I used to live in Wales. I had to learn some self-defence phrases in Welsh *pretty damn fast*. I also learned some polite and nice Welsh because I was curious and a lot of the Welsh speaking people I knew were awesome and I wanted to show them that I respected them and their linguistic richness. But I think I learnt the self-defence stuff a lot faster.
Poor old Wales, a lovely country, a great culture and they were abused by the English, forced to drop their fascinating language in favour of English and there is still bitterness today. But such is xenophobia… or saesneg-phobia… that your militant Welshspeaker cares not if you are a “good” English-speaker.
Denmark might feel similarly abused, though, one would assume the anglophones that are “oppressing” them are the actors in the tv shows and movies that they import and merely subtitle. No one forces any Dane to speak English.
I work in a school which has a special set of kids who are instructed in English for a couple of their subjects. I am not to teach them in Danish, I am supposed to use English.
Today, one of my cheekier ones (and one that is excellent in English) was trying to bully me because he was in a pissy mood. And he did it with language. He spoke to me in slang as quickly as he could and when I replied in English, he claimed he could not understand me. Another boy did a similar thing but got upset when I called it bullying and reverted to English. The kid who started it went back to English, maybe because he could see I was not in the mood “Gå HJEM!” I said. Or maybe it was peer pressure, the other kids were getting uncomfortable about it.
Fine. Turkish boys used to do it in Hackney. Somali girls used to do it in Lambeth. I have done it to an Armenian kid who was cussing me out in his language. I spoke really quickly in Welsh and he stood up and turned around and appealed to the United Nations conference that was Y7 Biology “Oh come ON. SOMEONE here must be able to speak her language!”
We all do it, okay. Though I only do it in retaliation. A little drop of Welsh here, a little bit of Japanese, a spot of Swahili, lashings of French. Cross me in your home language and you will get to know how it feels, I promise.
After the lesson, where the boys had been really upsetting me with the thing that boys do when they are stressed. (Basically revolves around doing something wrong and then insisting they did not know it was wrong and It Was All My Fault)
Then at lunch, again I was staring out the window, not understanding anything. The head brought me in on the conversation a little bit and it got around to my language acquisition. Maybe my period is coming. Maybe I am getting a cold. Maybe I was bruised from the boys playing at bullying in my lesson. Maybe.
I got the hump.
The point was that one of the guys from sprogskole was interviewing for a job at my work. It would be pretty cool to have him work with me.
The observation was made that he speaks excellent Danish (true) and that he has only lived here for eight months (not exactly).
You might just think at this stage, oh it is okay, he is just making conversation, just bringing up how GOOD this other guy is and not comparing him with anyone else. And, I was on that thought. He was just marvelling at how good at languages this guy is.
But he has not been here only eight months. He had previously lived in my town for a year and came back. So, he already had a 12 month headstart on me. Plus, his home language is one of the ones who always get Danish before everyone else. Plus, he is completely bilingual, almost trilingual actually, from his country.
We are not comparing like with like. But the head WAS comparing us.
He went on to say that perhaps I would learn Danish faster if I taught in Danish classes, in the medium of Danish. By this stage I could see the writing on the wall.
The reason that I find lunchtimes so isolating and boring, it is not because other people often forget to talk to me… no… it is because I am not trying hard enough at learning Danish.
I reminded him that I *do* teach in Danish. Twice a week. I have to. He asked me how I was getting on with my Danish classes and I told him how well I had done (near perfect).
I am doing the top that could be asked of me at this stage. That I should be compared with someone who has been learning Danish for 20 months, someone who speaks a very similar language, someone who is already fluent in several languages… and that the reason I am isolated, the reason I am not “integrated”, the reason I am struggling with knowing what is going on… the reason is a lack of effort from me and not getting enough practice.
You know, I think I am actually doing quite well and I know I am doing my best. I wonder how best to make him see that.