What a joke. This post is “so August, darling” but I need to get it out in the open.
Let us be honest here. I LOVE LANGUAGES. I did French at school (as a default), then added German, did a two year course in five academic terms. Got an A (same as French). Did French at A level (got a C), did a university course in French (got a First or Two:one, if memory serves). Went to a language school in France to brush up (Intermediate B2). Learned Welsh informally and professionally (elementary). Learned a lot, most of it lost now. Learned Swahili and Japanese (both elementary) formally in evening school.
I LOVE LANGUAGES and I would know.
How then, has Danish managed to upset me so much?
Imagine. I was a newly baked immigrant, all fresh and ready. Wanting to get fluent as soon as so that I could order meals in restaurants, shoot the shit with colleagues, make friends outside of work and participate in culture.
I waited and waited for my bureaucratic hoops to go past and then I was permitted to join Danish class.
They taught me childcare Danish. The disappointment was delayed. There were about six weeks when I was unhappy but did not know why. Would not acknowledge it. Would claim I WAS HAPPY. But I was not. I was bitterly disappointed. My realisation came when I was doing my homework and I had to give my thoughts on my children’s childcare plan. And the book said “If you do not have children, what about your own experiences?” and I wrote “it was over twenty years ago, I have NO idea.”
The books we had to read were about rapes and murders. Imagine that. Now, let us not be too personal. But a lot of people, myself included, have been directly and indirectly involved in sexual violence (and not as perps, let me tell you) and it is not entertainment. It is not fun to do your homework and have to confront feelings around rape just to be able to complete a language assignment. It is not fun to be given the task in class to summarise a book and be very aware that the woman you are giving the précis to looks very uncomfortable for the exact same reasons you are uncomfortable.
The tasks got harder overnight. The teachers were barely competent, not to point too fine a point on it. The tasks were about “the community” and not at all about equipping me with the tools I needed to survive here. They assume I have a husband, I think. To guide me. Inlaws to ring the bank/immigration for me. They coached me in writing job application letters. And not for anything I was trained for. For entry level jobs. If only they had taught me teaching jargon. Can you imagine what a powerhouse I would be?
We are drilled on grammar for 90 minutes and then the teacher cannot understand why we will not talk for the last thirty. We are given “games” about Danish culture (what is the birthday of the Queen? Why do kids dress up as princesses on fastelaven). We are given tasks of prioritising possible childcare arrangements and justifying our decisions… before we are taught words like “therefore” or “someone” or “care”.(and we are not permitted to disagree with the ONE TRUE TRUTH of “Put kids in day care as soon as your vagina heals sufficiently for paid work”) We are told to argue against things like blood donation or volunteering but then attract disgusted looks from the teacher when we go out of the script of rubbish opposing views and deliver meaty rejoinders such as “well, volunteers tend to be mentally unstable women, don’t they?” (And on both occasions, I had to say “I DO BOTH BLOOD DONATION AND VOLUNTEERING. YOU SET ME THE TASK OF ARGUING AGAINST. YOU DID. YOU“)
From the beginning I have been coached for these arbitrary hoops. As a teacher, I have been repeatedly told that children learn worst if you teach to the test.
My Danish has improved but only because I buy so many magazines, listen to the radio, work with Danes, talk to children and so on. In fact, work did me a favour in having so many meetings this term, it showed me what I could do without school. (And as a European, I am fairly indifferent, they cannot deport me if I do not pass their stupid tests). Of course, I feel solidarity with my brothers and sisters who MUST pass this ridiculously hard and irrelevant test but this is something separate to my feelings of relief that I can learn on my own terms.
The children have started to say things like “you are good at Danish” and “that was much better than before” because I have been injecting world weariness to my accent. I have also decided to not give a shit if they can understand. If you give a shit, you put a question intonation at the end which transforms the word from understandable to incomprehensible. If you speak Danish loudly and as if you are both depressed and short of time, then Danes tend to understand. If you make a facial expression like “what are you special needs, then?” they tend to drop that they did not understand you. Also, I have been cultivating my Swedish/Norwegian accent. I can make the “r” sound from Norwegian (and do) and the hurdy-gurdy of the Swede (and do). (This is not to say that Swedes or Norwegians have any idea what I am saying, it is just to mask my English accent with something more prestigious)
Then there is the neurological fact that I have only been doing Danish on my terms so my brain sees it as an attractive language which is important to learn. If I force myself into badly taught and poorly politically steered lessons, then I am likely resent every Dane who ever speaks to me. And that is not healthy nor fair.
I have said it before and I will say it again.
I came here to learn how another education system worked, to see a place where feminism “has won” and a place where “everyone is happy due to social policies”.
Denmark does not owe me a damn thing and I do not have to submit myself to its outrageous jingoistic whims.
I have said it before and I will say it again.
I am learning this language because I LIKE languages and not because
“Al den viden, vi skal bruge for at kunne leve og fungere i et samfund, bliver overført gennem sproget. Så hvis du vil være en del af et samfund, må du kunne dets sprog. “
Fuck the samfund. Why can’t I chitchat or get a haircut or eat out in a fancy restaurant yet?