Why Learn Danish when everyone speaks English?
Why learn Danish?
In this post I'll give some reasons for and against learning the wonderful Danish language.
If you have made it to this page, you're probably having doubts whether it's worth it or not to learn Danish.
Perhaps you just moved to Denmark and wanted to find out more information about the language, before making the decision to actually begin learning it.
Maybe you're an aspiring polyglot who just likes the sound of it, and even though you have no intentions of visiting the country you just want to know if it's worth learning.
That's cool. All reasons are perfectly valid.
Here are some perspectives from somebody very Danish. I've been unable to trace a single drop of foreign blood in my ancestry, so for all intents and purposes I'm 100% Danish and have lived in Denmark for most of my life.
So here we go. Why learn Danish?
Why learn Danish
- To make better friendships and deeper connections – Possibly the number one reason to learn any language. When you speak to a person in a language he understands (ie. English) rather than his native language, it's difficult to forge deep and meaningful relationships and connections. Many expats in high-level English countries report feeling lonely and not really truly accepted. This is especially important for people who relocate to Denmark for a longer period of time. Spend some energy learning Danish and you'll see huge benefits in your everyday life almost immediately.
- You get fluency in 2 other languages ‘for free' – Danish, Norwegian and Sweden are highly mutually intelligible. While there can be some challenges due to regional accents and dialects most Norwegians, Swedes and Danes can communicate without any knowledge of the other languages.
- It's easy. – Danish grammar is incredibly simple to master and with no case system or verb conjugations to worry about can be learnt very quickly. The only challenge for foreigners usually is the pronunciation, but even that is not impossible with some practice and training.
- To read the Danish labels of world-class beers and spirits! – Denmark is a country with long-running beer and spirit history, and so we produce, arguably, the finest beers you can buy. From the base product of World-known Tuborg and Carlsberg to literally hundreds of microbreweries and micro distilleries. We also have award-winning whisky and rum, as well as the classic pure white spirit we call “Snaps.”
- To read Hans Christian Andersen – Arguably the most famous storyteller, EVER. HCA is the most famous danish person to have ever lived. Having written such stories as The Ugly Duckling and The Little Mermaid he is by far our biggest cultural heritage. Although his works have been translated into all languages of the world by now, it is still nice to be able to read and appreciate the native language.
- And much more! – There's famous physicist Niels Bohr, Astronomer Tycho Brahe, philosopher Kierkegaard and many, many more. Danish industry is very strong, popular mentions include LEGO, VESTAS and MAERSK and many other companies.
Although I can perfectly understand why you would prioritise other languages over Danish, I find that there are definitely enough reasons to get started with my native language.
Plus – you could talk to me in it, right? 🙂
Reasons for not learning Danish
For the sake of balance, even though I'm not entirely unbiased – here are some counter-arguments to learning Danish.
- The country and population is relatively small – With about 6 million inhabitants and a bit more than that speaking the language it's not even making up half the city of London in number of people. Therefore the practical use you get out of it is not as great as say French, German or Spanish, which are all quite close geographically and linguistically.
- Almost all Danish people will speak or at least understand English – A lot of English-native tourists are quite fascinated by the general level of English in Denmark, but Danes are brought up in a multicultural world where we have no dubbing on movies, video games and so on. This means that we get exposed to English at a very young age and that gets us to a level of fluency that is beyond many countries.
- Danish doesn't sound cool – The swedes sing their language, Germans have this brutal, yet, delicate sound to it. The French have their own distinct sounds. Danish just doesn't sound good. We are mocked by Norwegians and Swedes, for sounding like we speak with a potato in our mouths and my former roommate from Turkey, told me we had weird ‘guttural' stops that were just plainly unpleasant.
- Not a great vacation destination – Our weather is typical of northern Europe, so it rains a lot and it barely gets above 15 degrees Celsius outside the summer months, where we can barely scrape together 10 days of weather good enough to go to the beach. Prices are high, especially in tourist cities like Copenhagen so there are no bargains to be found either.
- No defined interesting cuisine – Although we have a relatively good number of Michelin star quality restaurants, like Noma, the food served there is not something Danish people would identify as being typically Danish. The cuisine and culture surrounding food is quite simple.
So there you have it, 5 reasons not to learn Danish, from a Dane.
Get started learning Danish
Here are some of my favourite methods
DanishClass101 (audio, video, paid)
I highly recommend DanishClass101 as a great way to get started. I've been using this service to learn Russian and Hungarian and it has a LOT of lessons from complete beginner to upper advanced levels. It's an audio-based method so you get a stronger feeling of the tricky pronunciation from the beginning.
My favourite reason for using DanishClass101 is because you can download all their lessons and put them on your phone or other mobile device to listen to while commuting or travelling. This gives it a lot of flexibility and allows you to work on your Danish even if you have a busy schedule.
Duolingo (course, vocabulary, free!)
Did you know there's a Danish Duolingo course too?
It's a great way to learn on your phone. Simply download the free Duolingo app and you're on your way to fluency in Danish.
Duolingo will not get you to intermediate levels in Danish without any other methods, but it can help you stay motivated and make you spend those small downtimes we all have with something constructive.
Held og lykke! (Good luck!)
I hope that answered your question of ‘Why Learn Danish?' If you have any questions about Danish feel free to add a comment below.