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!
If you wish to know more about the history and details about the language, check out the Wikipedia page that will give you a history and more in depth understanding of Danish.
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.
There is so much to cover with Danish language, that I have created a few other resources which can help you along.
If you wonder why Danish is so hard to learn, maybe this amusing video will enlighten you to why it is SO hard to understand Danes.
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