Denmark

Danmark

Country context

Danish is the official language of Denmark, which has approximately 5,500,000 inhabitants. 90% of these are ethnic Danes with Danish as their mother tongue. For the remaining 10%, only one minority language, German, is recognised officially. The overall number of native speakers of German located in South Jutland amounts to approximately 20,000.

Apart from the Danish speakers who live in Denmark, Danish is also the native or cultural language of around 50,000 Germano-Danish citizens living in the south of Schleswig. 

In the Faroe Islands and Greenland, the law of autonomy guarantees the official status of the Faroese and Greenlandic languages, although Danish is a compulsory subject in schools. In Iceland, Danish has been a part of the school curriculum since the beginning of the 19th century and Danish is still used to facilitate communication with other Nordic countries. 

Denmark has ratified the Nordic Language Convention (1987), which secures the right of Nordic citizens to use their own language to communicate with the authorities in all Nordic countries. Denmark has also ratified the Nordic Language Declaration (2006), which is a joint policy document of the Nordic Council of Ministers. It states that both national and minority languages should be supported and protected, that universities should use a parallel language strategy ensuring the use of English alongside the use of the national languages, and that the citizens of Nordic countries should be given the opportunity to learn their mother tongue and acquire skills in a language of international importance and skills in another foreign language.

Languages in official documents and databases

The national language, foreign languages, R/M languages and immigrant languages are dealt with in language legislation. The learning and teaching of the national language abroad for children and/or adults originating from Denmark is (co-)funded in about 20 countries in Europe and abroad. The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages has been signed and ratified by Denmark. German as a R/M language is recognised in the Charter. Eskimo-Aleut (in Greenland) and Faroese are also protected by Laws on Home Rule. In Denmark, there is official provision in education, supported by the Charter, for German.

Official nation-/region-wide data collection mechanisms on language diversity in Denmark do not exist.

 

There are no provisions for the use of Danish or other languages in the Danish constitution and there is no specific law providing overall regulation for language use. However, rulings for language are part of legislation in other fields, for example in promoting Danish as a second language for minority students, and there is a law stating that all schools and public institutions must use the Danish orthography provided by the Danish Language Council.

Although there is no official recognition or policy documents for sign languages, official recommendations for the teaching of sign languages exist.

There are no official nationwide or region wide data collection mechanisms on language diversity in Denmark.

Languages in pre-primary education

 

R/ML

Regional/Minority Languages

FL

Foreign Languages

IL

Immigrant Languages

Additional NL
support

National Languages
Target groups
R/ML: all  native speakers only  no support 
FL: all  restricted  no support 
IL: all  native speakers only  no support
NL: all  immigrant children only  no support 
3 none 2 3
Duration
≥2 years 1 year <1 year  
2 none 2 2
Minimum group size requirements
 none  5-10  >10
2 none 2 3
Days per week
 >1 day  0.5-1 day  <0.5 day
2 none 2 2
Pre-service teacher training
subject-specific general none
2 none 2 2
In-service teacher training
subject-specific general none
2 none 2 3
State funding available
full partial none
3 none 3 3

Languages offered in pre-primary education

R/M Languages

German

Foreign Languages

-

Immigrant Languages

Albanian, Arabic, Bosnian, Icelandic, Panjabi, Somali, Tamil, Turkish, Urdu

More than 85% of the children in Denmark attend either private or public day care. Danish local authorities are obliged to monitor the linguistic development of all children who do not attend day care at the age of three, and to initiate language stimulation up to 15 hours a week if necessary. The purpose of language stimulation is to provide the child with the necessary language skills in Danish before the start of school. Children that attend day care on a regular basis do not have to be monitored but they receive mandatory language stimulation if necessary.

Languages in primary education

Organisation

 

R/ML

Regional/Minority Languages

FL

Foreign Languages

IL

Immigrant Languages
Curriculum
coherent and explicit general no guidelines  
none 3 3
Languages used as a medium of instruction (CLIL)
  widespread localised absent  
none 1 1
Target groups
R/ML: all  native speakers only  no support
FL: all  restricted  no support
IL: all  native speakers only  no support
none 3 2
Start of language education
from year 1 from mid-phase end-phase only  
none 2 3
Scheduling
in school hours partly in school hours  outside school hours   
none 3 1
Minimum group size requirements
none 5-10 >10  
none 2 1
Monitoring of language skills
national standardised  school based  absent   
none 3 2
Level to be achieved
Other NL: national or regional norms school norms not specified
FL: linked to CEFR national or school norms not specified
IL: national or regional norms school norms not specified
none 2 1
State funding available
full partial none  
none 3 3

 

NL

National Languages
Curriculum
coherent and explicit general no guidelines  
3
Extra support for newcomers
before mainstream during mainstream  absent   
3
Diagnostic testing on entry
all immigrants only absent  
3
Monitoring of language skills
national standardised  school based  absent   
3

