know the French can be rude. I think it's just a European thing, eye a foreigner testily until they've proven themselves. I love the scene with the barista, that's so funny! Hope you're having fun--Carol

  2. Hi Carol! So nice of you to stop by my blog!

    I'm having my version of fun, I think, but it must get more fun than this... I think it will. I just need to learn a little more.

    Did you keep a journal of your time in Paris? How long were you there for?

  3. I had so much trouble with 'excuse me' in Norway. It was the same as in Danish (the result of the Danes ruling Norway for a few hundred years), and I was awful at pronouncing it. I did throw around 'tusen tak' a lot, though. Only I was probably saying it wrong, but it was something.

    It's also an issue with the Frenchies, as our "sorry" that we say all the time doesn't really exist (quite possibly because the French simply AREN'T sorry). You can give a curt 'pardon' but if you go beyond that you get weird looks.

    I miss you and I hope you're having fun!

    PS: Yes, I find it necessary to read your entire blog until you get back. It's what I do when confined to one state.

  4. I'm thrilled you're reading it, Katherine! You're the best! Only wish I knew the French stuff when I was in Paris a couple weeks ago...

    *tusind tak (at least in Danish)