All I want for Christmas is a Danish dictionary with phonetic spellings of Danish words that also has English definitions and doesn’t cost 600kr. Is that too much to ask? If I’ve asked for the impossible, I’ll take Gucci Bloom perfume in the red scent. *hint, hint*
When I was in college, I had the genius idea to minor in honors level English. If I remember correctly, I believe I ended up taking about 22 credit hours of English courses over four years. They were quite varied and ranged from Advanced Comp to Arthurian Legends. One summer, I decided to squeeze in some extra credits and take an intermission course called The History of the English Language. What seemed like a great idea turned out to be one of the hardest courses I took in college.
Over the six weeks of intermission, we studied 1200 years of changes in the English language. Not only the history of why it changed but the actual phonetic changes. We even studied the phonetic differences between dialects in the same language. We learned Old and Middle English (which are VASTLY different) along with their respective grammar and syntax. Our tests consisted of a multiple choice portion, an essay portion and a portion where we translated phonetic texts into regular written words and vice versa. It was a fascinating class that, to be honest, I was lucky to squeak a passing grade out of.
I was reminded of the class yesterday, when I started working in a Danish workbook that a fellow expat had given me to help me learn Danish. One of the most difficult things about Danish is that the written language is rarely pronounced the way it is spelled. Learning on your own can be quite difficult because you miss that really important pronunciation piece. This book has vocabulary lists and a English/Danish dictionary that includes the phonetic spellings of the Danish words. Having the phonetic spelling of words is a linguists version of Neo learning kung fu in The Matrix: Suddenly you’re wearing sunglasses, a leather trench and saying “I speak Danish.” OK, it’s not THAT life changing but understanding phonetics really does help. Being able to see that phonetic translation next to words like meget (meaning: a lot or very) and know it’s actually pronounce “MA-d(th)” allows me to get really close to correct pronunciation without having to butcher Danish to a native Danish speaker.
Danish does still have a few letters that don’t translate to English phonetics such as the soft d and the very tricky ø (which I still can’t pronounce correctly). The website Speaking Danish has a good explanation of the phonetic differences and use the same notations for those sounds as my book does. So now, I have to try to find an English/Danish dictionary that has the phonetic spellings of the Danish words. All I’ve been able to find is the reverse. I went to three different bookstores yesterday and struck out each time. The only one that came close was a straight up Danish dictionary that seemed to be their equivalent of the Oxford Dictionary. It was an absolute TOME and was priced at a whopping 599 kr (roughly $100 USD). As much as I love phonetics, I can’t cough up that much for a dictionary. So, the hunt is on!