How To Live in Denmark Without Speaking Danish

by · Updated November 12, 2021

Expats relocating to Denmark may want to know what language do they speak in Denmark and whether they can live in the country without knowing or speaking the local language. After all, fitting in is important regardless of which country you shift to.

It may come as a surprise to learn that the majority of the population in Denmark is fluent in English. Hence, you can live in Denmark without speaking Danish. You will be able to converse with people in English, especially if you living in cities such as Copenhagen.

Identity defines people and gives them the freedom to make choices in life. However, not everyone is lucky to enjoy this freedom, especially those who relocate to another country where a totally different language is spoken. Of course, the freedom allows them to move to a new country but people also have an inherent need to be accepted by those around them. That is what makes a foreign move more tedious.

If you are shifting to Denmark, you will have many questions about the language. After all, language and culture are intertwined and cannot be separated. The fact remains that English is not the official language in Denmark. Hence, your question will be “do they speak English in Denmark?” otherwise how will I survive in the country.

Do They Speak English in Denmark

Most foreigners coming from an English-speaking country always ask “do people in Denmark speak English?”.

On average, nearly 86% of Danes can converse fluently in English. A majority also knows German, which is quite popular, besides Swedish and Norwegian.

Foreign languages of DenmarkPercentage of Danes who speak
English86%
German47%
Swedish13%

In Denmark, students begin learning English from the first grade. All public and private schools teach students English so by the time they leave school and join the workforce, most Danes are fluent in the language.

Language in Denmark

Danish is the official language in the country. It is derived from Old Norse and besides Swedish and Norwegian, it is the other main language in Scandinavia. While Danish is spoken and written across Denmark, did you know that it has minority status in another country? That country is Germany.

A large percentage of the population in Denmark is multilingual. Many companies use English as their lingua franca, so that can make the transition easy for expatriates, who work in such organizations.

What About Learning Danish to Live in Denmark?

Many foreigners live in Denmark and do not speak Danish. That is because their work enables them to manage with English. However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make an effort to learn the language.

When you know a new language, it enables you to experience the culture of the place. You will be able to converse with locals in their own language and forge friendships. You will also be able to enjoy Danish music, theatre, and other activities in the local language.

You may feel that because you live in a cosmopolitan city like Copenhagen, you will not need Danish. After all, in a metropolis like Copenhagen people should know English. While English is a language spoken in Copenhagen by most city dwellers because it is the second most common language in the city, you still face a few issues.

Conversing with the locals will not be an issue. However, you will face a problem when you go out shopping. The labels of the products and items will be in Danish and without knowing the language, you will find it hard to read labels and buy products and items.

The Way Forward

It is advisable to learn Danish if you intend to live in Denmark. There are several language schools that enable you to learn. Foreign students get free classes in universities to help them learn Danish and assimilate better into society.

You may find that compared to English, Danish can be difficult. However, you need to persevere and not give up. Continue learning the language until you are fluent. You will be surprised how easily you will be able to converse and communicate with people after that.

Of course, Danes do speak English but it is not their first language and hence, it can be tiring for them to constantly communicate in English. Since you are in their country, it is advisable that you learn their language and use it for communication. They will appreciate it and you will be able to fit in seamlessly.

Many expats state that it is difficult to learn Danish but do not let that put you off. Nothing is impossible as long as you have the will and inclination. You notice that when you first start speaking broken Danish to people around you, they respond to you in English.

That is not being disrespectful. Rather, people are going out of their way to help you. This will happen a lot when you first begin practicing Danish but as you improve your fluency, it will stop.

Learn Danish and Fit in With Ease in Denmark

Some people may argue that Denmark is a small country and what is the use of learning a language that is spoken by just over 5 million people. Well, you will be talking to around two million people a year and it makes sense to communicate with them in their own language.

It will take you a few months to master the language and another few months to build your fluency. Once you do, you will be thrilled. It can open many new opportunities for you and also make you feel as though you are a valuable member of society. As stated early, people anywhere want to fit in and be accepted, and learning Danish is an excellent way to do that in Denmark.

Is It Worth Your While to Learn Danish?

Now you know what language does Denmark speaks. While you have the option of living in a cocoon and never learning Danish, it is best to make an effort and learn the language. You will find it fulfilling and make you feel part of society. You will find it easier to communicate and converse with people and will not have to wait for someone to translate things for you. Overall, you will be able to fit in without an issue.

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