According to a new study, Danish is more difficult for children to learn than languages such as Croatian, American English and Galician.

Dorthe Bleses, a linguist at the Center for Child Language at the University of Southern Denmark, found that because of the high number of vowels in spoken Danish, it is more difficult for children to pick up. Danish babies at 15 months old have on average a vocabulary of 84 words, compared to 150 for a Croatian child of the same age.

“The number of vowels has big significance for how difficult it is to learn a language. Many vowels makes a difficult language,” Bleses told Weekendavisen newspaper recently.

The official number of vowels in Danish is nine: a, e, i, o, u, æ, ø, å and y.

“‘Y’ isn’t a vowel,” you say? Well, in Danish it is. In Danish, even consonants are vowels.

But written Danish is not the issue. The problems start when Danes speak. In spoken speech, Danish actually has some 40 vowel sounds, says Bleses, depending upon where the vowels are placed in words and sentence strings.

To make matters worse, modern Danes ‘swallow’ lots of the remaining consonants that would create more audible definition, or annunciation, between words. Linguists call it ‘reduction’ or ‘ellision’. It is how ‘probably’ becomes ‘probly’ in American English. In Danish, it is how ‘spændende’ becomes ‘spen-nă’, and how a simple, little sentence like ‘Det er det’ becomes ‘dā-ă-dā’. (Source: Copenhagen Post)

But there is good news for Danish parents – the difference doesn’t persist and children ‘crack the code’ of the Danish language by the time they are nine or ten.