As I sit here writing you this letter, I’m reflecting back on my year in Denmark, thinking about the mistakes I’ve made and the experiences I’ve had and how they’ve shaped my identity to make me who I am today.
We’ve been reading short stories from this book in English class called “Growing up Asian in Australia” and one particular story really got me thinking, it’s called “The Relative Advantages of Learning My Language”. The story is about a girl who is Chinese and didn’t take advantage of learning about her culture - specifically the language - from her grandfather when he was still alive.
Effort to learn Danish
I have come to realize now that probably my biggest mistake and regret of my exchange year was not putting enough time and effort into learning Danish. I never really understood why you pushed me so hard to speak it until later, I was too caught up in being embarrassed about making mistakes in front of people and knowing I was putting the words in the wrong order. I just thought of learning it as “it would be nice if it happened” but didn’t really care enough to put my best effort in, I simply didn’t see the real advantages when everyone spoke excellent English anyway.
Conversations with classmates
I found that even in school I didn’t make much of an effort to try to have conversations with people in Danish; all of my classmates were so good at English that they tended to speak only English with me so that they could practice it and expand their vocabulary. I feel like in the end I gave up trying and just stuck with English because, well it was simply so much easier. If I could go back, I’d make sure I encouraged them to speak to me in Danish more and try my best to reply, even if I did have to slide a few English words in here and there.
Supermarkets….. I couldn’t , I wasn’t good enough
There were also many other occasions where I could’ve easily practiced my Danish but I made the excuse to myself that I couldn’t, I wasn’t good enough at it and chose not to. Of course I understood that I could only improve with practice, I just didn’t have enough confidence and belief in myself. Even on my frequent visits to restaurants, shops, and supermarkets I kept my Danish to a bare minimum. I now realize that I could’ve just given it a shot and they wouldn’t laugh at me or make fun, no, rather they’d be proud to hear me giving it a go. They would’ve listen and helped me when I got stuck on a word.
English as a second language
I think another thing was, coming from a country where it’s not that common to be fluent in a second language also made it hard. I had no idea how to think about another language, I mean before I left, I thought that everything in every language had a direct translation that was the same. That’s where I found the exchange students from Spanish speaking countries had a distinct advantage because majority of them already had English as a second language. This meant that it wasn’t as…