I know it is the summer time and the city is full of tourists but recently I have been noticing a lot more languages around me, probably as the streets and cafes are busier in the summer. I don’t live in a particularly touristy area and as I cycle around I regularly catch snatches of other languages – English, French, Spanish, German and Slavic languages. These people are the community of Copenhagen, regardless of how long or short their stay is.
Because most Danes over the age of 10 and under the age of 50 speak perfect English, it does make the city welcoming to other Europeans. There is a lot of talk about Denmark being closed to outsiders and the pressure to speak Danish but as time goes on I notice the latter becoming less important. I put some of this down to the realisation that Denmark is a tiny country with a complicated language. It seems the larger the country the tighter the population hold onto their own language. Also the desire to be part of wider world and the opportunities that it presents, particularly for the next generation.
I know people who’s children are studying in the UK or America and they welcome the experience this offers. There are a number of Danish children at my son’s international preschool, presumably to give them a head start in English and make them more international for future family moves. Perhaps people are looking to become more ambitious and less governed by Jante Law as time goes on?
I can speak Danish but often I am with my son or husband speaking English so people around me automatically address me in my mother tongue and seem almost confused if I reply in Danish.
Films and TV are shown in their original language here so people are exposed to English every day (and some dreadful TV too!). But again Danish crime programmes are taking the world by storm and are in their original language.
I recently read that by the time my son’s generation are adults that English will be the main academic and professional language of Denmark. To me this presents a mixed feeling. I am glad that my son will be able to communicate in his mother tongue and I welcome the opportunities this offers to him and his peers. But at the same time a native language is very precious and is an integral part of identity.