The Danish Language


The Danish language is Danish, or Dansk. As an expat you should learn at least a little bit of Danish, which will help ingratiate you with the Danes. Since most Danes are proficient at English, they will often start speaking english, if they detect that Danish is not your natural tongue. Unfortunately, in group settings they will quickly revert back to Danish even if the whole group speaks English.

English is widely spoken, especially in Copenhagen and other major cities. If you live furthur out in the country, especially on Jutland, there will be fewer people who speak english. The younger generation are quite good, but the older generation will not be able to speak english, so Danish will help you there.

Start by learning a few common Danish phrases.

Since Danish is a Germanic language, many of the words and phrases have much in common with German, French and English. Speaking Danish can be a tongue twisting exercise for many, but do not get discouraged. Many expats before you have mastered the language and so can you. Just by being immersed in the Danish culture, will go a long way.

It helps to remember that you can get along quite well in Denmark by speaking English. English is a mandatory subject in school and the Danes really enjoy showing off their language skills.

Many Danes will be put off, if you do not at least try to learn and speak a bit of the Danish language. That is same in most countries. Showing a bit of respect for the Danish language by putting a bit of effort into learning some common phrases will go a long way to making friends with the Danes.

Children start learning English in 3rd grade and sometimes earlier. Plus all television programs/movies are broadcast in their original language with Danish subtext. For this reason you will hear many children/people quoting English phrases and words at a very young age. The exception to the above are children's programming, which are often dubbed into Danish.  Higher education like university / college courses are often taught in English.

Take a look at the tongue-in-cheek video above to understand a bit more about the Danish language – prepare to laugh!

I originally had a long list of phrases, but discovered a wonderful site that had not only many of the same phrases, but also audio to help you. So check out these common words and phrases. You can also visit my list of danish language phrases, which I think every expat should be familiar with. They will go a long way to endearing you to the Danes and helping you out in many situations.

Danish Language Help

There is so much to cover with Danish language, that I have created a few other resources which can help you along.

  • You should start by familiarizing yourself with the 28 letter Danish alphabet.
  • You should check out Danish Numbers, which includes some important information that can save you a lot of embarassment and confusion.
  • Learn about dates and times too, since the danes do this different too.
  • Next learn some common danish vocabulary words which might help you when out shopping. I remember the first time I came to Denmark and was wondering what some of the things on the shelf were! What was the word for milk or cheese. What kind of meat is that. You can print these lists off and have them handy when you are out shopping. My wife used these lists for months and still carries them in her purse for emergencies.
  • Remember anyone who is registered and has a CPR number can get Danish lessons for the first 3 years through their local kommune. There is usually a small fee attached for the classes, but it will really help you along in learning Dansk.

They are broken into various categories, so you can quickly find what words you need. For example, if you are reading an article on homes and don't know what the term "tag" means, just go to the Home term page and there you will find that "tag" is the word for "roof".

It is also nice to browse the lists and find other terms which you might need in certain situations. If you find words are missing which you think should be included, email us your suggestions and we will try to update regularly.

  • Also remember to use google translate to help you with both translation of Danish words, but also to find translations for english words you want to say in Danish.
  • Check out this list of Language Schools, where you can take courses either at home, on the internet or in a classroom setting with other expats trying to master the Danish Language.

SBI!