Failing hurts – whatever they say!


After six weeks of Danish lessons, I took my first test on Monday to see if I could move on to the next module.  I admit it wasn’t great, but I thought parts of my written paper were pretty good.  The teacher thought otherwise.  When we had our ‘chat’ on Wednesday evening, it began with Karin telling me with a sad look on her face: “Well the test didn’t go so well”.  Her advice?  That I had to start all over again.  In other words, I failed.

Although it doesn’t really matter, because I am voluntarily putting myself through this pain twice a week, with many more hours spent on homework, I was really disappointed.  I didn’t show it to the other (brilliant) students – who all seem to speak hundreds of other languages.  But inside I was mortified and felt completely humiliated.  I’m not used to failing.

Of course, I could easily give up altogether.  But as I am expecting Charlie, our three year old son, to start speaking Danish at his forest school, I have to keep going.  So despite the desire to quit, I have just signed up for a new class.  It begins next Tuesday – after a day’s work reporting for Al Jazeera.  I’m not looking forward to it.  But as the saying goes:  “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”  I’m trying!

  1. Definitely believe in that saying! Everything happens for a reason. Perhaps it wasn’t meant to be this time but it will be next time. Keep at it, keep on practicing and don’t give up!

    We’ve been doing a lot about Growth Mindset at the school where I work and your piece has just reminded me of it. It’s great that you’re challenging yourself like this. Remember, everyone learns at their own pace. It’s not that the other students are ‘brilliant’ and you are not, it’s just that they’ve found a style of learning that works for them and you will too! The fact that you’ve signed yourself up again is a very good start. You have to find a way to look forward to it because once you do that it will instantly become easier. I’ve always had a big problem with Maths and doing the Numeracy Skills Test to become a qualified teacher was very painful and i’ve never felt so under pressure in all my life but I had to find a way to like it no matter how much I didn’t and I practised at certain times of the day (usually early in the morning) where my concentration was at it’s highest, practising with a friend also really helped. If you know Danish speakers why not arrange to meet up once a week or so?

    I really wish you the best of luck and even though I don’t know you, have every belief that you can do it because everybody has the potential to achieve anything they want to achieve if they continue to work hard and put their mind to it!
    Good luck!

  2. Good for you Alex – keep trying ! As we say in Danish: Al begyndelse er svær ! ( everything is difficult in the beginning).

  3. Danish is actually quite a simple language; I expect you are getting bogged down in all the mechanical grammar (et, en, stor, stort, etc), most of which doesn’t matter when you are just trying to speak the language. Or the prepositions, which tend not to be quite the same as they are in English (på, i, under, over etc). But if you say “i Østerbro” instead of “på Østerbro” most people will understand you anyway, and one day you will start getting it right as the feeling seeps through your skin that OF COURSE it is “på Østerbro”, any nutter can see that!
    Language teachers (and I have been one) protect and preserve the mechanical “knowledge”, presenting it as the be-all and end-all just to make you feel bad and part with your money. But unless you are genuinely interested in WHY it is “på” and not “i” Østerbro (and yes, there is an explanation), your best bet is to get to nursery early and listen to the kids and parents chatting in Danish about what happened out there in the forest today. And when you get home, watch some children’s TV. Get the DVDs of Bamse og Kylling and Cirkeline. Play them endlessly (your three-year-old will love you for it). If there are subtitles, make sure they are off. I bet that within a few months you will understand pretty much everything you hear around you, and you will be able to talk about what matters most in Danish life (it mostly originates from Bamse og Kylling anyway) 🙂

    • Thank you very much for such good advice! I have now started a new course, at the same school, with a different teacher and already I am finding it better. I have got out lots of kids’ DVDs and books from the library but I confess i haven’t actually watched them myself. I will!
      Thanks again! Alex

  4. In my first year here I watched a lot of DR Update – DR’s 24/7 news channel which repeated and repeated the most recent news broadcast until it was refreshed with a new bulletin. That really helped a lot, because a) you would catch up on the news b) learning languages is to a large degree about repetition, which is mostly boring, but when you want to understand something you are more motivated to putup with it, and c) you would measure your progress in real time 🙂
    It’s really sad that DR Update (we used to call it Doctor Update) is gone. I understand why the change was made, but for ‘udlændinge’ trying to learn the language its substitute, which takes the form of a talk show with double presentation, is not helpful.

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