I’ve recently had several encounters where I’ve tried to teach some basic Danish to Koreans. (A fun video should be up on YouTube in a few weeks, and I’ll be sure to link to it when it’s up.) Usually, their pronunciation is scaringly accurate, but I find that when they ask me questions about Danish grammar I’m constantly reminded of this lovely comic:
Obviously, you can be a native speaker and still be an excellent teacher, but if you have never taught your native language to anyone before, you’ll probably be surprised at how difficult it can be. At least I was!
I’ve been teaching English to Korean friends for a few years now, and since I myself have learned English as a second language, English has been a lot easier for me to teach. Danish on the other hand… Here are some of the questions I’ve received recently? Why is the letter r hardly pronounced at the end of a word? Why are some d’s soft (almost like an English th sound) and others hard? Why do verbs and subjects change places in interrogative sentences? Why are there so many letters that are silent? How come some nouns are t-nouns and others n-nouns. How come the Danish word “hvor” sometimes means “where” and other times means “how”?
The short answer to all of these questions. I DON’T KNOW. The long answer: I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO CLUE. JUST… BECAUSE! OKAY?!
I feel so inadequate not knowing the exact rules of my native language. Of course, I can still speak and write correct Danish (although, admittedly, a few words sometimes come out of my mouth in English or Korean before the Danish word reluctantly enters my slowing brain), but I feel a bit embarrassed not knowing why it is supposed to be the way it is. The good thing is that I recently started reading a lot more in my native Danish, and I’m already feeling my vocabulary expanding. Yay!
I guess I have to work hard not to end up like this guy!