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Legal framework


Danish is the official language of Denmark. It is also the native or cultural language of around 50,000 Germano-Danish citizens living in the south of Schleswig and the Danish who emigrated to America and Australia preserve, to a certain extent, their native language. In international relations terms, Danish has been one of the official languages of the European Union since 1973.

A Danish Language Council (Dansk Sprognævn) was created in 1955. This Council is a Centre for Research attached to the University of Copenhagen and falls under the authority of the Ministry of Culture. Its purpose is threefold: to modernise the language by creating neologisms, to set new rules (it publishes the Official Danish Dictionary) and to respond to questions from users.

The Danish Language Council must:

  • monitor the development of the Danish language and give advice and information on it. It determines the spelling of Danish;
  • edit publications on the Danish language, in particular those on the use of the native language, and co-operate with institutions of terminology, dictionary editors and public institutions involved in authorising or registering people’s names and surnames and brand names;
  • collaborate with equivalent language councils and institutions in other Nordic countries.
  • function as a secretariat for the Danish Sign Language Board

    Because the laws on Danish usage are really along the lines of recommendations, the framework is not especially restrictive and is a long way from being systematically applied.

Following a ruling, Danish is defined as a necessary school subject since it enables citizens to participate in the democratic process. This subject is at the very centre of teaching, since it allows the student to integrate into Danish society.

Immigrant children have been taught Danish as a Foreign Language in primary and secondary school since 1993.

In 1995, medicine courses in English were introduced to attract foreign students to the Danish education system. Since then, more and more course are taught in English at Danish Universities. More than 50% of the master courses are taught in English. In sciences, the figure is close to 100% of the courses. At the bachelor level the language of instruction is still mainly in Danish.



English dominates the scientific domain: Almost all scientific articles are written in English. In the humanities and social sciences there is still some production in Danish.


Machine manuals must, in principle, be written in Danish to ensure the safety of the user when working with a technical device (two rulings of the work inspectorate).


The law of 17 December 2002 on public radio and television services provides that “programming must ensure public access to information and important social debates. It must also draw on Danish language and culture. [...] A significant proportion of programmes must be in Danish or designed for a Danish audience.”

As for the Internet, Danes tend to choose to use sites in Danish. Most public service sites are available in Danish and English.

The public service contract of the national Danish television station, DR, states that DR must contribute to the preservation and development of the Danish language, and communicate to listeners, spectators and viewers in clear and comprehensible Danish.


Consumer protection

Article 24 of the law of 6 June 1973 on food products states that labelling must be clear and readable. It does not explicitly state that the text must be in Danish.

The consumer protection organisation says that labels must be in Danish if the product is destined for the general public.

Since 1999, product guarantees have been written in Danish. Cosmetic products must be labelled in Danish.


Institutional body with the responsibility for developing, implementing and controlling linguistic legislature

The central pivots of this body are the Ministry of Culture via the Danish Language Council and the Society for Danish Language and Literature. The latter publishes unedited texts and edits Danish language dictionaries out of a desire to update linguistic knowledge. This Ministry body actively participates in the drawing up of the linguistic policy of the country.

The national radio (DR) contributes to developing and reinforcing the language but does not necessarily work to protect it from other influences.

The Danish Language Council adopted a four-point plan for a Danish linguistic policy in 2003. The following points were underlined as being central objectives in the Danish linguistic policy:

  • Danish as a scientific and higher education language;
  • Correct Danish as a working language in public services;
  • Education strengthened by Danish at all levels;
  • Education strengthened by foreign languages.


Legal provisions concerning the linguistic integration of migrants and public provisions for linguistic training available to them

A law of 18 March 2006 fixes the conditions for the linguistic integration of migrants.

Migrants in possession of a residence permit and national identity number can access three years of Danish language training. These lessons cost €80 for migrants from other European countries and are paid for via taxes for migrants from other countries.

Learning Danish is not compulsory but it is necessary to pass a Danish language test if you want to become a permanent resident or obtain Danish citizenship.



Main legal provisions in force concerning the use of regional or minority languages

There are no legal provisions of this nature in Denmark. Around a third of the 20,000 Germano-Danish citizens in South Jutland speak German.

In the Faeroese Isles and Greenland, the law of autonomy guarantees official equality of Danish alongside the Faeroese and Greenlandic languages and Danish is an obligatory subject in schools. In Iceland, Danish has been a part of the school curriculum since the end of the 1990s and Danish is still used to facilitate communications with other Nordic countries.


A legal provision for sign languages was made in 2014 establishing a Danish Sign Language Board under the auspices of the Danish Language Council. The tasks of the new language board will be to provide principles and guidelines for the documentation of Danish Sign Language and to provide information and give advice on Danish sign language.



Existence of financial support mechanisms designed to encourage the use of national and regional or minority languages

As part of the finances law of 2005, the Government and different parties sitting in Parliament came to a general agreement on culture. Following this agreement, a budget of 12 million Danish kroner was earmarked for the Danish language for 2005-8. This budget was mainly intended to augment the co-operation between the two language institutions of the Ministry of Culture (the Danish Language Council and the Society for Danish Language and Literature).

This support was intended, along with other measures, to contribute to the strengthening of communication between the institutions, citizens and the public. It was also intended to boost the effort to computerise texts used in the field of linguistic research.

In 2006, this one-off measure of support was given permanent status and was increased to 1.5 million Danish kroner a year for each of the two institutions.

In 2009 the Government earmarked 3 million Danish kroner for 2009-2011 for a campaign to enforce awareness of the importance of languages.  



Teaching foreign languages within the education system


Primary school (ages 6 to 16)


L1: English compulsory from the 3rd school year (since 2014 from the 1st school year).
L2: The second foreign language (typically German or French) is now taught from the 5th year.


College (ages 16 to 19)

L1: English remains compulsory.

L2: Compulsory for students with certain combinations of subjects. (German/French/Spanish/Italian/Russian/Chinese).
L3/L4: depending on the course. Optional (German/French/Spanish/Italian/Russian/Chinese).


Future projects planned by the authorities in the field of linguistic policy

Danish language website

The Danish Language Council

has published a Danish language website ( to gather and communicate information about the Danish language and the conditions of its use to all users. The site aims to provide professional help by responding to questions about linguistic problems. It is also possible to access public dictionaries and submit information and advice. The site is updated continuously.



Media and public services

Collaborators from the Danish Language Council and the Society for Danish Language and Literature respond directly to questions about language on the radio in the programme Sproglaboratoriet on station P1 (a twice-weekly 30-minute programme which is rebroadcast twice). There are a  number of language-related activities on television as well as articles in magazines and newspapers.

Research Projects

  • Nordic project: Nordic language understanding. The project seeks to explore why speakers of the Central-Scandinavian languages tend to understand each other less than before.   
  • Nordic language monitors. A subproject of EFNIL’s European language monitor.   
  • Writing in Denmark. An investigation of the written language in schools, the new media and public institutions.
  • Language in the new media: An investigation of the characteristic features of Danish used in the new media.
  • Academic English and Danish. An investigation of the characteristic features of Danish and English academic language in various domains.
  • New words: Manual and automatic extraction of new words from large text corpora
  • Dictionary of new words
  • Historical Danish spelling dictionaries on the web






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