‘Refugee flow’ named Danish Word of the Year

The Danish Language Board has announced its Word of the Year for 2015. The winner will come as little surprise to those acquainted with the country’s politics.

'Refugee flow' named Danish Word of the Year
Photo: René Deleuran Mølgaard Andersen/Colourbox

A board of judges representing the Danish Language Board (DSN) as well as the country's universities and media outlets has given the title of Word of the Year to the word flygtningestrømme, which translates to English as ‘refugee flow’ or ‘stream of refugees’.

The news-related noun was picked from a pool of 326 words that also included the likes of selfie-samaritaner (selfie Samaritan), kønsforræder (sexual traitor) and loan words such as ‘twerking’ and ‘JeSuis’.

The result was announced on the radio program ‘Sproglaboratoriet på P1’ (Language Lab on P1).

SEE ALSO: Ten Danish words the world should start using

“There were many words in the group that described the serious events that took place in 2015,” DSN director Sabine Kirchmeier told state broadcaster DR. “These included ‘migrant’ and ‘grænse’ (border), as well as flygtningestrømme.

“In the end we went with the latter word, because it creates an image in many of our minds of the many refugees walking along our motorway [at Denmark’s border with Germany on September 5th 2015]. And it’s not just a word that describes Denmark. It’s happening in our neighbouring countries too, so it’s something that binds us together,” Kirchmeier told DR.

Previous winners of the award have included ‘MobilePay’ (the name of a banking app), stenalderkost (Stone Age diet) and arabisk forår (Arab Spring).

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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.”