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Official Languages of Denmark: What to Know

Posted by Chloe G. on January 16, 2024.

Denmark is the smallest and southernmost of the Nordic countries in Scandinavia. The Kingdom of Denmark comprises mainland Denmark and two self-governing territories, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Historically known for its homogeneity, Denmark underwent a demographic shift after World War II, welcoming immigrants from diverse countries worldwide. While approximately 87.7% of the population is of Danish descent, the remaining portion comprises immigrants or their descendants. This evolving ethnic composition has left its mark on the linguistic landscape of Denmark.

This post will show you all about the official languages of Denmark that you should know.

Official Languages of Denmark: A Brief History of the Danish Language

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The history of the official languages of Denmark is a captivating journey that spans centuries, reflecting the cultural and historical evolution of the Danish people. Rooted in the North Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family, the earliest traces of Danish can be found in runic inscriptions dating back to the Viking Age.

As Denmark embraced Christianity in the 10th century, Latin became influential in written communication, coexisting with the evolving Danish vernacular. The medieval period witnessed significant changes in the language, driven by interactions with neighboring Germanic languages, particularly Low German.

A pivotal moment in Danish linguistic history occurred during the Reformation in the 16th century. The translation of the Bible into Danish by Christiern Pedersen in 1550 not only made religious texts accessible but also contributed to the standardization of the language. This marked a turning point in shaping a more uniform and widely understood form of Danish.

The Danish Golden Age in the 19th century further fueled linguistic and literary development. Renowned figures like Hans Christian Andersen and Søren Kierkegaard contributed to the refinement of the language, solidifying its position as a vehicle for artistic expression and intellectual discourse.

In the 20th century, efforts were made to standardize the written form of Danish, leading to the adoption of a common written language. Modern Danish, as spoken and written today, reflects the culmination of these historical influences and linguistic milestones.

Throughout its history, the Danish language has been both a symbol of national identity and a dynamic entity adapting to the changing times. Today, it stands as an integral part of Denmark’s cultural heritage, connecting its people to their past while evolving to meet the demands of the present.


Official Languages Of Denmark

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The official language of Denmark is Danish. Danish, belonging to the North Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family, is the primary means of communication for the majority of the Danish population. As the official language, it is used in government proceedings, legal documents, education, and official publications, solidifying its central role in the country’s linguistic landscape.

In addition to Danish, Denmark also acknowledges two official regional languages: Faroese and Greenlandic. Faroese is spoken in the Faroe Islands, an autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark, while Greenlandic is spoken in Greenland, another autonomous territory. These regional languages hold official status in their respective regions, reflecting the cultural and linguistic diversity within the Kingdom of Denmark.

While Danish remains the dominant and official language, the recognition of Faroese and Greenlandic underscores Denmark’s commitment to preserving and celebrating the linguistic diversity that enriches its national tapestry. This acknowledgment reflects not only historical ties but also a contemporary appreciation for the unique identities and languages within the Kingdom of Denmark.


Official Languages of Denmark: Regional Languages 

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While Danish is the dominant language, Denmark recognizes two regional languages with official status: Faroese and Greenlandic.

Faroese: Spoken in the Faroe Islands, an autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark, Faroese is a North Germanic language closely related to Icelandic. With its distinct linguistic features, including a unique phonology and vocabulary, Faroese reflects the cultural heritage of the Faroe Islands.

Greenlandic: In Greenland, another autonomous territory, Greenlandic (Kalaallisut) holds official status alongside Danish. Greenlandic is an Eskimo-Aleut language with three major dialects. Its official recognition underscores Denmark’s commitment to linguistic diversity within its borders.

Minority and Foreign Languages of Denmark

Denmark is home to various minority languages, reflecting the country’s openness to diversity. German, spoken by the German minority in Southern Denmark, enjoys recognition and protection. The German minority has a rich cultural heritage, and efforts are made to preserve and promote the language through education and cultural initiatives.

Additionally, a growing number of residents in Denmark speak languages from immigrant communities, further enriching the linguistic tapestry. Common languages include Arabic, Turkish, Urdu, and various Southeast Asian languages. English, German (47%), and Swedish are the primary foreign languages spoken in Denmark.

German: Serving as the official minority language in a segment of Southern Denmark’s residents, formerly South Jutland County, German holds a unique status. This region was initially part of Germany until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Among the 15,000 to 20,000 ethnic Germans residing in the area, approximately 8,000 use standard German or the Low Saxon’s Schleswigsch variety in their daily communication. The German minority in Denmark operates its primary schools, where German is the predominant language of instruction. Additionally, as of 2012, Denmark was home to 28,584 immigrants from Germany who spoke the German language.

A significant majority of Danes speak English as their second language, a requirement in the Folkeskole educational system. English is compulsory for Danes up to the fifth grade, after which it becomes an optional language. Additionally, Swedish ranks as the third most popular foreign language in Denmark, with 13% of the population having proficiency in the language.


Key Takeaway

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To reach more clients in the Danish market, it is essential to offer the official languages of Denmark. Accurate Danish translations are essential for businesses aiming to navigate the Danish market effectively. Whether it’s translating business documents, contracts, marketing materials, or communicating with Danish clients and partners, professional translation services ensure clarity and precision, fostering positive relationships. 

GTE Localize is the leading translation provider of Danish translation services. With a team of skilled linguists and a deep understanding of the nuances of the Danish language, we ensure precision in our Danish translations. Our attention to detail and commitment to linguistic excellence make us the trusted choice for anyone looking for the top Danish translation services. Get in touch with our team to learn more about our services.