Most foreigners learning Danish will at some point feel bamboozled when they compare how the language sounds with how it takes form as letters on the page. But they’re not the only ones to puzzle at Danish spelling.
A study by the language council Dansk Sprognævn reveals that Danish school children today are worse at spelling than those in the 1970s and that more than 40 percent of boys are bad at orthography, Berlingske reports.
The study compares school leaving exams and dictations by pupils in recent years with the results of a similar 1978 report. While 41 percent of boys are in the bottom third of spellers, only 27 percent of girls fall into that category.
Girls just better
Jørgen Schack, a senior researcher at Dansk Sprognævn, explained that the gender differences were significant.
“Girls are just better than boys. Also at the top, among the very best spellers with 0-2 mistakes in the dictations there are clearly most girls,” he said.
“Boys especially make mistakes with double consonants. That is a type of mistake that is to do with the relationship between sound and text, and that you particularly see among the weakest spellers.”
Overall, the comparison with the 1978 results reveals a seven-percent deterioration in pupils’ spelling ability. Schack doesn’t think this is cause for concern.
“Seven percent worse – is that a lot? I don’t so, when you think about how many other things they also have to focus on in Danish classes today, where we spent more time on rote learning,” he said.