Teaching

 

R/ML

Regional/Minority Languages

FL

Foreign Languages

IL

Immigrant Languages
Teacher qualifications
language teachers general teachers  unqualified   
none 3 3
Pre-service teacher training
subject-specific general none  
none 3 2
In-service teacher training
subject-specific general none  
none 2 2
Mobility
incorporated into training informal financial support no informal financial support not applicable  
0 2 0

 

NL

National Languages
Teacher qualifications
language teachers general teachers  unqualified   
2
Pre-service teacher training
subject-specific general none  
2
In-service teacher training
subject-specific general none  
2

Languages offered in primary education

R/M Languages

-

Foreign Languages

English and French or German compulsory, Spanish, German or French, and immigrant languages optional

Immigrant Languages

-

Danish children normally start primary school at the age of five or six and leave at the age of 15 or 16.

Until 2002 extra-curricular education in immigrant languages was provided at primary school level and funded by the government. This is still the case for students from the EU, EEA, Greenland and the Faroe islands. For all other students, since 2002 it has been up to each local community to provide education in immigrant languages. Therefore education in immigrant languages is only offered in large communities with a high number of immigrants, for example Copenhagen.

A recent committee-report ‘Sprog er nøglen til verden’ (2011) suggests the introduction of English already in the first year of primary school and the introduction of a third language (German or French) at the age of 11-12. Furthermore, the report suggests that a broad range of languages such as Arabic, Chinese and Portuguese/Brazilian should be offered as electives.

 

Languages in secondary education

Organisation

 

R/ML

Regional/Minority Languages

FL

Foreign Languages

IL

Immigrant Languages
Curriculum
coherent and explicit general no guidelines  
none 3 3
Languages used as a medium of instruction (CLIL)
widespread localised absent  
none 1 1
Target groups
R/ML: all  native speakers only  no support
FL: all  restricted  no support
IL: all  native speakers only  no support
none 3 3
Scheduling
in school hours partly in school hours outside school hours  
none 2 1
Minimum group size requirements
none 5-10 >10  
none 1 2
Monitoring of language skills
national standardised school based absent  
none 3 2
Level to be achieved
Other NL: national or regional norms school norms not specified not applicable
FL: linked to CEFR national or school norms not specified not applicable
IL: national or regional norms school norms not specified not applicable
none 3 2
State funding available
full partial none  
none 3 3

 

NL

National Languages
Curriculum
coherent and explicit general no guidelines  
3
Extra support for newcomers
before mainstream during mainstream absent  
1
Diagnostic testing on entry
all immigrants only absent  
1
Monitoring of language skills
national standardised school based absent  
1

Teaching

 

R/ML

Regional/Minority Languages

FL

Foreign Languages

IL

Immigrant Languages
Teacher qualifications
language teachers general teachers unqualified  
none 3 3
Pre-service teacher training
subject-specific general none  
none 3 3
In-service teacher training
subject-specific general none  
none 2 2
Mobility
incorporated into training some financial support none not applicable  
0 2 0
Language level required
linked to CEFR national or region-wide standards none not applicable  
0 2 0

 

NL

National Languages
Teacher qualifications
language teachers general teachers unqualified  
3
Pre-service teacher training
subject-specific general none  
3
In-service teacher training
subject-specific general none  
2
Language level required for non-native speakers
linked to CEFR national or school-based norms not specified  
2

Languages offered in secondary education

R/M Languages

-

Foreign Languages

Compulsory: English
Optional: Ancient Greek, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Russian, Spanish

Immigrant Languages

Arabic and Turkish

Sound knowledge of the national language is expected in upper secondary education in Denmark. The assessment of language skills is part of the admission procedure to the secondary level.

Danish and English are the only compulsory languages, whereas Ancient Greek, Arabic, Chinese, German, French, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Russian, Spanish and Turkish have been optional since the latest reform in 2005. The reform has lead to a dramatic decrease in the number of students that learn many foreign languages. The number of students who are taught three foreign languages dropped from 41% to 3% and in spite of minor adjustments of the reform, the picture has not changed significantly. 

