If you want to learn Danish but you’re not in the mood for studying old textbooks, there is a way out. Nowadays, streaming platforms like Netflix and HBO Max provide a lot of passive language learning thanks to their international catalogues.
Passive learning refers to language acquisition that takes place through mere exposure, without repetition or a focus on grammar or formal language aspects.
So, is it possible to learn Danish passively?
Yes! There is a number of skills that can be improved thanks to mere exposition. Watching Danish TV series is a great way to improve your accent, intonation and vocabulary without making a huge effort.
Do you want to know which are the best Danish TV series out there? Let’s take a look.
1. Rita (Netflix)
Rita is an unconventional school teacher. Though she is great at what she does, she can be just as immature as her teenage students when it comes to solving her problems. Unapologetic about her sexuality and unwilling to settle for a traditional relationship, she is also a single mum who lives with her three children.
As you can imagine, Rita’s students love her. Their parents? Not so much.
The fact that she seems to say and do exactly what she pleases makes her an incredibly engaging character to watch. Plus, Rita is a great opportunity to learn Danish, and especially, to learn about Danish society, as it gives international audiences a realistic look at middle-class life in a close-knit Danish community. If you’re particularly curious about how the Danish school system works, this is the Danish TV series you’re looking for.
Watch the trailer below and learn how to say things like lærer (teacher) and forstander (principal).
You can also practise your pronunciation by pausing after your favourite lines, playing them once more, and repeating what you hear.
2. Borgen (Netflix)
In the pilot of this hit Danish TV series, the whole country is preparing for parliamentary elections. Birgitte Nyborg, who is extremely nervous to face her first election as party leader, decides to follow her own path at the last minute.
Borgen is a political drama about a female politician's rise to power, and how power can change ordinary people. This Danish TV series deals both with the country’s politics and the personal toll that it takes to be in the public eye.
From a language-learning perspective, Borgen will expose you to a different kind of Danish register. While Rita is great to learn Danish as spoken by middle-class people in informal situations, Borgen features a much more formal and complex use of vocabulary. Borgen is also a great show for those who are curious about Danish etiquette, as you will be able to see how people greet each other in formal contexts and what kind of behaviour is expected from those in positions of power.
Watch the trailer for Borgen’s first season and learn Danish terms related to politics such as parlament (Parliament), statsminister (Prime Minister) and politik (politics).
3. The Rain (Netflix)
If you enjoy post-apocalyptic narratives, you can’t miss this hit Danish TV series. The Rain tells the story of two siblings, Rasmus and Simone, who take shelter in a bunker after a virus carried by rainfall kills most of the population in Scandinavia.
Six years later, the siblings embark on a dangerous quest to find their scientist father, and they are devastated to see all remnants of civilization gone. They are about to lose all hope when they find a group of young survivors. Together, they will travel across Denmark looking for safety, and they will discover that even in this post-apocalyptic world there is still love to be found and a lot of lessons to learn.
Though this is a great Danish TV series for learners of all levels, it is especially useful for those who want to learn Danish words related to science and medicine. Watch the trailer below and learn how to say allergiske reaktioner (allergic reactions), virus (virus) and luftvejsproblemer (respiratory problems).
4. The Investigation (HBO Max)
If you like a good crime drama filled with interesting characters and carefully written plot twists, The Investigation might be the biggest surprise waiting for you on HBO Max. Critics are even calling this little-known Danish TV series “a meticulous, step-by-step procedural that would put the likes of CSI and Law & Order to shame.”
This is a realistic, authentic-looking, nerve-racking series about the seemingly impossible work done by a group of police officers and marine scientists to solve the murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall, and the subsequent efforts of the prosecution to convict the criminal.
Ideal for advanced students, The Investigation will teach you lots of vocabulary related to crime and justice. Watch the trailer below and learn words like beviser (evidence), mord (murder), and skyldig (guilty).
5. Below the Surface (Hulu)
On a stormy October afternoon, the lives of fifteen people are altered forever when the metro on which they’re commuting is hijacked by an unknown group of criminals who threaten to kill them if their demands are not satisfied. Such is the beginning of a catastrophic event that, over the course of a week, will change the history of Denmark.
Unlike other Danish TV series, Below the Surface has a fairly simple plotline that you can follow easily even if your level of Danish is not very high.
Watch the trailer now and learn Danish words related to terrorism and crime such as terrorist (terrorist), gidsel (hostage), and flugt (escape).
You can work on your accent and fluency with Below the Surface by pausing key scenes, listening and repeating your favourite lines.
So, can you learn Danish by watching Netflix? Yes and no. While watching foreign shows and movies can definitely boost your accent and intonation, if you really want to work on your accuracy and become a fluent speaker, you’ll need to go beyond passive learning and ideally practise with a native speaker who can give you feedback. Contact us now and get a free trial class with a Danish native Danish speaker! Our tailor-made lessons are designed to suit every student’s interests and current level so you can make the most of them.