A sixth of Danes would welcome English as an official language

Expert warns it could hinder business, not enhance it

There are more proficient speakers of English than any other language, and in recent years, a number of different countries have toyed with the idea of adopting it as an official language.

The business communities of countries like Japan, Switzerland, South Korea and Finland have all suggested the move as a means of becoming more competitive, and it is surely only a matter of time before one of them takes the first move.

A sixth of Danes approve
Had a survey asked the people of the UK whether they want to adopt Polish, the numbers would have probably been pitifully low despite the 1 million native speakers living there.

But in Denmark, where a much smaller minority are mother tongue English speakers, as many as one in six would approve of the country adopting it as an official language.

Furthermore, less than half of the population is strongly opposed to the move, according to a poll conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Copenhagen Post.

In total, 48 percent strongly disagreed that English should be an official language, 19 percent partly disagreed, 10 percent partly agreed and 6 percent strongly agreed, with 17 percent undecided.

Logistical problems
A report released by Education First last November confirmed that the Danes are the best non-native speakers of English in the world, while last year’s decision to introduce English classes in the first grade will only further enhance their skills.

READ MORE: Danish adults the best non-native speakers of English in the world

However, the head of the Danish language council, Sabine Kirchmeier, believes adopting English as a second official language would not make sense for the ordinary Dane.

“Normally an official language is established because the country in located in a border region or has a large population that speaks a language,” she said.

“Typical examples would be Switzerland or Luxembourg, but we don’t have a large English-speaking population in Denmark.”

Furthermore, Kirchmeier warns there would be many logistical problems. For example, all the country’s signs would have to be in both languages, and it would become mandatory for the authorities to be able to speak both languages.

Potentially harmful to business
Nevertheless, 56 percent of the major Danish companies have made English their corporate language, which might explain why more people aged 40-59 strongly approved of adopting English, than those younger.

“These people have lots of English experience in their everyday business: for them it probably won’t make a difference if English would be considered equal to Danish,” explained Kirchmeier.

However, Kirchmeier warns that adopting English could be ultimately harmful to business as Danes might neglect other languages.

“Danes think they can do everything with English and not bother to learn a different language, and that’s an impoverishment,” she said.

“In order to understand other cultures and their habits, you have to speak their languages and unfortunately the politicians do not see that.”

Not a priority in the classroom
In fact, Kirchmeier believes that politicians should stop putting so much emphasis on learning the language.

“I think would be better to teach other languages first, because people will learn English anyway,” she said.

“If you have learned a language once, it will be much easier for you to learn a second one.”