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The collapse of Danish
April 19, 2010 - By: - In: Language, Localization - 24 comments

Certain countries are just better for ugly Americans than others. Whenever I don my touring togs (Hawaiian shirt, Bermuda shorts and sandals over socks), I like the natives to speak my lingo, savvy? That’s what makes Legoland in Billund a must-see on my Euro-itinerary, since all Danes speak English.

But at what price to the Danes? I recently saw a documentary on YouTube, a shocking exposé on the Disappearance of Danish in Denmark. The report reveals that the “Danish language has collapsed into meaningless guttural sounds.”

Since my Danish is hardly any better than that of the Danes, I asked my favorite Danish translator, Jane Kjems, to take a look at it. Years ago, she translated a biker movie script into Danish for us, which posed lots of interesting terminology problems, but that’s another post.

I was saddened to learn that my scoop had melted, and that this documentary was just some Norwegian comics making fun of Danes. Making fun of the way others speak is always a great joke, as Jane so wisely observed. Works for me.

Anyway, after a visit to the home country for a few weeks last fall, Jane reported on lots of linguistic changes. “[While] the language [has] absorb[ed] the usual share of words from English (British as often as American, by the way), German, Swedish, to some extent Norwegian (but less so), it ALSO has adopted several words and concepts of Arabic origin.”

“What I noticed, though, when listening to people on public transportation, is that more and more people are communicating in ‘English.’ Some do a good job (and are usually of ‘foreign’ extraction) and then there is the Danish brand of English. Danes are often quite fluent, except the problem is that what THEY believe they are saying, is more often than not a totally different thing from what YOU (as a native speaker of English) actually hear them say. Thus you have a wonderful basis for total confusion, and this is the reason why you still need competent translators who actually live and work in an American environment (PLUG for the American brand of Danish Translators over the ones based in Denmark!)”

So, according to my top Danish translator, Danes can’t speak English either. Double scoop!

Special thanks to Jane for her research and analysis with this linguistic exposé.

Venlig hilsen!
-Translation Guy

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