Essential Danglish words you’ll end up using

Ah, Danglish. English spoken with a heavy Danish influence is often used to refer to Danes speaking their second language. But native English speakers who live in the Scandinavian country might also find that their language becomes ‘Danskified’ over time.

Essential Danglish words you'll end up using
File photo: KELD NAVNTOFT /Ritzau Scanpix

Whether you've mastered the Danish language or are still struggling to tell a skov from a sko (a forest from a shoe), there's a good chance that, the longer you stay in Denmark, the more Danish words will begin to creep into your English vernacular.

There are several reasons you might do this after moving to Denmark, or indeed any new country. Concepts or things that are specifically Danish might feel odd to translate, particularly if you are speaking to another Denmark-based international who knows the Danish terms.

For example, internationals might say CPR number (a mix of Danish and English) rather than 'personal registration number' or refer to the ‘kommune’ instead of the city council or municipality.

For people are more used to hearing technical or political terms in Danish, it's much easier to sub in words like a-kasse (unemployment insurance provider) or ordfører (parliamentary spokesperson) than to remember the correct, sometimes convoluted, English term.

There is also the matter of avoiding confusion in the case of false friends. For example, a højskole would literally be translated as 'high school' in English, but refers to a completely different form of education, so using the Danish word becomes necessary to prevent misunderstanding.

Another form of Danglish is speaking English words but with Danish grammar or word order. Have you ever spent so much energy mastering ‘inversion’ of verb-subject order in Danish sentences that you find yourself doing it in English — and sounding like Yoda? Yes, that have we done many times.

For some internationals living in Denmark, using the language is an important way of showing respect for their adopted country and to signify that they are making an effort to integrate, even when speaking English. That could mean saying hej and tak in shops and restaurants, even if the rest of the interaction has to be in English, or slipping in the occasional noun or adjective to show appreciation and understanding of the language and, by extension, the Danish way of life.

Photo: Sophia Juliane Lydolph/Ritzau Scanpix

Sometimes, Danish just has a snappier word for something, and before you know it, haps, you’ve taken it and dropped it straight into your English sentence.

So for a whole range of reasons, Danish words are likely to start infiltrating your vocabulary, which might result in blank faces and awkward moments if you use them with friends or family back home. Here are a few of our top personal culprits.


Okay, this one doesn’t really fit into any of the above categories, but we find it almost unavoidable to say as a sentence filler, even when being extra conscious about not using Danglish. It somehow just rolls off the tongue more easily than ‘er…’, despite having more syllables.

Do say:
“I’m going to the supermarket, altså. Do you need anything?”

Don’t say:
“Hi, I’m altså, calling to make a, er, altså, reservation.”


Danish has a way of saying “over there” in one word: derover (or derovre, depending on grammar). Not only is this easy to say, it sounds so much like the English “over there” in reverse, that you’ll end up saying it by accident and coming across like a bad Shakespeare audition.

Do say:
“My phone is on the table, will you pass it to me? It’s just thereover.”

Don’t say:
“Look at him, thereover, his attire is verily absurd.”


Denmark has a deposit scheme for cans and bottles whereby you get a small amount of money back if you return empties to be recycled. This recycling arrangement is known as the pant system, and the word pant is therefore used to refer to empty bottles and cans, and also to the money earned by returning them. It can even be used as a verb. Meanwhile, people who gather bottles and cans (for example, at music festivals) are referred to as pantsamlere (pant collectors).

Do say:
“That was a great party last night, now we have loads of pant.”

Don’t say:
“I didn’t have enough money at the supermarket, I forgot to take my pant with me.”

Photo: Erik Refner/Scanpix 2011

Vuggestue, børnehave, dagpleje

These terms all refer to different forms of pre-school childcare, but because of the way daycare is organised and partly state-funded, there are no precise English words for the various forms available to parents in Denmark. So the only way to be completely accurate is in the local language – provided your conversation partner knows what you mean.

