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Amongst other things, this is a love story.... the theme changes occasionally... this year it is fitness and learning to love yourself.

25 June 2013

Personality versus Skills

How many times have you worked somewhere and thought you could do better than your bosses?  Maybe you watched people with less experience beat you into positions you deserved, or maybe you just felt you missed out because you didn't look the part, too short, too fat, too sexy, too *insert nationality or colour of skin here.*  Or maybe the opposite is true, have you ever scored a job because you charmed your way through the interview?

Yesterday I scored 100% for my Danish oral exam.  I usually do well in exams. Í am accustomed to distinctions, high distinctions and have even won a few achievements and memorial awards. I know how to give the assessors what they want, but this perfect score came as a surprise to me.

It certainly comes as no surprise, to anybody that knows me, that I did particularly well on an oral exam... "She can talk with a mouth full of marbles under water, talkative, have a chat  and, does she ever take a breath" are sentences I have heard often...at least until I moved to country where I needed to learn a new language and listening became more important than talking.  I still share my views but with far fewer words, because I'm really not that good at Danish yet.

I have trouble pronouncing the difference between U and Y (a vowel in Danish) which to an untrained ear sound exactly the same. Then there is there 3 extra vowels, Å. which sounds (to me) like O, Æ which sounds like the A in way, and Ø which should be classified as Denmark's biggest natural disaster...and the source of many 'rød grød med fløde' jokes...

 It's not easy.

They Danes swallow their d's, g's and v's and r's which makes it impossible to hear the difference between syv, (seven) syg (sick), syd (south), or sy (sew)...because they all sound like soo.

I know I made the assessor laugh a few times, I used all my acting abilities to act natural, and like many danes, I uuummed and aaahed a lot between words and sentences, a tactic to try and stretch the time and find forgotten words. I chose a subject I am familiar with and had memorized my talk, but there were questions and diagrams I hadn't seen that I had to describe and discuss... and I know there were grammatical errors.  At one point I completely forgot the words for advantage and disadvantage, so I talked about both the the positives and negatives of the advantages and disadvantages...and talked and talked and talked. The only question the assessor asked me was if I was a Doctor or medically trained?

I would have been proud if I scored a pass, and impressed if I scored anything above 60%, my accent is thick, my grammar is atrocious.  I put adverbs in the wrong place and mess up tenses all the time. I forget words and just can't get my mouth around some of the really long words... 100% feels like I cheated, that I fooled the assessor into believing something that I'm not, and now my Danish friends and family think my perfect score means I can speak and understand perfect Danish. I'm afraid Danglish will have to suffice for a while longer. 100% is not a true reflection of my language skills, but perhaps it's a true reflection of two of my other favourite skills, the arts of acting and communication...and of course I have to give some credit to my fabulous teachers.

I am truly baffled by the results, getting more than I deserved, the opposite of being cheated but the feeling is very similar. The relief that it is all over and knowing I can go forth and enjoy a stress free Summer makes it easy to move on and just be grateful.


  1. Congratulations! I have gotten jobs where I have "acted" my way in. Then I would "fake it til I make it", worrying I might get "caught". I can't fake it with my struggling Afrikaans, the native language of my spouse. Like the Danes, I think, Afrikaans speakers have a really odd sense of humor and use lots of puns. from: Water on Stones

    1. Thanks Rebecca, it's taken me three years and some great teachers to start even catch some of phrases and puns...I managed to squeeze one or two in during the test, clearly it made a huge difference.

  2. congratulations!!!

    well what do they say "fake it until you make it!"

  3. I still don't know what they were saying on the video...congratulations Ida...have a great stressfree summer.

    1. Hi Zoe, I can actually say it now... it translates to, red porridge with cream... basically berries and cream, tastes nice but hideous to try and say, so it's ice cream for dessert in our house :) Hope you've been well...

  4. Hi Ida,

    Yes, I'm here now. Two in the morning and that will be my excuse if my comment is even more nonsensical than usual.

