University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


Students learn Danish to fit into the culture

Many international students in Copenhagen attend courses in the Danish language. Why? To look for jobs, to be taken seriously, and to immerse themselves in Danish culture

There are many reasons to not start at all.

Danish is hard to learn – that is, unless you speak a Germanic language already. Inside Denmark, you can mostly get by in English, and outside Denmark, the chance that the person in front of you only speaks Danish is a small fraction of one in a thousand.

So why do international students decide to learn Danish anyway? What is the point of spending the time and effort of going to the lessons?

The University Post wondered, and decided to ask around.

International students stated a number of reasons, from looking for a job, to being able to follow the news. But a key motive behind hours concentrating on the grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation is to make Danish friends and to become a part of the Danish way of life and culture, they say.

Aspiring for a position

After living in Copenhagen a few months, some students feel attracted to the idea of staying some more years in the city. Speaking Danish is not a must to work in Denmark. But students realize that knowing the Danish is a huge advantage, as Amanda Calahorra, a Spanish student of English philology, explains.

»In Denmark you can survive and communicate in English, but learning the local language is important if you aspire to a better position,« she says.

A number of international students realize that they want more from their stay than to have fun and make new friends from all over the world. They want to become a part of Danish culture, not just having a squint from the outside of their world and lifestyle. Learning the language of a country is how to integrate, they reckon.

Improves your degree

Antonio Lagrotteria and Andrea Picardi, both Italian students of Computer Science, represent a good example of this line of thinking. They say that they easily communicate with Danes in English:

»But your relationships with them and the messages you want to transmit are not taken with the same importance as when you are speaking Danish,« Antonio says.

Some students have academic reasons to start learning Danish. Amanda, the above-mentioned Spanish student of English philology, has always been interested in the study of languages. With her degree consisting for the most part in the study of linguistics, studying the specific language of Danish was a ‘must do’ for her, she says.

Not just for practicalities

And then there are the more personal reasons.

Take Orsolya Orshi, a management student from Hungary for example. She first began learning Danish because she had a Danish boyfriend. She has since come to Denmark to work as an au-pair and learn the country’s language.

It is not just about making your day-to-day life work in Copenhagen, explain other international students.

As Anda Comanescu, a Rumanian student of anthropology puts it. Learning it is »a way of showing respect for the Danes«, she says. Before adding with a smile:

»And my classmates have become my best friends!«

Do you have a good story? We would like to hear from you. In the meantime, like us on Facebook for features, guides and tips on upcoming events and follow us on Twitter for links to other Copenhagen academia news stories.