Danes are considered to be some of the best non-native English speakers in the world, but fewer are choosing to study two or more foreign languages, a study has found.
The number of Danes who have mastered at least two foreign languages has dropped by eight percent since 2005, according to the recent European Commission report.
While 58 percent of Danes speak more than two foreign languages fluently – a comparatively high figure against the European average of 25 percent – business experts say the decline is of concern.
Jannik Schack Linnemann, the head of research policy at chamber of commerce Dansk Erhverv, told Berlingske newspaper that Denmark derives more than half its GDP from exports – a sector that is responsible for employing 700,000 people. “We need to become better equipped when it comes to the languages used in exporting industries,” he said.
In response to the European Commission’s report findings, the education minister, Morten Østergaard (R), told Berlingske his ministry will focus more on how to promote language courses at school and university. “It is extremely worrying. This is the opposite of what we need in a globalised world.”
The Education Ministry last week received an updated report regarding a national foreign language education strategy. One of the recommendations is that school students take English starting at age 6 and a second foreign language at age 9.
Alan Brejnholt, University student, is one of the shrinking number of Danes studying a second foreign language. He is taking intensive German classes in order to get into a Copenhagen Business School master’s programme that requires students to be fluent in at least two foreign languages.
“While English is really important, one reason I study a second foreign language is to do with the link between culture and language,” Brejnholt said. “I think it also shows prospective employers willpower, determination and an interest in different cultures.”