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Language in Business

The Danes are very realistic with the limited use of their language in regards to conducting international business. There are only 5.8 million speaks 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 may not have English language skills. As a rule, a business visitor will not need to hire an interpreter.

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 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: 2015-05-05 14:08:09