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DANISH LANGUAGE

Danes ‘fourth-best’ non-native English speakers in Europe

Denmark is currently the fourth-best country in Europe at speaking English outside of Anglophone countries, according to an international index.

Danes ‘fourth-best’ non-native English speakers in Europe
Danes are, on average, among the world's most proficient English speakers. Illustration photo Kevin Curtis on Unsplash

A study conducted by language school empire Education First (EF) in its latest English Proficiency Index found that Danes rank number 4 out of 35 countries in Europe for English proficiency.

The Netherlands, Norway and Austria were ranked higher than Denmark. Nordic neighbour Sweden was sixth-highest in Europe, with Belgium at number 5.

Globally, Denmark placed fifth, with Singapore rated as the second-best non-majority English speaking country in the world, behind only the Netherlands.

In terms of how the Nordic nation’s level compares on the global scale, Denmark was classed in the uppermost “very high” level of English proficiency, in the same range as Finland, Portugal, Germany, Croatia, South Africa and Poland, as well as the countries in the top six mentioned above.

The index grades proficiency in five levels from “very high” to “very low”.

People with this very high-level English are able to use nuanced and appropriate language in social situations, read advanced texts with ease and negotiate a contract with a native English speaker.

A proficiency band indicates the level of the “average” person, EF states.

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Countries are given overall scores between 200 and 800 in the index. While top-ranking country the Netherlands scored 661, Denmark’s average score was 625.

The Danish score is also broken down regionally in the index. Copenhagen fares best here, scoring 664. The Greater Copenhagen region gets 634, with South Denmark scoring 624 and Central Jutland 622. No scores are given for Zealand or North Jutland.

Denmark has never been outside of the top 5 countries since the global index began in 2011. It was ranked first in 2014, second in 2020 and third last year.

The number of countries included in the index has gradually increased from 44 in 2011 to 111 in the latest issue.

“English proficiency in Europe continues to rise at an average rate of 6 points per year, making it the most improved region since 2011 despite starting from a relatively high base,” the report states.

“This year’s increase was driven by large Low and Moderate proficiency countries such as Italy, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. The rate of improvement within the EU was slower,” it said.

The report is based on a comparison of English skills measured by testing 2.1 million people who took EF’s English tests in 2021.

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DANISH LANGUAGE

‘Don’t take it personally’: Word ‘Anglophobia’ added to Denmark’s dictionary

‘Anglophobia’ was one of 252 new words added to the Danish Dictionary on Friday.

'Don’t take it personally': Word 'Anglophobia' added to Denmark's dictionary

The Danish Dictionary (Den Danske Ordbog) received an update on Friday with ‘Anglophobia’ – anglofobi, as it’s written in Danish – one of a number of notable new entries to the national lexicon.

A total of 252 new words, 12 new meanings and 5 idioms have been added to the Danish Dictionary, along with revisions to 194 existing entries.

The headline entry is arguably anglofobi, which has the dictionary definition “disgust for or hostility towards England or English language and culture”.

That may sound alarming to English people or other Anglophones in Denmark, but it does not signal a change in Danish sentiment towards the UK nation according to Henrik Lorentzen, senior editor with the Society for Danish Language and Literature (Det Danske Sprog- og Litteraturselskab).

“You mustn’t take it personally,” Lorentzen told The Local’s English reporter in a telephone call.

“It’s not included because there’s a particular hostility towards English people, or towards American or Anglo-Saxon culture,” he said.

“Some would say ‘there’s Brexit, there’s Boris Johnson’ – but it’s not because of that,” he said.

The large quantity of new entries into the dictionary can primarily be credited to space created by the dictionary’s move from physical to online form, he explained.

Around two decades ago, the Danish Dictionary was produced as a six-volume physical book which naturally limited the space available for entries.

“But now we make dictionaries for the Internet, and have done so for the last 13 years,” Lorentzen said.

“Now we also have space for foreign words, loan words or whatever we choose to call them,” he said.

The digital age has also improved language researchers’ ability to detect use of new or loan words by broadening the volume of text that can be encompassed in its work, he explained.

A large proportion of loan words – including anglofobi – can be found among the new entries. Other examples include firmware, piece, maceration, FOMO and nativisme.

On a similar theme to anglofobi, a cluster of words prefaced by anti-, including antiamerikansk, antimuslimsk and antiisraelsk among several others, were added to the dictionary on Friday.

“Some of these words are not so new but they are unfortunately relevant because there are conflicts in the Middle East, in Europe, so there are some words that are relevant to mention,” Lorentzen said.

Last summer’s UEFA European Championship semi-final, in which England defeated Denmark after a disputed penalty decision, does not appear to have permanently damaged relations between the nations, though.

The inclusion of anglofobi does not reflect increased anti-English sentiment related to football “as far as I can tell,” Lorentzen said.

READ ALSO: ‘We’re coming home’: How Denmark views the Euro 2020 semi-final clash with England

During the recent election campaign a satirical Twitter account posted a spoof picture of the leader of the national conservative Danish People’s Party, Morten Messerschmidt, claiming he wanted Danes to drop the use of the term “fast food” and instead call convenience meals hurtigmums.

Messerschmidt did not in fact make any such statement, but his party has in the past spoken against the use of English loan words in Danish.

“Some people think the English spillover into Danish overwhelming, awkward or even damaging for the Danish language,” Lorentzen said in a press statement which accompanied the announcement of the dictionary update.

“For others, English is woven into everyday life and working life, they perceive multilingualism as more of an opportunity than a threat, and the use of English words and expressions can in certain circles even be an important identity marker,” he said.

The Danish Dictionary is descriptive and therefore obliged to account for the most broadly used vocabulary in the national language, the statement notes. This applies regardless of the linguistic origins of the words.

The dictionary is a free online resource and is used by around 130,000 people daily, according to the statement. It is updated twice a year, based on a body of texts comprising over a billion words.

The Society for Danish Language and Literature (Det Danske Sprog- og Litteraturselskab, DSL) publishes and documents the Danish language from its historical origins to the present day.

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