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Language in Business

The Danes are very realistic about the limited use of their language in regards to conducting international business. There are only a little more than 6 million speakers worldwide. They fully realize that their language is not very useful on the international scene. This is one of the reasons that English is taught from a very early age in school. English is spoken and understood by most Danes in the work force regardless of their age. Older retired Danes (65+) may not have English language skills. As a rule, a business visitor will not need to hire an interpreter.

Grammar typically adheres to UK rather than US English. On oddity is that Danes in their 20s, 30s, and 40s often speak better English than they would lead you to believe. This is a function of the "perfectionist" culture of Denmark. Although the Dane will not admit this, they are often embarrassed by being less than fully fluent in English. In fact, English language movies and television programs are often broadcast without dubbing or subtitles.

German is spoken and understood in some of the regions in Southern Jutland, which is near the German border. This area was at one time a part of Germany. Swedish is often found in the Copenhagen region. However, a Dane's knowledge of German or Swedish does not impact on their English language skills. In other words, a Dane will not typically choose to learn German instead of English. Rather, the Dane will learn German in addition to the English which they started to learn in primary school.

In your business conversations with Danes you should try and avoid the use of slang, unless it is obvious that the person you are speaking with has superior English skills. Most Danes will know some English slang, but most English slang will not be understood. This is not surprising if you consider that an English speaker from Manchester, England would in all likelihood be mystified by the slang of a California born surfer.

Some simple Danish phrases: (These of course are not necessary because of the average Danes English language skills, however they may help ingratiate yourself to your host).

Hej - "Hello" (pronounced as a quickly delivered 'hi').
Farvel - "Goodbye" (pronounced 'fawvel'). 
Undskyld - "Sorry" (pronounced 'unskool'). 
Taler du engelsk? - "Do you speak English?" (pronounced 'tailer do ingelsk?').

Finally, business visitors should follow some internationally standard forms of conduct while conversing with a Dane. Maintain comfortable eye contact. Avoid the use of profanity.

LastUpdate: 2019-07-07 00:44:05