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Danish ‘language gap’ unhealthy for immigration

DANISH NEWS - The Danish language is too inflexible to deal with the immigration debate

According to linguistics expert Michael Ejstrup of the Danish School of Media & Journalism, the inability to find new words to describe immigrants creates a ‘language gap’ that’s unhealthy for everybody. This is according to Seven59.dk and b.dk.

When the first wave of immigrants arrived in Denmark in the early 70’s they were referred to as ‘guest workers’ (gæstearbejder) but the term became outdated when they stayed on. Since then there’s been confusion as to how newcomers should be addressed as there’s no word in the Danish language that’s appropriate, leading to a lack of identity, and resentment, amongst ethnic groups according to Mr Ejstrup.

“The language gap has helped create an ongoing conflict that never gets better because words inflame what’s already a very sensitive issue,” he said. “And it’s no use tiptoeing around the problem because that could cause the conflict to explode. We need to find a suitable, non-derogatory, way of referring to immigrants.”

Still not used to being multi-ethnic community

Denmark nearly succeeded in the 1980’s with the word ‘perker’, a mixture of Persian and Turk, the two main immigrant groups at the time, but this was never accepted by immigrants and quickly became a negative racial epithet.

Around 10% of the Danish population are immigrants or children of immigrants but according to researcher Christian Edvard Horst, Denmark still hasn’t got used to being a multi-ethnic community – misunderstandings can easily arise when people are branded as immigrants even though they really are, and feel, Danish.

The debate about the use of the word immigrant to refer to every ‘non-Dane’ has flared up again after Denmark’s representative in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, Anis Basim Moujahid, popularly known as ‘Basim’, whose parents come from Morocco, said he shouldn’t be referred to as an immigrant as he was born in Denmark and has never immigrated from another country.

See article on b.dk here in Danish.

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