Should adverts always be in Danish in Denmark?

First up I’d like to say that I think the actual content on the Oatly marketing campaign popping up all over Copenhagen (and other European cities) is inspired, eye-catching and disruptive. However my beef is that the adverts are all written in English regardless of which country they are in.Every time I see them (and it is every day at the moment) I feel slightly irritated by the in your face nature of the English language in a country where it is not the first language. I asked on Instagram what people thought about this and the comments were interesting. One person agreed that the blanket use of English in the adverts was lazy but as someone who doesn’t speak a lot of Danish she appreciated being able to understand an advert. It is comforting to see something you understand in a sea of things you don’t but surely the target audience isn’t a minority of people who can’t speak the local language. Others weren’t that bothered and others felt it was incongruous.

I suppose I am playing devil’s advocate somewhat as I’m not Danish. However as someone who moved here almost ten years ago when there was hardly anything written in English  (for example now many websites have the choice of English or Danish this simply didn’t happen then) it forced me (although I was a willing participant) to learn Danish to be able to understand most things. With the move towards more English language materials and also the spoken word, the perceived need to understand Danish as a foreigner is diminishing.

There is a question mark about what this means in the long-term for the Danish language. With freedom of movement in Europe, more and more companies are operating in English to attract talent, which economically is understandable. But at the same time when the choice comes between a Danish speaker (but not necessarily a Dane) and a non Danish speaker the former often gets the job in some companies.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this especially if you are from Germany or France where these adverts also appear in English. Is it a worrying precedence or doesn’t it matter? Should it be considered inevitable that the languages of smaller countries will become second to a more widely spoken language such as English? Tell me what you think.




  1. I agree with you – it enoys me to see adverts in english in Denmark or Portugal where I live – or when shops has sales and use the word “sale” in the windows and not the danish word “udsalg” . from a dane living in Portugal .

  2. An advertiser has an economic need to reach as many people as possible within their target audience. that is an area in which they don’t differ from other companies and because our English literacy is so high, advertising in English makes sense in many, maybe most cases. Languages don’t need to be protected because they’re not mutually exclusive; we have many examples where multiple languages have lived alongside each other with no problem.

    Are we somehow afraid that Danish will become extinct? Should we start doing like Germany and France where all the films are translated instead of subtitled?

    Languages and cultures evolve when in the presence of others, this seems like grasping at straws to try and be angry at something.

    • I’m not angry just a little irritated. Although languages evolve etc the dominance of English can be a benefit but also a curse. Btw I reserve my real anger for much bigger issues such as poverty, climate change and Donald Trump 😊

  3. I would guess a conservative Dane would have one of two viewpoints. One, they would think this represents too many foreigners in their country, and things in Denmark should be in Danish, and possibly shocked or angered that it is come to this. But second, they would find this “international”, as I’ve heard it called, and therefore cool, and progressive. Like how a lot of Danish song writers write in English. But that’s also for marketability. I believe the former would be over the age of 50, and the latter under the age of 35. However, I myself as a foreigner with English as my first language, and having lived in Denmark off and on for about five years, I’m quite happy to see anything English simply because it’s refreshing to not have everything around me in Danish. That comfort preceeds any political views on this I may have. I’m genuinely curious though, why would any non-Danish speaker find this irritating? Do you feel like you’re not getting a full cultural experience by seeing an advertisement like this which appeals to a broader audience? Or what?

    • I guess the irritation comes from the fact I spent a long time learning Danish and also the excuse that everyone speaks English many expats use to not bother to learn Danish

  4. One more thing I forgot to mention in my last comment. I agree with you that in this particular case, it could be irritating as it purposefully portrays the English language in a rather harsh manner. Very in-your-face. The advertisement itself is definitely eye-catching, but quite ugly and crassly worded with a sort of loud and proud “OR NOT. WHATEVER. F**K YOU.” Attitude. And this may be a stretch but could even be hinting that this is how the stereotypical English speaker talks. But again, only in this case. I would have to see another more relaxed normal advert in English to compare to quash that feeling.

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