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Alan Firth

The English language in Denmark: Lingua Franca or Lingua Tyrannosaurus?

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English seems to be absolutely everywhere in Denmark, and it's been this way for several years now. So much so that it's almost an insult to ask a Dane if they speak English. Most Danish rappers, rock stars and pop groups sing only in English, almost all hairdressers in Denmark give their salons English names, Danish companies like Maersk and LEGO have an 'English-only' policy, Danish researchers publish their discoveries in English and Danish PhDs are almost always written in English. And only English - to name just a few examples. I'm sure you can think of many more. Now while we can celebrate this as a sign of Denmark's widespread bilingualism, should we also be concerned about the negative impacts of the dominance of English in Denmark? For example, a couple of decades ago, Danish universities had thriving departments of French and German, but nowadays most French and German departments have closed down. Students generally speaking are no longer learning much else than English when it comes to foreign languages at Danish universities. Denmark has moved from being multilingual to bilingual in the space of 20 or so years. This is great for English departments at Danish universities and English teachers in Danish gymnasiums, but is it an all-positive development for Denmark more generally?

When Danish research is published in English only, a large percentage (approximately 20%) of the Danish population who don't read or speak English are denied access to knowledge. How healthy is this for Danish democracy? Indeed, could it be that the Danish language - the most tangible form of Danish history and culture - is itself under threat?

In this talk I examine this situation and consider both the advantages and disadvantages of English being the all-dominant second language in Denmark.
Original languageEnglish
Publication year2020
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Research areas

  • English as a lingua franca, English language, sociolinguistics

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