Do say:
“I dropped little Christian off at børnehave this morning with an extra pair of gloves”.

Don’t say:
“The office was like a børnehave today.”


No self-respecting article on Danglish words would be complete without hygge, the feeling of conviviality, security and comfort to be gained from being in good company or having a nice time. But does it even count? It’s in the English dictionary, after all.

Do say:
Thanks for the last! It was totes hygge.”

Don’t say:
“That party really bombed. Very un-hyggelig.”

Did we miss any good ones? Let us know

READ ALSO: Danish: Is it really so hard to learn?


READERS REVEAL: What learning Danish changes about your life in Denmark

We asked our readers in Denmark why they learned to speak Danish and what it has changed about their lives.

READERS REVEAL: What learning Danish changes about your life in Denmark

For the majority of foreigners who live in Denmark, learning the Danish language comes with the territory of relocating to the country. It’s not always an easy process, but it can be a rewarding one.

We asked our readers what learning Danish had changed for them. We received a lot of interesting answers and input – thanks to all who took the time to answer our survey.

Some said that learning Danish was a personal decision while for others, it was a requirement of immigration rules.

“It was my own decision to learn the language to be able to understand what is happening around me in daily life (on public transport, in the shop, on the street, what my colleagues are chatting about when they don’t use English), and with the hope that I can easier build up some social connections with locals! If I live in a foreign country, then it’s the minimum to speak and understand the language at some extent,” said Dorina.

“I’m still in module 1 [of the national language school programme, ed.], so no change (to my life) yet, but I can see that my colleagues are valuing my effort very much,” she added.

Pedro told us that “as a person who’s lived in a few countries since I was very young, I do understand the enormous value of completely emerging oneself and learning the language of your current home.”

“It opens up a whole new world in a sense and it helps you to be fully engaged into a new society. And I’ve felt that the locals truly appreciate it when someone knows their language,” he said.

“That’s especially true with Danish since relatively there are so few speakers in the world,” he added.

“Regardless of my own desire to learn I do need to learn to pass a few language exams to fulfil my visa requirements, for permanent residency and hopefully citizenship exams,” Pedro also said while adding that knowing Danish would likely broaden his career options while in Denmark.

Lizzie meanwhile said she had begun learning Danish “because I decided to stay in the country after graduation, so it made sense to learn Danish, so I can integrate easier.”

“I’m from outside the EU. It was compulsory for me to learn (Danish) on a reunification visa,” Barry said.

Being able to speak Danish had a range of impacts on the lives of our respondents.

“After 10 years I still work in a predominately English workplace,” Barry said, adding that he used the local language “when out shopping and (for) other simple everyday interactions.”

Learning Danish has “enabled me to engage and become involved in society, build a social circle independent of my wife’s social circle and become more eligible in my previous professional field,” wrote Lyle, who was required to learn the language to meet visa requirements.

“Danes hold you in a higher regard when you engage in Danish even if you attempt and you suck a bit,” he said.

Another reader, Iulian, said language classes were a good place to “meet people having the same obstacles and make new friends.”

“And it is free now,” he noted.

READ ALSO: More foreigners go to Danish language classes after fees scrapped

“I have a nice relation with my 70-plus year-old neighbour who speaks only Danish. He helped us with so many things so far, things I would have not known if he would not have told me. It was possible because I learned some Danish, enough to understand each other,” Iulian said.

“Finding work and internships I think has been easier” with Danish, wrote Lizzie, adding that even at international companies, Danish can help you feel more at home.

“Almost everyone speaks Danish in the breaks,” she said.

“It’s allowed me to communicate with others, especially at my son’s vuggestue [childcare] where many don’t speak English as much as the general population,” Pedro added.

Dorina told us that “A whole new world opens up by understanding what’s going on around me.”

“The biggest achievement of starting the language is that I can already catch some words from locals and be able to differentiate words within a sentence when they speak,” she said.