    I have had folks take credit for things I've done. That would be because my face didn't fit and their's did. Office politics, me thinks.

    I've heard about the Danish oral exam, but I shall refrain from some silly innuendo. Seriously, well done on getting 100%! You charmed the assessor, but I'm sure that had no bearing on your score. Enjoy your bafflement and celebrate, my friend.

    And with that, sadly, I must go now.

    Gary :)

    1. Office politics happens on ships too... I've been lucky enough to sneak through a lot of red tape in my life and do jobs I'm not qualified for, but I have missed out on a few because of politics too... I was waiting for someone to come up with a cunning oral joke, in the meantime the celebrations continue... I am sure I charmed the assessor just a little bit.. I am sad that you have to go too but always glad to read your thoughts and see your :) Thanks Gary your ace :)

  5. Hi Ida,


    I think this is so important, "100% is not a true reflection of my language skills, but perhaps it's a true reflection of two of my other favourite skills, the arts of acting and communication...and of course I have to give some credit to my fabulous teachers."

    My mother and father first met in Germany. My dad was a stickler for grammar and attention to detail. My mother would just wing it. My father got stuck on every sentence and fumbled and wouldn't say anything unless he got it just right. My mother once accidentally said that she slept on a sailor (Matrose) rather than a mattress (Matraze). Guess who had more fun at parties? Guess who made more friends? Guess who's German got better through practice because she was always speaking it? Rather than waiting for the right verb tense?

    Hope you're well, Ida. Enjoy you're summer! We're now in Barcelona enjoying the sun and fun ... and speaking of languages, not understanding a word of Catalan! It's OK, we have our secret Dutch for our family ... although I still can't really say "onions" (Dutch: uien).


    1. Bradley, did you sense me lurking around your site yesterday... I was busy finding and sending a friend in Australia the link to your 'how to add links in comments' video... on the b for beneficent post you did... for me :) (I would add the link here now but am trying to run out the door). You're so right about the perfectionist versus the party animal story. Our class Dostoyevsky (Russia's Shakespeare) had perfect grammar but scored lower than me, because she couldn't speak naturally and there is not a Dane on the planet that would form sentences together as well as she does... apparently I'm just a natural even though I can't begin to count the amount matrose/matraze type of mistakes I make on an almost daily basis... :) Hope you have a great time in Barcelona with your family... I am free for the summer now too :D
      Venlig Hilsen :)

  6. Hey congratulations!

    This is how I felt after I got my previous job. The interview was completely blunt but still I got appointed. Fake it till you get it.... guess that's the reason.


    1. Congratulations to you too my dear... confidence speaks volumes, we live in such a judgmental society it's nice to be judged positively on occasion.

  7. Good for you! I love reading about your Danglish adventures! Learning a new language is not an easy thing. You are an inspiration. I need to learn French sometime...perhaps after my MA!

    1. Hi Brandy, I was all over your site the other day, can't even remember if I left you any comments, your countdown post proves you don't have a spare second over the next few months (year or two) to learn a language as well. Perhaps listening to some Edith Piaf and the odd french movie will do for now. I wouldn't mind learning Esparanto one day, I think it''s the best to get you familiar with many Roman alphabet languages.

  8. Congratulations Ida!
    Consider this: Perhaps you underestimate yourself and managed far better than you thought you did? Perception is a strange thing... and objectivity is difficult when dealing with oneself...
    Or perhaps your suspicion is correct and you simply charmed the assessor...
    Or it could be a magical combination of the two!
    It's difficult to learn a new language as we grow older, so I really admire you.
    I'm wondering just how close Danish is to Afrikaans?
    Enjoy your well deserved stress free summer!

  9. I have always wanted to learn another language, I took a few classes but nothing ever stuck. Hey when expressing yourself passion and charm come in handy.

  10. Ida, it sounds very hard. I always though Dutch is supposed to be close to English but after reading this--I guess not. Good luck.