Denmark has one official language: Danish. However, there are several minority languages spoken throughout the territory, if you include The Faeroe Islands and Greenland.
Danes are taught English from a very young age and 86% of all Danes speak English as a second language. Therefore, it is fairly easy for foreigners to move to Denmark and still be able to communicate with Danes. That being said, it is important to know that Danish is still spoken and used by your colleagues, your neighbours, in the local supermarket and by the Danish authorities. Typically people wonder if it is possible to take a position at the University of Copenhagen without learning the Danish language.
To help you decide, we have gathered some information about the use of languages in Denmark.
A lot of information you receive from the Danish authorities will be in Danish. Over the years, more information is available in English. It is always possible to get information in English by phone or one of your Danish colleagues will be happy to help you out.
At the university
The University of Copenhagen has a policy of Danish/English parallel language use. All information on the UCPH website is in both English and Danish. Your contract will be in English and any administrative help is available in English. In addition to English, the people working for International Staff Mobility speak several languages, so if you are lucky they can even help you in your own language.
At your department
The use of language can vary from one department to another. However, most departments have an international workforce and in your daily work you will most likely not be challenged by the Danish language. Some departments choose to have staff meetings in Danish, whereas others switch to English if international employees are present. The use of parallel languages is up to the department and varies. You can talk to your colleagues if you have doubt of how to go about this.
If you are considering a long-term career at University of Copenhagen you should consider if your language skills will have an impact on your possibilities. Some departments are very strict regarding the Danish language, and learning Danish can be more of a request than a wish.
To be social in another language can be challenging for many people, regardless of the level of co-workers language skills. This also applies for Danes.
As mentioned earlier most Danes speak English and you can easily attend parties and other social events without knowing any Danish. That being said, it can be a challenge to mingle with Danes without knowing any Danish.
It is our experience that many Danes will switch to Danish, if there are only a few non Danish speaking individuals present. You should not think this as an act of rudeness. Many Danes simply find it slightly demanding to speak another language in big social crowds and prefer to speak their mother tongue language. The switch to Danish is for many Danes unintentional. If one asks them, they will make an effort to speak English and include you.
Courses in Danish
As a foreigner with an official Danish address (folkeregisteradresse), you are offered publicly funded free Danish lessons. You have several options.
Centre for Internationalisation and Parallel Language Use (CIP)
CIP offers free Danish courses designed for international staff and knowledge workers. Each course is 50 lessons, lasting for 10 weeks. We have levels 1 – 5, which gives you up to 250 hours of free Danish. Enroll for one course at a time, and see how much Danish you need.
Furthermore, CIP offers tailor made courses in Danish for both individuals and groups as well as advanced Danish courses as a continuation of the course Danish for knowledge workers. These courses come with a fee.
Find a local language centre
There are many local language centres throughout Denmark.