When planning your trip to Denmark, it's important to understand that although many of its citizens speak English, Danish is the official language of the country. As a result, it will greatly improve your trip to learn a few Danish words and phrases to help you get around this foreign land.
Many Danish letters are similar to the English language, but here are a few exceptions. For instance, "a" sounds are pronounced like the letter "e" in "egg," "i" sounds are pronounced like a combination of "e" in egg and "i" in "ill," and "o" sounds are pronounced like "e" in "see." Similarly, "æ" is pronounced like a short version of "a" in "ache," "w" is pronounced like "v" in "van," and "y" sounds like "ew" in "few" but with the lips more rounded.
When using "r" at the beginning of a word or after a consonant, it sounds like a strong guttural "h" like the Spanish "j" in "Jose." Elsewhere, between vowels or before a consonant, it often becomes part of the vowel sound or is lost entirely.
Also, don't forget to go back to the overview Scandinavian languages where you can find more language tips and useful phrases for travelers.
Danish Greetings and Basic Expressions
When you meet a resident of Denmark, the first thing you'll want to say to them is "goddag," which is a polite way of saying "hello," or "hej," which is the informal way of saying the same. You then might ask "what's your name?" by saying "Hvad hedder du?" before introducing yourself as "Jeg hedder [your name]."
To delve deeper into the conversation, you might ask "Hvorfra kommer du?" ("Where are you from?") and reply in kind "Jeg kommer fre de Forenede Stater" ("I am from the United States").
When asking how old someone is, simply ask "Hvor gammel er du?" and respond "Jeg gammel [your age]."
If you want to find something in particular, you might say to your new Danish friend "Jeg leder efter [item or place]" ("I'm looking for..."), and if you want to pay for service on the metro, you might ask "Hvor meget koster?" for "How much is it?"
Agreeing to statement requires a simple "ja" ("yes") while disagreeing is a simple "nej" ("no"), but be sure to say "tak" ("thank you") when someone performs a task or does something nice for you and "undskyld" ("excuse me") if you accidentally bump into someone. At the end of a conversation, don't forget to say a friendly "farvel" for "goodbye."
Danish Signs and Establishment Names
When you're out in public, you might need to identify these common words and phrases for directions around town. From identifying entrances and exits to knowing what the police station is called, these words can become extremely important in your travels.
A building's entrance is usually labeled "indgang" while the exit is labeled "udgang," and you can tell when a venue is open or closed by signs saying either "å¢en" or " lukket."
If you get lost, be sure to look for the "Information" signs or signs pointing you to the "politistation" ("police station"), and if you're looking for a bathroom, you'll want to look for "toiletter" for either "herrer" ("men") or "damer" ("women").
Other popular establishments and attractions include:
- A bank: en bank
- City center: centrum
- My hotel: m it hote
- The United States Embassy: den Forenede State Ambassade
- The market: markedet
- The museum: museet
- The police: politiet
- The post office: postkontoret
- A public toilet: et offentligt toilet
- Telephone center: telefoncentralen
- Tourist office: turist-informationen
- Cathedral: domkirke
- Church: kirke
- Main square: torvet
- Bookshop: boghandel
- Camera shop: fotohandel
- Delicatessen: delikatesse
- Laundry: vaskeri
- News agency: aviskiosk
- Stationers: papirhandel
Words for Time and Numbers in Danish
Although you might feel like a vaction is the perfect moment to forget about time, chances are you'll have a dinner reservation or play to catch and might need to ask someone to let you know what time it is.
In Danish, all you need to do is ask "Hvad er klokken" ("What time is it?") to get your answer, but understanding the response ("Klokken [time] er" / "It's [time] o'clock") can be a bit tricky if you don't know Danish numbers.
From zero through ten, Danish residents use these numbers: nul, en, to, tre, fire, fem, seks, syv, otte, ni, and ti.
When talking about today, you would say "i dag," and "i morgen" is used to refer to tomorrow while "tidlig" means "early." As for days of the week, these are the words for Monday through Sunday in Danish: mandag, tirsdag, onsdag, torsdag, fredag, lordag, and sondag.