Nearly 8 years went by before Sabina began attending a language course in Denmark. Before that she spoke no Danish at all. But then she wanted to get at it – better late than never.
Sabina had been busy caring for her children and being a stay-at-home mom, where she did not have the chance to learn Danish. “But then I wanted to get at it”, says Sabina, “it is important to do different things in life!”
Not enough to speak English
When Sabina first arrived in Denmark, she thought it would be enough to just speak English. It’s not that Sabina was not accustomed to speaking various languages, because in India she used both the family’s language Urdu at home, the official language Telugu in the local community, and on top of that all activities in the education system were conducted in English.
When she came to Denmark, she quickly discovered that most Danes were good at English. But she quickly got the feeling that it was not enough.
“It was as if there was still a distance, though we both spoke English”, Sabina noted.
She has had two children while living in Denmark which means she has spent some time in hospitals, and when she spoke English with the nurses, she felt that they would have preferred to speak Danish. When Sabina has had business at the municipality, it also felt important to be able to speak Danish – it was as if she and the employees understood each other much better in Danish. “It was as if they could give me much better service.”
Many good things about Denmark cannot be taken for granted in India
Sabina does not really miss that many things from India, but of course she misses her family: “It’s hard not to be able to just drop by for a visit,” Sabina relates, “but fortunately technology has become so good that we can easily both speak and see each other every day using video calls. In this way, my children are also able to see their grandmother. ”
When Sabina wields her skills in the kitchen, she never lacks any ingredients: “I can get everything I need at our local Pakistani grocery store, so it is almost as good as in India. And I have not yet tried to make Danish food, that’s one thing I still have to try,” she laughs.
Sabina and her husband don’t miss the weather and pollution either. They come from the large city of Hyderabad in Southern India. “In recent years there have been major climate changes in India,” says Sabina, “and it is almost impossible to breathe when there is smog and 45 degrees out in the summer! ”
In Denmark we trust one another
To your experience, what is the biggest difference between Denmark and India?
“Denmark is a very safe country. We can let our children go to and from school by themselves without being afraid that something happens to them. We are very grateful, because that is no matter of course in India. And you can trust people. If someone says something, they are, as a rule, being honest. I had to get used to that, even though it is a very positive thing. In India, it is quite common for people to cheat you, and you always keep a certain scepticism and need to be good at figuring out whether people are telling the truth, often making communication complex and tedious. I don’t need to be that way in Denmark.”
Language is the key to culture
Back in India, Sabina taught mathematics and information technology. She wants to do the same in Denmark. So after she has completed the PD3 (the Danish Language Exam 3) this autumn, she wants to go on to take Studieprøven (the Higher Danish Education Exam). Then she would like to complete teacher’s training, so she can begin teaching again.
Her family plans to stay in Denmark, all three children have gone to school and kindergarten in Denmark, and they see their future in Denmark. “But language is important”, Sabina says, and that is why they speak both English and Urdu at home, so the children speak both languages just as well as they speak Danish.
English helps them to communicate internationally across borders, and Urdu helps them to understand their parents’ origins – it is a window into the culture. Just like Danish made it easier for Sabina to understand the thinking among the employees at the municipality in Denmark.