Archive for Danish language

Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann – Havfruen

Posted in Art with tags , , , , on February 20, 2019 by telescoper

Something else I discovered in the Glyptoteket in Copenhagen on Saturday was the art of Polish-Danish painter Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann, who lived from 1819 until 1881. There are many of her compositions on display in Copenhagen. I found some of them very conventional and even a bit sentimental, but she undoubtedly had a distinctive way of handling light and some of her paintings are very fine indeed. I thought I’d pick this one to share as it is a large and striking oil painting that greets you when you enter the first room of Danish art (upstairs).

The title of this is Havfruen (`The Mermaid’).

Incidentally, one of the few things I know how to say in Danish is Den lille Havfrue (`The Little Mermaid’), largely because of the famous statue which is a local Copenhagen landmark. This illustrates an interesting feature of Danish grammar. Instead of adding a definite article, as one would do in English, a singular definite noun is denoted by adding the indefinite article en (or elided form) as a suffix at the end of the noun. This is the rule unless the noun is qualified by an adjective, in which case a definite article `Den’ is put at the front. Hence `the Mermaid’ is Havfruen but `the little Mermaid’ is Den lille Havfrue, owing to the presence of the adjective lille. The Mermaid above may or may not be little, but the painting certainly isn’t!

Danish grammar isn’t really all that hard – quite similar to German, actually – but the pronunciation is very challenging!

All together now, say after me .. “rød grød med fløde”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 10, 2011 by telescoper

Although I’ve been many times to Denmark I’ve never managed to learn a significant amount of Danish. Part of the reason is that most Danes speak perfect English, but another aspect is that Danish is impossibly difficult to pronounce. People have told me that it’s a bit of an advantage in this respect being a Geordie, because the dialect of the Northeast of England has some similarities with Danish. There’s obviously some truth in that. For example, the Danish word for “home” is “hjem” which is pronounced in almost exactly the same way Geordies say it, as in “gannin’ hyem”.

However, this marginal advantage hasn’t helped me get to grips with Danish. To see why, consider this seemingly innocent phrase rød grød med fløde. This is, in fact, a dessert dish but that’s not the point. It’s so difficult for foreigners to pronounce that it’s often used humorously as a tongue-twister and, more seriously, was used by members of the Danish resistance in World War 2 to weed out interlopers.

Listen to how this is pronounced by actual real Danish people, and you’ll probably understand why I never got to grips with the language.