Fewer Danes learning German and French

The number of students learning secondary languages besides English decreased between 2005-2012 and Danes appear to have compltely missed the boat on learning Spanish.

Fewer Danes learning German and French
More and more, the answer for Danish students is 'non'. Photo: Colourbox
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. 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Why mastering English isn’t all good news for Danish workers and their companies

While learning English is clearly an advantage for Danish workers, mastering the language of Shakespeare isn't enough for companies that export to Germany.

Why mastering English isn't all good news for Danish workers and their companies
English language skills don’t cut it for Danish companies hoping to export to Germany. Photo: Maheshkumar Painam / Unsplash

The Danish business community is facing a major language problem – and it’s not with English.

According to Dansk Industri (DI), an organisation representing approximately 18,500 companies across Denmark, Danish companies are experiencing a shortage of employees with good German skills.

As more Danes opt to master English, fewer are mastering the German language than in the past. This is making it more difficult, DI said, to trade with companies in Germany. 

Although Danes are considered to be the best in the world at speaking English as a second language, DI Deputy Director Mette Fjord Sørensen said speaking English when doing business in Germany isn’t always an option.

“Germany is a big country and not everyone speaks English at a high level, so misunderstandings can occur that could have consequences for a business deal,” Sørensen told The Local. “Speaking in someone’s native tongue, in this case German, can have a positive effect.”

DI said that German skills are in “extremely high demand” in a wide range of professions, from trade graduates to engineers and craftsmen. 

“Our companies demand employees with dual competencies – for example the engineer or electrician who also knows German,” Sørensen said, adding that DI is worried as they see fewer and fewer students choose to study German. 

An analysis by SMV Denmark, an organisation representing small and medium-sized companies in Denmark, shows that the number of high school students graduating German at A-level fell from 11 percent in 2005 to less than 6 percent last year. Additionally, the number of students admitted to a higher German education last year was 30 percent lower than in 2010, according to Avisen Danmark

Sørensen thinks the long term solution is to expand German language studies within Denmark’s education system, but there are several solutions available in the meantime.

This includes language courses for working professionals, specific to the work they do. 

“German expats in Denmark could also play a vital role in the need for German language competence,” Sørensen said. “We have to dig into the possibilities expats can contribute.”