Language – University of Copenhagen


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.

Danish authorities

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.

Long-term career
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.

Social life

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 Danish lessons. You have several options:

Local language centres

There are many local language centres throughout Denmark. Find a local language centre.

Danish courses at University of Copenhagen./ Centre for Internationalisation and Parallel Language Use (CIP)

CIP at UCPH offers tailor-made Danish courses for both individuals and groups within all levels of Danish. These courses come with a fee.