 

Languages in Further and Higher Education

Further Education (in three institutions)

 

Institution A Institution B Institution C

R/ML

Regional/Minority Languages

FL

Foreign Languages

IL

Immigrant Languages

R/ML

Regional/Minority Languages

FL

Foreign Languages

IL

Immigrant Languages

R/ML

Regional/Minority Languages

FL

Foreign Languages

IL

Immigrant Languages
Range of language support programmes
 wide variety  limited  no specifications
none 1 none none 1 none none none none
Curriculum
coherent and explicit general no guidelines
none 1 none none 1 none none 1 none
Level to be achieved
linked to CEFR national none not applicable
0 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0
State funding available
full partial none
none 1 none none 3 none none 1 none

Additional NL
support

National Languages

Additional NL
support

National Languages

Additional NL
support

National Languages
Range of language support programmes
 wide variety  limited  no specifications
2 none none
Target groups
all restricted none
3 none none
Curriculum
coherent and explicit general no guidelines
3 none none
Job related skills
yes no
3 none none
General upskilling
yes no
3 none none
State funding available
full partial none
3 none none
Internships in companies
built into course optional none
3 none none
Use of EU instruments
yes no
1 none none

Languages offered across 3 VET institutions in Denmark

R/M Languages

-

Foreign Languages

English, German, French, Spanish

Immigrant Languages

-

Higher Education (in three institutions)

 

Institution A

Institution B

Institution C

Language(s) of instruction
 national, foreign and R/M national and foreign national only
2 2 3
Languages on website
 national, foreign and R/M national and foreign national only
2 2 2
Target groups for additional support in the national language
all restricted none
3 3 2
Level to be achieved in foreign language instruction
linked to CEFR national or institution-based none
1 1 1
Recruitment of non-national students
 international and immigrant only international only native speakers of national language
2 2 2
Mobility for language students
obligatory optional no offer
2 2 2
Mobility for non-language students
obligatory optional no offer
2 2 2

Languages offered across 3 higher education institutions in Denmark

English, French, German, Italian, Spanish

Danish universities comply with the Anglo-Saxon education system (Bachelor-Master) following the process to create a European Higher Education Area (Bologna process). As a result of these changes as well as an increased focus on internationalisation in general and to attract international students, Danish universities offer more than 25% of their courses in English. Also academy profession schools (90-150 ECTS) and professional bachelor's schools (180-240 ECTS) offer quite a number of programmes in English.

Since 2005 the number of students entering programmes in foreign languages other than English has been falling steadily, which has led to the closing of several language programmes. Spanish, German and French are still taught in many places whereas Italian and Russian have almost no students. A small increase has been noticed in Japanese and Chinese. Some universities offer Turkish and Arabic.

 

Languages in Audiovisual Media and Press

 

Copenhagen

Aarhus

Aabenraa

Number of languages on radio
>4 3-4 1-2 national language only
1 1 1
Number of languages on television
>4 3-4 1-2 national language only
4 4 4
Non-national language TV productions
subtitled dubbed
4 4 4
Non-national language films in cinema
subtitled dubbed
4 4 4
R/M language programmes outside of region
always regularly sometimes never
4 4 4
Availability of sign language on TV
always regularly sometimes never
3 1 1

Languages offered in audiovisual media and press across 3 cities in Denmark

Radio

-

Television

English, French, German, Swedish, Norwegian

Newspapers

English, German, French, Swedish, Italian, Norwegian, Arabic, Turkish, Chinese, Spanish, Bosnian, Russian, Serbian, Urdu

Denmark has six national television channels, three of which (DR1, DR2, TV2) are paid via a general license fee. In addition, several local television channels broadcast every day. According to a law of December 2002, programmes on public radio and television must ensure public access to information and important social debates. They must also draw on Danish language and culture.

Sign language is regularly offered in important media events and there is a special sign language channel. 

 

Languages in public services and spaces

Institutionalised language strategies at city level

> 4 3-4 1-2  national language only

frequency of practice: widely practised occasionally practised not practised

Copenhagen

Aarhus

Aabenraa

City council services

3 none 4

Website presence

6 none 4

Annual municipal reports

0 none 0

External or internal translators and interpreters

3 none 3

Competencies in languages other than the national language in job descriptions of staff members

0 none 1

Plan or scheme in place to increase skills in languages

3 none 1

Recruitment of speakers of other languages to support corporate objectives

0 none 1

Offer of training in languages to employees

3 none 1

Regularly updated record of skills in languages of employees

0 none 0

Reward or promotion schemes for being able to adequately communicate in other languages

0 none 0

Oral Communications Facilities

>4 3-4 1-2 national language only

Copenhagen

Aarhus

Aabenraa

Political debates and decision-making processes at the city council level

1 1 2

Educational services

1 1 2

Emergency services

4 2 2

Health services

4 2 1

Social services

4 1 2

Legal services

4 2 1

Transport services

4 1 1

Immigration and integration services

4 2 2

Tourism services

4 2 2

Theatre programmes

1 2 1

Written Communications Facilities

>4 3-4 1-2 national language only

Copenhagen

Aarhus

Aabenraa

Political debates and decision-making processes at the city council level

1 1 1

Educational services

1 2 2

Emergency services

4 1 1

Health services

2 4 1

Social services

4 1 2

Legal services

3 3 1

Transport services

3 2 1

Immigration and integration services

4 4 2

Tourism services

3 2 2

Theatre programmes

1 1 1

Languages offered in public services and public spaces across 3 cities in Denmark (N ≥ 2)

English, German, French, Arabic, Bosnian, Persian, Turkish, Urdu, Swedish, Faroese, Norwegian, Chinese, Icelandic, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Thai, Burmese, Polish

The Nordic Language Convention states that citizens of the Nordic languages have the right to address public institutions in any of the Nordic countries in their own language.

