Ancient monuments and present-day Danish

They search for the old Copenhagen while learning Danish at IA

The module test is over and satisfactorily done with! Eight happy archaeologists and IA students with their teacher, Kirsten Toft.

Aided by excavators and tunnel drills, a group of archaeologists has unearthed a lot of fascinating relics from bygone eras in Copenhagen’s underground over the past few years.

The reason is the expanded metro construction, and while Copenhageners get annoyed with the many barricades, obstructions, and excavations, they should also be delighted that aspects are added to the history of their city, such as a completely ‘new’ Østerport gateway to the ancient city and a 900 years old cobbled street.

At the excavation sites the archaeologists talk, increasingly in Danish, despite the fact that many of them hail from Ireland and England.

Over the past year or so, a group of English-speaking diggers have received Danish language tuition at IA, and this means that they now are capable of making themselves understood to their colleagues and follow the chit-chat of the Danes. They have just completed module 2 of Danish Programme 3, and their aim is to become even better, because their current contracts with their Danish employers run for at least another year.

Danish at work and in your spare time
“Even though most Danes speak English, it’s an advantage for us to be able to communicate in Danish with our colleagues and the people in charge of the metro construction. It really ensures a positive atmosphere. Danes are generally good in terms of English, yes, but some are rather reticent, for instance the guys operating the excavators. They seem to think we’re in their way a little bit, and then it helps to have some knowledge of Danish,” says Duncan from Ireland, who found out about IA on the internet and convinced his colleagues to join him for some Danish tuition.

In your spare time it also pays to be able to understand and even speak a little of the language of “the local tribe”. Then you might avoid making a fool of yourself in the shops when the cashier asks questions like “Anything else?” or “Will that be all?” Even though both questions conclude a transaction, it does matter what you answer!

A social ticket
The young archaeologists acknowledge that Danish is the entry into Danish society. In terms of social life, it is important to speak the language if you want to get close to the Danes. And the better you speak, the closer you get. As a citizen of England or Ireland, you are used to hearing your language pronounced in a hundred different ways, but Danes are not exactly patient when they hear their language spoken with a foreign accent. In such situations, they often switch to English, the archaeologists say reproachfully. The archaeologists take a break until February 2012, when there yet again is free scope for their activities.