Realizing audible fluency is years away!

Hey guys. I’ve been thinking about something and want to hear what you guys have to say. I think I’ve come to the realization that to obtain my goal of fluency in Danish would take years unless I go to Denmark. After all my main goal is to be able to listen to Danish and understand it and after a year and a bit my understanding in terms of listening is very minimal indeed. I contrast this with my Spanish studies to which I’d probably say have been more successful in the understanding department and are certainly very rapidly catching up with that of my Danish ability. Fluency in Danish reading I could achieve i think yes, but that’s just not what I want to do. there’s not enough resources on the internet to get to an advanced stage in terms of listening and I just feel like a lot of the effort is wasted as it’s just unattainable to reach “audible” fluency in this particular language when I don’t have contact with the language. I probably wouldn’t be thinking this had I not started Spanish, and didn’t have my experiences with studying that to compare it to, which often make me wonder what I have done wrong with Danish that I did right in Spanish at the early stages. I think Danish is a very hard to language to learn in terms of listening, and I’ve read many internet articles and have my own experiences to be in a agreement with that argument. So I guess my question is, if this is how i’m feeling should i may just focus on Spanish instead? , especially as it feels I’ve struck a dead end with Danish, and that now it’s starting to hold back my progress in spanish, :stuck_out_tongue: I don’t mind people challenging why I think this way because I believe i’ve got good reason to think it :stuck_out_tongue:

Maybe you just do not have the right material for your personal style of learning. Have you tried a course with cd’s? Pimsleur or Rosetta Stone maybe? Or maybe you need to find a rel Scandinavian to practice with either live on on Skype.

Pimsleur for Danish only has ten lessons i believe, or maybe 30. All the beginner courses, as are they are stated … beginner courses. The level at which Danish is spoken on the majority of them is not really an issue, but Danes speak a lot faster than on CD recordings such as TY and assimil. By the time the recordings start speeding up to a similar speed, the course usually finishes.

A lot of people criticise LingQ or other comprehensible input methods as not being the best because they don’t get you speaking as early. But if your goal is to be able to understand Danish, then you just need to keep clocking up hours of somewhat comprehensible listening, coupled with regular reading / vocab revision (e.g. on LingQ). I don’t think having Skype conversations is going to do much for your comprehension - especially if the native is slowing down for you.

My view is that once you get to a stage where you understand approximately 50% of (a certain kind of) native content, then you just need to keep listening (and “trying” to understand, but not stressing about it), and reading (and looking up words, e.g. at LingQ). It doesn’t have to take many years, maybe 6 months to a year, depending on how much you understand now and how many hours per day you can listen (even passively).

Another way to do it, which I believe Odiernod mentioned once, is to focus mostly on reading for a long time (with some listening), and then later listen a lot for 3-6 months and everything gradually becomes clear.

@Peter Some interesting thoughts there man, a few which have been mentioned before to me. One issue I have with constantly revising revisited audio is that I believe the only reason I know what is being said is because I’ve heard the piece so so so many times, and not because I truely understand what’s being said, and would bet that a lot of the things I often understand just due to the number of hours i’ve put into the text, I wouldn’t understand quite so quickly if they came up in conversation. I often get told not to worry about this, which doesn’t help much considering when one’s goal is audible fluency, it’s a question you have to ask, and something you have to worry about.

Sorry, I didn’t mean you keep listening to the same thing.

With French, for example, whenever I go back to it (or feel like listening to French radio) I go to this site called RMC. Every day they upload all of their programs, so even if I download all the episodes once a week for the few programs I like, I would never have enough time to listen to them all. In other words, it’s (currently) a bottomless pit of French radio content. So, as a general rule, I don’t usually listen to the same thing twice (at least not once at a certain level).