Languages in business - 12 companies

General Language Strategies

Widely Practised

Occasionally Practised

Not Practised

Availability of language strategy

4 3 5

Emphasis on language skills in recruitment

7 3 2

International mobility provision

1 3 8

Use of external translators/interpreters

5 1 6

Staff records of language skills

0 4 8

Use of networks for language training

0 1 11

Use of EU programmes/funding

0 0 12

Awareness of EU programmes/funding

0 2 10

Internal Language Strategies

Widely Practised Occasionally Practised Not Practised

NL

National Language

BE

Business English

FL R/ML - IL

NL

National Language

BE

Business English

FL R/ML - IL

NL

National Language

BE

Business English

FL R/ML - IL

Partnerships with education sector

1 0 0 2 2 0 9 10 12

Reward/Promotion schemes based on language skills

0 0 0 0 0 0 12 12 12

Language training provision

3 2 0 3 5 3 6 5 9

Use of CEFR

0 0 0 0 0 0 12 12 12

Language used for workplace documents/intranet

11 3 0 1 2 0 0 7 12

Language used for software, web programmes

11 6 0 0 3 0 1 3 12

External Language Strategies

Widely Practised Occasionally Practised Not Practised

NL

National Language

BE

Business English

FL R/ML - IL

NL

National Language

BE

Business English

FL R/ML - IL

NL

National Language

BE

Business English

FL R/ML - IL

Language used for annual/business reports

10 4 0 0 2 0 2 6 12

Language used for marketing

12 3 0 0 2 0 0 7 12

Language used for branding/identity

12 5 0 0 2 2 0 5 10

Language used for website

11 6 2 0 2 0 1 4 10

Languages other than English offered in business across 12 companies in Denmark (N ≥ 2)

Norwegian, Swedish, German, Spanish, Finnish, Polish

Danish business is mainly composed of small and medium sized businesses. 92% of the companies have fewer than ten employees and less than 2% have more than 50 employees. 67.7% of the jobs are in private companies.

According to a survey made by Danish Industry in 2007, more than 25% of the large businesses use English as the corporate language. The use of other languages and of translation services is decreasing. Danish Industry has expressed severe concerns about the falling numbers of language students and has suggested combined competences, i.e. the combination of engineering skills and language skills as one of the solutions.

 

Key Findings overall

For the last 150 years Denmark has been a mainly monolingual country with Danish as the main language and where the citizens had a fairly good command of German and French and, since 1945, English. Furthermore, Danes have had easy access to the whole of Scandinavia due to Danish, Norwegian and Swedish being mutually understandable.

During the last ten years English has gained a much stronger position at the cost of German and French. The parallel Danish/English language strategy of the Danish Government has strongly supported this development. Language skills in foreign languages including the Scandinavian languages are decreasing, and the command of immigrant languages such as Arabic and Turkish has not been promoted as an asset. As a consequence we see a falling interest in foreign languages other than English in universities, industry and schools. If Denmark wants to live up to the language policies of the EU and the Council of Europe, this development may become a serious challenge. The recent suggestions to introduce English already at the beginning of primary school will probably further accelerate this development.

 

Promising initiatives and pilots

Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL)

At Købmagergade skole in Fredericia experiments with internationalisation and Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) have been taking place since 2001. In 2005 an international stream was establish for the lower secondary level where sciences such as biology and mathematics were taught in English by native English teachers.

Centre for Internationalisation and Parallel Language Use (CIP)

The Centre for Internationalisation and Parallel Language Use (CIP) was established in 2008 at the University of Copenhagen in order to augment the University's efforts to implement a language policy based on the principles of parallel language use.

Nordic Language Coordination

Nordic Language Coordination was established in 2009 under the auspices of the Nordic Council of Ministers in order to enhance the mutual understanding between the speakers of the mainland Scandinavian languages: Danish, Swedish and Norwegian.

Tegn på sprog (Sign language)

Tegn på sprog is a research and development project established in 2008 for a period of six years by the Ministries of Education and Integration in broad cooperation with universities, university colleges and schools. The aim of the project is to gain insights into how children with Danish as their second language approach written Danish, and to develop new teaching strategies.

 

References

Sprog til Tiden (Language in time). Report by the language policy group of the Danish government (2008)

Sprog er nøglen til verden (Language is the key to the world). Report by a working group under the ministry of research, innovation and higher education (2011)

Nordic Convention of Languages (1987)

www.efnil.org

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