Epic language challenges are our bread and butter at Babbel. If we’re not attempting to start speaking Italian in 3 weeks then we’re trying our best to have a conversation in French in only a week. This time, however, we’ve decided to take things up a notch. Forget French, and move over Italian, because we’ve charted new territory by challenging an intrepid group of Babbel employees to start speaking either Danish, Norwegian or Swedish in only 7 days!
Watch the video above to see how this adventurous group managed to learn these Scandinavian languages in only 7 days, using nothing but the Babbel app. Then see them go face-to-face with a real native speaker!
Time to meet one of our fearless participants. Catriona, from Scotland, bravely answered the call and took up the challenge of trying to learn Danish in 7 days. She showed guts, wits, and a lot of enthusiasm, and after only 7 days she was chatting away quite gladly with our Danish native speaker. During her week of learning Danish, she even picked up 5 handy tricks which can help anyone learn a new language quickly!
Here are her 5 tricks to having a conversation in a new language in just one week.
Trick #1: Have a plan
I had no plan, to begin with. This was potentially a mistake and with hindsight, I would go about this differently. A plan gradually did emerge however — I broke the week up into chunks of 3-4 short Babbel lessons per day, rather than simply dipping in and out whenever I got the urge to speak Danish.
By practicing every day (even when I didn’t feel like it), the constant repetition led to a relatively rich vocabulary.
To make matters even better, the lessons are compact and only take 15-20 minutes to complete, leaving you in a good mood and with a sense of achievement. By the end of the week, I had covered a lot of ground because my motivation levels were at an all-time high. To keep them that way, I thoroughly enjoyed breaking up the beginner’s course with supplementary courses for Danish, such as “Danish for Holidays,” where I could dream of relaxing in my beautiful log cabin in the Scandinavian countryside and stewing in a sauna; or the “False Friends” course, which contained some very useful insights.
Trick #2: Speak out loud
This is something everyone should do to practice languages. Talk to yourself! In your head, and more importantly, out loud. This helps to reinforce new vocabulary because it will stay in your memory better if you are actively using it.
The speech recognition feature on the app was ideal, especially for a language with tricky pronunciation like Danish.
Speaking out loud forced me to repeat things multiple times — usually on busy public transportation to and from work — which led to plenty of concerned looks. But speaking to myself in public had the added bonus of making me less shy when I attempted to speak to real people.
After finding a real Dane through a friend, and forcing him to go for coffee with me, I could put my app speech into real-life practice. Secretly opening up the Babbel Review Manager on my phone and leaving it on the table, a basic level of conversation emerged. This allowed me to piece together sentences that actually made sense!
Without a doubt, forcing yourself to make mistakes and breaking through the embarrassment of speaking in jolts and bursts will speed up your language learning. I also got together with my highly-skilled competitor in the challenge, to exchange learning tips and theoretically, to chat. However, competition was fierce, so we mainly just glared at each other.
Trick #3: Make it fun!
With German and English already under my belt, I felt Danish should be somewhat easy to learn because of the language similarities. This was true, but there was still the pronunciation to take into consideration. I realize that English pronunciation isn’t a piece of cake, but at least we tend to ignore letters rather than attach indecipherable sounds to random formations, or swallow pretty much every ending. Thank you, Denmark.
There were lots of pronunciation lessons to work through on Babbel, so that was a huge help.
I also enjoyed the tongue twister section — although impossible to remember (and pretty hopeless to repeat as you can see in the video) — it really did help with vowel sounds. I completed the first few courses along with the pronunciation lessons, as I felt this would give me the best basis for conversing. Plus, whipping out a tongue twister when people prod you to prove your new language skills is always a winning tactic!
Trick #4: Mix it up!
My plan for listening to Danish was less about actually learning the vocabulary and more about allowing the sounds to filter into my brain through a sort of language osmosis. Everybody learns differently, and I need to be frequently exposed to the sounds and melody of a language in order to develop a more natural feel for it.
This challenge was also the ideal excuse to revisit all the wonderful Scandinavian murder mystery TV shows and feel doubly clever since I already knew all the endings.
In a flash of brilliance, I remembered that I knew all the words to Beauty and the Beast by heart, so I watched that in Danish on repeat and can now perform a rendition of “Be Our Guest,” or Vær vor gæst. An excellent party trick which you can perfect with songs from any Disney musical.
Trick #5: You are what you eat
There’s no scientific proof for this one, but not only did I consume large quantities of Danish pastries over the seven days, I could also order them på dansk. What’s more, I could hold a conversation in Danish by the end of the seven days, so… I’ll let you come to your own conclusions about that one.
Are you up for the challenge? My bets are that you can also start speaking a language in a week!