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Danes and English, or "Can I live in Denmark without speaking Danish?"

By Kay Xander Mellish

I get a lot of mail at the How To Live in Denmark podcast, and some of it is from people who want to move to Denmark, but they’re not sure what to do to make money once they get here.  But, I do speak English, they say.  Can I make money in Denmark just off of just speaking English? Generally, no.  No you can’t.  I mean, I do, but I was an experienced journalist before I got here. But English is not a rare commodity in Denmark.  Danish children start learning English when they’re six years old.  And because British and American TV shows and movies and are not dubbed, children are constantly hearing English even earlier.  Danish adults often read novels in English, and by the time you get to university, pretty much all the high-level textbooks are in English.  There’s just no economic case for translating textbooks into a language that only 5.6 million people speak. So, English is everywhere in Denmark.  And Danes love English.  When you come to Denmark, you’ll find that shops and youth programs and rock bands have English names because the Danes think it sounds cool.  Danes also like to tuck bits of English into their Danish speech, like ‘Du fik et nyt job!  Nice” or ‘Er det her den billigste togbillet til Roskilde?  I don’t know.” For some Danes, particularly younger Danes, the Danish language is seen as provincial, old-fashioned, kind of like those dusty little porcelain knick-knacks your grandparents keep around the house.  So another question I get a lot is, if you already speak English, is it worth learning Danish at all? Yes, it is. Parties are more fun if you can speak Danish. There's nothing worse than everyone laughing uproariously at some very funny joke, and you having to wait there like a piece of furniture until someone takes the time to explain it to you.

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