Top 10 Mistakes Danes Make in English
Mistakes Danes Makes in English

Danes makes a lot... Dammit. Danes make a lot of mistakes in English

Sommerferien er over os, hvilket for mange mennesker også betyder en tur udenfor Danmarks grænser - men hvordan er det lige med det rustne engelsk? Vi bringer dig de ti fejl, danskerne hyppigst slår om sig med i Europas sommerland. Så er du godt på vej. Summer has come, which for a lot of people means escaping the rainy Danish weather - but how are they getting on with their slightly rusty English? We give you the Top ten mistakes Danes make in English. Just for a start.
If "Can I borrow the toilet?" and "I would like to be concrete" sounds like something you would say - you better stay tuned...
 
 
1. “Bringing” a news article
“To bring” an article in a print publication or online is a common expression in Danish, but it cannot be translated directly into English.  “Bringing” an article sounds like you’re bringing a neatly typewritten manuscript to your editor in a square briefcase, 1950s style. 
 
 
Instead, an article runs or is published.  Advertisers and sponsors, however, sometimes proudly announce that they have ‘brought’ you a piece of material, which means they are paying for it and it reflects their point of view.  The popular U.S. political podcast “Slate Political Gabfest”, for example, is “brought to you by Goldman Sachs”. It shows a curious lack of interest in investigating Goldman Sachs’ campaign contributions.
 
 
2. Using “Meet” to mean “start work”
While most Danglish just sounds clumsy or foolish, the Danish use of meet to suggest the time one starts work in the morning can thoroughly confuse foreigners. A Danish boss who shakes hands with a new foreign hire and says, “You must meet every morning at 9” will get a confused look in return. Meet who? We start work every day at 9 is better.   
 
 
3. Confusing “Customer” and “Costumer”
Certainly one of the most common written mistakes Danes make in English is the substitution of costumer for customer, something I’ve seen everywhere from printed materials for large companies to hand-written cardboard signs outside of ice cream stands.
 
 
Customer is the correct translation for kunde, and it even looks more like kunde – with the ‘u’ up front – than its alter ego costumer. A costumer is someone who sews actors into fancy costumes for theater or TV.  Unless you work for the Royal Theater, it’s unlikely that your organization has any costumers. Use customer as the default.
 
4. Misusing ‘Loan’ and ‘Borrow”
Danish is either a word-poor or a very efficient language, depending on your point of view. "At låne", for example, covers both parts of the giving and and receiving of a loan, but in English, these are split into two different words – to lend and to borrowI can lend you my leather jacket so you look cool on your date, but can I then borrow your old brown fleece so I don’t get chilly? 
 
Most Danes simply seem rude when they need to use the toilet - or toiletpaper for that matter. 
 
The construction “I can borrow you my jacket” is always wrong. (And please avoid one of the classic bits of classic Danglish direct translation, “Can I borrow the toilet?” This sounds as if you plan to pull the toilet out of the floor, toss it in the back of a truck and drive away, only to return with it tomorrow. “Where is the toilet?” works better or, in America, “Where is the bathroom?” – even if you have no intention of taking a bath.)
 
5. Thinking “competent” is a compliment
Kompetencer seems to be a favorite word in the Danish business lexicon, but competences or competencies is awkward English with a heavy flavor of business school jargon. Skills, abilities and capabilities all sound much more natural. Similarly, while the word kompetent is a sincere complement in Danish, it’s more likely to mean adequate but unspectacular in English.
 
Competent is often used in contrast to someone who is incompetent.Do you have a competent bicycle mechanic who can fix my handle bars? The last guy put them on upside-down.”
 
 
6. Using week numbers outside of Northern Europe
Occasionally bad technology beats out good technology, and while week numbers are a highly efficient way to describe vacation arrangements, company closures, and short-term rental periods, hardly anyone outside of Northern Europe uses them.
 
If you tell colleagues elsewhere that a project needs to be finished by, say, Week 42, expect a follow-up email in which they try to clarify the dates using a less efficient system. “Do you mean the week of Monday, October 17?”
 
7. Thinking a sparring partner is a friend
Every management job ad in Denmark seems to require that the applicant be ready to serve as a ‘sparring partner’ to somebody or other. What the employer means is that the applicant should be able to brainstorm, or give feedback, or maybe even act as sounding board for business ideas.  
 
 
What they probably don’t want is the English meaning of a sparring partner, which is generally an irritable person who quibbles with everything you say and is generally a thorn in your side, even if their input may have some value in the long run. Bernie Sanders proved to be a stronger-than-expected sparring partner for Hilary Clinton in the Democratic primaries.
 
8. Misplacing apostrophes
 
 
Many English speakers have trouble figuring out where to put an apostrophe, so don’t feel bad if you do too. In English, unlike Danish, apostrophes are required when indicating possession: Ghita Norby’s first Bodil Award was in 1976. They’re also used to replace missing letters in contractions: Amalie Szigethgy can’t wait to win her first Bodil award. She’s already planning her acceptance speech.
 
 
But there is an important exception to this rule, and it is the word ‘its’.
Its uses no apostrophe for the possessive, only for a contraction. It’s a shame that the Bodil Awards can’t honor people who might widen its target group.
 
9. Using the term “Private Economy”
Danes on the way to visit their bank manager need to collect as many papers detailing their privatøkonomi, but in English, there’s no such thing as a “private economy”. Your income, investments and monthly cat food bills make up your personal finances, or family budget.
 
Den forsvarende mester af danglish, SFs tidligere formand Villy Søvndal, var under Cop 15 på noget af et sprogligt overarbejde.
 
10. Pronouncing “Price” and “Prize” the same way
The difference between British and American English aren’t as vast as some Danes think they are. In fact, the two countries themselves refer to their languages as “British English” and “American English”, which suggest two dialects, not separate languages with strong similarities like Danish and Norwegian.
 
There’s no mistaking a British accent for an American one in spoken English. In written English, the two are mostly distinguished by an extra ‘u’ in British versions of ‘colour’, ‘honour’ and ‘glamour’, and by the British tendency to spell some verbs with an ‘s’ that Americans spell with a  ‘z’  – recognise vs. recognize, for example.  
 
That can cause some confusion when it comes to the Danish word "pris", which can be translated as both price and a prize. (‘Prise’ is an obscure word that means something entirely different.)
 
Many Danes say “price” and “prize” exactly the same way aloud, because spoken Danish does not include a hard ‘Z’ sound. If you want to tone down your Danish accent in English, learning how to say the hard “Z” will help a lot.
 
 
Kay Xander Mellish is the author of “Top 35 Mistakes Danes Make in English”, published the 20th of June by KXMGroup.

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