An American girlfriend surprised her European partner by secretly learning to speak his native language in only six months.
According to her online post, which she shared to popular subreddit r/offmychest, the girlfriend learned Danish, regularly praised as one of the easiest languages for English speakers, by consistently studying for approximately one hour per day in secret, using multiple online tools.
In March 2023, the girlfriend took to an online forum to share “deeply emotional things you can’t tell people you know.” Posting under the username u/Silver-Wolverine9833, she chose to share her excitement over the surprise she had planned for her long-term foreign boyfriend.
She Felt Like She Was Missing Out
Her decision, she said, was prompted by a previous stay in Denmark (his home country). The last time they visited, a year ago, she noticed that his friends and family struggled to constantly switch to English for her sake or were too self-conscious to practice the language with her.
Although the Danes are reportedly among the most proficient English speakers in Europe, this American girlfriend learned Danish to better understand her boyfriend’s country. “I … felt like I was missing out so much on culture and humor. I love my boyfriend and want to be an authentic part of his world,” she wrote in her first Reddit post. “I also am passionate about language learning and partaking in new cultures.”
She Decided to Make Language Learning a Habit
The girlfriend’s first step will be familiar to many novice language learners: she downloaded Duolingo. By March, she had a 150+ day streak and had almost completed the course. In addition to the learning app, she also watched TV shows and movies in Danish and listened to podcasts to increase her exposure to the language.
“I think I’m getting to be conversationally fluent, and it makes me so happy,” she told fellow Reddit users. “I’m visiting his home country again in May, and I can’t wait to surprise him and his family by whipping out my new secret power.”
[Danish is one of the easiest languages to learn. Here are nine more easiest languages to learn.]
Social Media Praised the Decision
Commenters on Reddit praised her thoughtfulness and congratulated her on the Duolingo streak, with some even requesting an update in May.
One user shared a similar experience in his marriage: “I did the same, wife’s family and friends [were] either too shy to speak English to me or just couldn’t. I felt it was easier for me to learn their language than a multitude of people adapt for me.”
Online well-wishers were recently satisfied with an update posted this past May. Although she had originally planned to surprise him together with his friends and family, she was too excited to wait. By her own account, the girlfriend confessed to secretly learning Danish during a sunset walk with her partner through a Copenhagen park.
“I was so nervous and relieved to say it,” she wrote in her post. “[H]is eyes widened, and he just hugged me for a very long time and smiled and told me that he was so happy.” Then the boyfriend revealed a surprise of his own. He had already suspected she was learning his language due to the increased number of Danish songs on their shared Spotify playlist.
The Language Could Open Up More Opportunities
Her partner’s family and friends were all appreciative of her efforts. More importantly, they were allegedly very impressed with her level of Danish since she can now listen and participate in full conversations about work, sports, books, and more. Moreover, this new language will create new work and life opportunities for her in Denmark. “I’m a little slow at speaking, and I make some mistakes, but I’m so glad that my hard work has paid off,” she shared in her post.
The Online Tools She Used
The comment section soon included other users asking for recommendations as fellow language learners. One netizen expressed doubt that a person can become nearly fluent from Duolingo alone. In response, the girlfriend wrote: “Duolingo is not all I used! … I think it would be impossible to learn from just one method alone. … [T]he important thing is to just surround yourself with your target language and to not get discouraged while making mistakes.”
Besides downloading the learning app, the girlfriend also read a few easy books, listened to Danish podcasts, and repeatedly practiced helpful phrases. To get used to hearing and thinking in the language, she watched hours of Danish TV shows and movies with Danish subtitles. Another online tool she recommended was a free extension called Language Learning with Netflix, which provides translations for subtitles while watching. “Start slowly, pause sentences and hover over translations, make notes on words or expressions you don’t know,” she advised.
Lastly, the girlfriend credited regularity and routine for the bulk of her success. Every day for six months, she spent 30-45 minutes on Duolingo, 30-60 minutes watching Danish media, and 15-30 minutes listening to Danish podcasts and music. “Make sure you set realistic goals for yourself so you don’t get discouraged. The most important thing with learning languages (learning anything, really) is consistency,” she replied to an inquiring commenter.
She Will Be Able To Understand More About Others
One Norwegian user even tested her skills by commenting, “Cool, that’s impressive of you! You now also have the ability to read Norwegian:)) [sic]” Along with Danish and Swedish, Norwegian is a Scandinavian language, and all three share many linguistic similarities. The girlfriend replied in kind, “Yes, I am excited to be able to understand (a little) Norwegian and Swedish too! Three languages for the price of one.”
“It’s so nice to see how my work has paid off,” she wrote in her most recent post. “I think that communicating with people in their native language lets you see their most authentic selves, and so I felt like I got to know them much better than if we just spoke in English.”
She Encourages Anyone Who Wants To Learn a Language To Just Go Do It
The girlfriend’s parting words were encouragement for everyone who felt daunted by picking up a second language. “For all of those out there discouraged about language learning, especially as an adult, it IS possible and extremely rewarding! Find a reason to do it, and don’t give up!”
This article was produced by TPR Teaching.
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I'm an Irish tutor and founder of TPR Teaching. I started teaching in 2016 and have since taught in the UK, Spain, and online.
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