With only 5,300,000 speakers worldwide, it may seem that Danish has little to offer someone interested in learning a new language. However, adding Danish to your list of skills will make you uniquely marketable in a number of different fields and industries, including business, politics and cultural studies.
Our knowledge of Danish dates back to 200 AD with the first records of a common Scandinavian language that was spoken by Nordic and Viking groups. While Danish was merely a dialect of the parent language, it became distinct enough around 1200 AD to define it as a separate language. It belongs to the North Germanic language group together with Icelandic, Faroese, Norwegian and Swedish – a group which has contributed words such as law, window, ill, loose, and die to the English language. Because Danish has such close historical ties with Scandinavia, it is actually still linguistically quite close to Norwegian and Swedish. Hence, if you can speak Danish, you will also be able to converse with and understand native speakers from Norway and Sweden.
Over the past few centuries, Denmark has produced several figures which have made lasting contributions to their field. The philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, became well know for his discussion of man’s relationship to God and the emergence of Existentialism. In science, Tycho Brahe’s experiments greatly advanced knowledge of the movement of our solar system, while Niels Bohr’s work on the structure of atoms won him a Nobel Prize for Physics in 1922. In addition, the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen became world-famous for such stories as “The Little Mermaid” and “The Ugly Duckling.” If your interest lies in any of these areas, knowledge of Danish will provide you with the ability to read Kierkegaard and Andersen in the original, or converse with Danish scientists on the contributions of Bohr and Brahe.
Today, Denmark has continued to make valuable contributions in politics and film. As a vocal member of the European Union, Denmark continues to be fiercely independent yet has also supported many of the ideals of the EU such as community problem-solving, economic and political cooperation, and open borders. Furthermore, Denmark has been a social democracy for the past several decades and presents an interesting study on the successes and failures of this type of government.
Denmark is also the birthplace of the Dogme (or Live Cinema) movement in film, a movement that has focused on eliminating modern cinema’s dependence on technology by using hand-held cameras, no CGI, and focusing on the actors/characters as the only mode of storytelling. Cinema and television majors, as well as political science, international politics and sociology majors will all benefit from learning Danish as an entrance into the contributions Denmark is making in today’s world.
*Note: Danish is the official language of all of Denmark’s territories, including Greenland and the Faroe Islands. However, Faroese, Skåne, Jutish and Inuktitut are all still spoken in the Faroe Islands, Bornholm Island, south Denmark, and mainland Denmark respectively. If you’re interested in studying these languages, please contact your program provider.