Student portrait from IA Sprog

From noisy samba to quiet snowfall

“It was like being a baby learning how to make sounds.”

That is how 37 year old Brazilian Paulo Castro describes what it was like to start his Danish lessons. Paulo came to Denmark in 2009 and entered Danish Language Course 3 at IA Sprog’s Intensive Danish programme.

Paulo soon found out how much written Danish and Danish pronunciation differ:

“It’s like learning two languages at the same time, because the written and spoken language are so unlike.” The pronunciation was the biggest challenge for Paulo. However, the focus on pronunciation in the Intensive Danish classes helped him, and he was also very happy with his teacher Anette.

[ˈØnleŋ]?

The first year in Denmark, Paulo spoke mostly English to be sure to be understood. But little by little, he made some attempts at Danish. Some Danes politely corrected him, such as telling him that the word ‘yndling’ (favourite) is pronounced [ˈØnleŋ]. Paulo learned from the advice, and he learned new words every day too. Paulo completed the Danish Language Course 3 in a year and a half and got a 7 at the Danish Language Exam 3.

In Brazil, Paulo worked as a teacher in elementary school and high school. In Denmark, he found work as a barista at a coffee shop, where he went on to work for eight years. For Paulo it was hard to quit the place, because it meant a lot to him: “It was hard to cut the umbilical cord, because the best experiences I’ve had, I’ve had through that job. I am happy and grateful to have made friends and built a network through the job. And I have learned Danish culture and values from working there. Because of that job I could manage my finances and provide for myself and my stay in the country. Work was a kind of second home to me – safe and warm.”

From 2011 to 2015, Paulo studied to become a building constructor, and later he started at Aalborg University, Copenhagen, where he is currently working on his master’s degree in techno-anthropology.

“The programme can be described as a bridge between human needs and technology. You carry out analyses that help companies optimise their technology. One example could be establishing gardens in cities” Paulo explains.

Private welfare

Of course, Paulo finds there are both advantages and disadvantages to living in Denmark. One disadvantage is how Danes are very keen on everyone minding their own business. You do not interfere, and you do not help each other very much. That is the downside of the welfare state.

“In Brazil we do not have a welfare society, but on the other hand we are open and help each other,” Paulo compares.

Some of the advantages of living in Denmark are the level of trust, the equality and the comfort. Paulo finds that these correspond well with his own definition of sound life values. In addition, he is fond of the silence in Denmark:

“I love the sound and the silence of snowfall. All the silence in Denmark means I’ve come to know myself even better and to listen more to myself. In Brazil there is heat and noise and samba.”

“Without a language is almost the same as without a soul”

Paulo’s plans for the future here in Denmark are his hopes to finish his master’s degree in two years’ time, to find true love and to live a conscious and creative life.

Finally, Paulo ponders what the time at IA Sprog has meant to him. It was tough with the lessons and all the homework in the Intensive Danish class, but it was also wonderful. It is difficult to learn a new language, but once you have learned it, language provides you with something very special. As Paulo puts it: “Without a language is almost the same as without a soul”.