Danes’ general mastery of the English language is well-known, and with this year’s school reform
now introducing English in the first grade, it is only likely to get better.
But things are going as well for other foreign languages. New statistics released by Eurostat on Thursday reveal a significant decrease in the number of Danish students learning German and French.
In 2005, 90.1 percent of Danish students learned German at the lower secondary level. By 2012, that number was down to 73.5 percent.
While that number represents a significant drop, Danes are still among the best in Europe at studying German as a second language. Only Luxembourg, where all students learn German, had a higher percentage of German speakers than Denmark.
The number of Danish students learning French as a second language also dropped from 2005 to 2012, going from 11.6 percent to 9.1 percent. This puts Denmark well behind neighbours Germany and Sweden, where 25.1 percent and 15.6 percent of students are taught French. In Norway, 14.9 percent of students learn French.
But the school reform package also includes an increased focus on both French and German, with students choosing one or the other beginning in the fifth grade.
Marie Louise Lund, a seventh grade student in Viborg, told The Local that she will continue studying German after her compulsory classes end.
“I think it is important to learn other languages besides English and Danish. And since Germany is our neighbour, I think it’s important to speak German,” Lund said.
The Swedes and Norwegians have also embraced saying ‘bienvenido’ to Spanish in stark contrast to the Danes. While 42.3 percent of Swedes and 30 percent of Norwegians studied Spanish as a second language, Eurostat puts the Danish number at null.
According to Eurostat, Denmark is one of six European countries in which 100 percent of students are taught English as a second language. In 2012, English was by far the most commonly studied foreign language in the EU28, being taught to 96.7 percent of all students.
Anders Høj Eggers, who works for the union HK/Privat, told The Local that although he studied both French and German in school, he feels that English is the most important second language for Danes to learn.
“I think people should learn a lot of languages from an early age. Obviously, it is a more or less a must to be able to communicate in English, but perhaps Danes should focus more on learning other languages too,” Eggers said.