However, in the absence of a bottomless pit such as that, I would perhaps find all the podcasts of interest (with roughly 50% comprehension or greater) that I could, and listen to them. Then do other learning, listening etc. for a few months. And, if I enjoyed the podcasts to begin with, I might come back to them and listen to them all again, I usually don’t remember what happened anyway. Ideally, though, if you can find a Danish radio program that regularly uploads their “shows”, and if you can understand roughly 50%, all you need to do is keep listening (and reading), and every three months you’ll notice a significant improvement. That’s my theory, anyway :slight_smile:

@Peter What you say certainly makes sense, and should I be learning French (all though I do realise there are listening difficulties with french) that would work, But I feel due to it’s nature, Danish poses a unique problem. all though dare I say there aren’t any podcasts to which I can understand 50% of. This in my opinion is due to the sound of Danish, the fact it’s a barrage of guttural noises to which there are barely any distinctive sounds to cling onto when listening. There’s certainly a small gap between my listening ability and the ability required to understanding a lot of these podcasts. As stated, I’m having no problem filling this gap in Spanish, I think i’m probably past it, as now I can listen to podcasts first time and on average maybe understand 40-50% before then going over it. But that’s just because Spanish is a lot more comprehendable. I’d say Danish was one of the hardest European languages to understand, and again, i’ve read plenty of articles to suggest it’s infamous for it, so in some aspects my opinion of this is based on what others have said. This is why I wrote this on the forum, because I feel that a language such as Danish poses a unique problem in this way, or just a much greater version of a problem that every language has.

Fair enough. I don’t know that much about Danish, but I would have thought French would fall into that category as well.

Spanish - yes, you’re right. It’s much more comprehensible to a large extent.

Hi! Have you tried any specific listening comprehension materials (outside of LingQ)? You will probably be surprised how well you perform.

  • somebody reading one of two words which sound almost the same, and you have have to pick which of the two words was said
  • dictation tasks (writing what you hear)
  • short or longer recordings with multiple choice questions to assess understanding

Dialang (if it still works) is a set of free language tests in many languages that include listening comprehension. Try that, record your score for listening and take the test again in three months to see and compare your progress.

When you get frustrated and feel that you can’t understand as much as you want, ask someone else who doesn’t study languages what they understand of what you are listening to. Often they can’t identity the language, let alone the topic area…

You mentioned lack of resources for listening - have you tried TV?

Consider also the additional context you get from genuine face-to-face conversations or video footage. In my experience, even someone blocking their mouth with a hand, or not seeing the speaker, can greatly decrease comprehension and make listening more difficult. Seeing lips move in sync helps!

I think you should persevere on the basis you have already invested so much time. I think you may want to consider if you have indeed spent enough time listening. I agree with you that the written and spoken language in this case is significantly different. Therefore you would ned to devote more time to listening. This would also enhance your listening skills which wouldbe a benefit if you want to learn other languages such as Mandarin (another one of those languages requiring endless listening practice). It will require patience and can be tedious but I think it can be very rewarding overcoming something that is so difficult initially.

I agree with Marianne: comprehension of spoken Danish is notoriously difficult for foreign learners, and I reckon you would need to saturate yourself with input for a very long time in order to achieve this. Keke-eo’s suggestion about getting Danish TV is an excellent one in this regard.

Why not get foreign satellite TV, and then just start watching in Danish for an hour or two every evening?

BTW this probably costs much less than you might think: a while ago I saw a kit for installing foreign satellite TV down at my local DIY superstore, and if I remember correctly, the cost was less than £100. Of course you’d need to fool around on a ladder to fit the dish to your house, etc. It would cost more if you had a specialist company supply and fit the equipment - but still not that much. (I also don’t know whether there is any kind of ongoing subscription fee nowadays? Back in the days when I had a house with German satellite TV it was all completely free to view as soon as the dish was set up; but that may be different now?)

However if you’re really serious about cracking Danish, this would be the way to go, IMO.

I’ve been listening to Russian for 6 years now, clocking up 1200 hours of listening time, and I am still only comfortable listening to an audio book (which is read much more carefully than everyday speech) if I already know the plot. I wouldn’t expect Danish to be any easier than that.

On the other hand, German I have always found easy to understand, because it is written phonetically and speakers generally try to speak careful “standard” German in formal situations. Few languages are as considerate to learners as German, Spanish may be similar.

