10 TOP MISTAKES DANES MAKE IN ENGLISH

DANES SPEAK BEAUTIFUL ENGLISH, YET THEY MAKE A FEW SMALL MISTAKES OVER AND OVER. HERE'S A GUIDE TO THE MOST COMMON 'BROLER'.

TO MAKE SURE ALL YOUR ENGLISH TEXT IS FLAWLESS, CONTACT KXMGROUP!

TALKING ABOUT 'MY PRIVATE ECONOMY'

An economy, in English, is a large-scale thing with many moving parts - the Danish economy, the Internet economy. Occasionally, you'll hear discussion of microeconomics, if you hang out with people in the aid-to-developing nations sector. But there's no such thing as a private economy, at least in commonly spoken English. Your bank accounts, credit cards and investments make up your personal finances, or family finances.

 

CONFUSING 'FUN' WITH 'FUNNY'

smaller_funny.jpg

Both fun and funny are covered by sjov in Danish, which can make it difficult for Danes to figure out which one to use in English. Fun lines up with general enjoyment - Vi har moret os translates to 'We had fun', not the often-heard 'We had a very funny time.' Funny refers to a humorous person or thing. He's a funny comedian, and it was a very funny movie. Fun refers to an experience. We had fun watching it.

thinking 'competent' is a compliment

smaller_competent.jpg

To say someone is kompetent is praise in Danish; it is faint praise in English. Competent in English sounds like someone who can do a job, but just barely, and it is never a glamorous job. You hear about competent secretaries or competent plumbers, but no one is ever a competent scientist, movie star or U.S. President. (Although a U.S. President is likely to be called incompetent by her political opponents.) Skilled is one way to compliment a worker in English. On the same note, kompetencer is fine in Danish, but competencies is clumsy in English; skills is better. 

mixing up customer and costumer

costumer copy.jpg

This mistake always surprises me, because kunde is a lot closer to the correct English customer than its perennial dopplegänger, costumer. A costumer, folks, is a professional who sews actors into retro suits or fancy Shakespearean costumes at a theater. I have edited entire documents in which big financial institutions discuss improving costumer service. Perhaps they see an important target group among ladies with measuring tapes draped over their shoulders and pins between their lips. If that's not your client, use customer.

smal list.jpg

adding 'etc.' to every single list

The Danish writing style, like Danish culture, shies away from conflict, which is why every list of more than one or two items ends with bl.a or m.fl as a way to avoid offending anyone by leaving their favorites off the list. When translated to English, adding 'etc.' to every list makes you sound like you lack confidence. If you really want to make it clear that your list may be incomplete, use include - for example, "The heroes of Denmark's 1992 EM victory include Henrik Larsen and Peter Schmeichel." That's less likely to offend fans of, say, Brian Laudrup.

 

Spelling 'lose' with two 'o's

smal list.jpg

In English words like balloon and choose and moose, the ooooo sound in the middle is spelled 'oo'. An intelligent Dane might assume that the translation of at table et sag would be to loose a case. In the jungle of English spellings, that intelligent Dane would be wrong. You lose a case, or lose a customer, or lose an eye. You can also lose weight, after which your trousers will be loose, a word  that rhymes with goose. And don't confuse lose with drop. You only drop something if it physically falls to the ground. You lose money or lose a tooth.

 

confusing learn with teach, or loan with borrow

small_golfer.jpg

At laere is flexible enough to cover both teacher and student; jeg har laert at spille, hun har laert mig at spille. In English, this flexibility disappears; the usage is broken into learn and teach, and they are not interchangeable. She taught me to play golf. I learned to play golf. The same applies for at låne, which in English is split into lend and borrow. I can't borrow you my golf clubs. I can lend you my golf clubs or you can borrow them. Interestingly, the direct translation of loan can be used either way - I can loan you twenty bucks for drinks at the clubhouse after golf, or you can loan twenty dollars from me.

SmallConcernedWoman.jpg

saying 'i've tried' to describe unplanned experiences

When Danes show empathy with someone in trouble, they often say they've had the same experience. For example, "I've tried breaking my leg." This translation of jeg har også prøvet doesn't work in English, unless it's something you tried to do and failed. "I've tried finding a husband, but every guy I've asked has turned me down." For unfortunate events that were unintentional, like the broken leg, you can show empathy by saying "That's happened to me, too."

 

 

using already to describe a future event

small_pieman.jpg

In Danish, allerede can be used to describe something in the future that will happen more quickly than expected. Taerten kan allured aver faerdig om fem minutter makes sense in Danish. In English, already is used in the past tense only. "The pie is already finished, and I already have eaten a piece." To combine the two - The pie will be finished already in five minutes - is Danglish. As soon as is a good substitute: Our pie company could be bankrupt as soon as next month. 

 

translating 'derfor' and 'hermed' directly

Small_DefiantPose.jpg

Derfor is an ordinary part of Danish, but its direct English translation therefore is stiff and pompous. It makes you sound like a bald professor explaining chemistry. Instead of 'Therefore, she loves disco dancing,' try a more modern construction like 'That's why she loves disco dancing.' Just as stuffy are direct translations of hermed such as hereby and herewith. Both are real English words that won't set off your spell-check, but they're rarely used outside of legal contracts. 'I hereby send today's presentation' can be simplified to 'Here's today's presentation." 


BUY THE TOP 35 MISTAKES BOOK

Like these tips and want to learn more?

Buy the "Top 35 Mistakes Danes Make in English" on Saxo or Amazon.

Get the "Top 35 Mistakes Danes Make in English" audio book on Saxo or Amazon

Book Kay for a "Drop Dit Danglish" speech to your company or organization

 All content copyright Kay Xander Mellish, 2017.