I recommend listening to carefully spoken Danish like, say, audio books (if you can get hold of them) while reading the text. You will have to listen to a lot of carefully spoken language before you can cope with sloppy TV talk, I should imagine.



For me it does seem a little strange to focus on the literary register of a language before the conversational one. Nevertheless I’d agree that audiobooks can be very effective. (And some popular titles are written in a fairly conversational register, of course.)

I believe Peter also once made the point that spoken German is relatively easy to follow for the English native speaker. I think this is probably true - I have certainly always found Italian more difficult in this regard. On the other hand, I have heard some people claim that spoken Russian is also quite easy to catch and construe, so perhaps there is a personal and subjective element to this as well…?

A little aside:

Don’t know whether it still stocks Danish books, but I used to haunt The European Bookshop in London (Warwick St) for all things foreign. Might have books with CDs.

@Skyblue what you say about german certainly makes sense, it’s such a phonetic language, and very clear too. I think the amount of work more i’d have to do to achieve the level of fluency i’m wanting would require that I not work my money earning job :stuck_out_tongue: It’s possibly a disadvantage of learning two languages simultaneously, and also a disadvantage of learning a remote, difficult sounding language to which there are not many resources. I’m pretty sure i’m going to have to accept, that fluency is spanish could probably be achieved for me by not leaving the country, but in order to be fluent in Danish I will probably have to go there for a year or so. Until then, there’s not much point in me getting frustrated by studying Danish.

Here are my two cents about listening to TV (or movies, or YouTube clips, etc.)

When I listen to audio alone my mind tends to wander. A lot. I have a very difficult time focusing and concentrating. No doubt a personal failing, but there it is. And after wandering, when my mind comes back to the audio and refocuses, I’m often lost. The thread of the narration has escaped me, and it’s difficult to pick up the thread again. So I lose some dialogue, and while trying to regain my bearings, I lose more dialogue.

It’s easier for me to listen to the audio of a TV or film clip and watch the action on screen at the same time. The video keeps feeding me visual clues of what’s going on in the script, so I can more readily pick up the narrative again after my mind wanders.

Something like: “Oh, gee, I’ve lost the thread of this thing. What are they saying? Oh, wait. The villain is tying the maiden to the railroad tracks. Now I understand what they’re saying.”

Something like that, anyway.

It doesn’t always work, by the way. If I don’t know enough words, the visual cues don’t help.


BTW there are a lot of Spanish TV channels available via satellite too! :wink:

Apparently this stuff is still freeview unless you want high-def TV. I’m really starting to think about having it again myself. (As I mentioned above, back in ancient pre-digital times I had a German receiver at an old address.)

The motorized system where you can point at all of the different satellites (therefore get scores of different languages) seems übercool. That would definitely be one for Richard Simcott! :smiley:

It’s all about the consonants. As native English speakers we key in on consonants. Often people can warp, slur, omit, or even use the completely incorrect vowels and we can still understand without problems, because in English the consonants are way more important than the vowels. In Italian it is the opposite, changing one vowel can have dramatic effects on how the sentence is interpreted, and the vowel to consonant ratio in Italian is much higher. Since German seems very consonant heavy, this may be why we seem to understand it better. I have not yet started learning German, but just from overhearing it it sounds like a language that would be easier to understand audibly than Italian.

@odiernod ,
Good post.

I find both German and Italian, though very different, fairly clear languages. Spanish too. For me European portuguese and for the OP , Danish are cerainly not.
I just listened to some basic sentences and I hear how the vowels are a bit , er, weird (sorry Danes :wink: In fact the writer of the webpage said ‘the pronunciation most likely came as a bit of a shock. Generally, you will find the sounds hard to pronounce in the beginning, and the sentences will seem unreasonably fast. You won’t be able to discern individual Danish words in a sentence; they will all seem to flow together’.

In European Portuguese the vowels often get swallowed, and there is a heavy fog of sh and z sounds so at speed it is tough to decipher. I just tried a fast spoken text, and with the text I understood everything, without it almost nothing. Brazilians tend to sound their vowels (ie like Spanish) so it is easier.