University of Wisconsin–Madison

Danish

Why Study Danish?

Denmark doesn’t look like much on a map, being approximately half the size of Wisconsin, but it deserves your attention!  Stone Age artifacts, Vikings, amber jewelry, and “Bog People” all play a part in the tumultuous history of this ancient kingdom.

Studying Danish indicates that you are mastering a foreign language, and this is an asset in the increasingly global economy as many businesses value language skills in their employees. Knowledge about the modern welfare state of Denmark will make you distinctive among other applicants, making you interesting and more marketable. Graduates with Danish language skills have found jobs with IT companies, banking, social work, journalism, international sales, and many more.

Danes do not ”sing” their language like the Swedes and Norwegians. Actually, Danes may seem to mumble – much like Americans – and there is a strong similarity between English and Danish vocabulary.  In contrast to Spanish, French, and German, there are no difficult verb-endings to memorize, and Danish doesn’t use the subjunctive mood either but has fairly simple and straightforward grammatical rules!  So, if you give it a shot, you will quickly be able to understand and communicate with the 5.6 million inhabitants in this cozy and progressive country.

Copenhagen is also home to the head of the world’s oldest monarchy, Queen Margrethe II. The city is very charming with canals, royal palaces, an opera house, a royal theater, and the famous Tivoli Gardens.  The second largest city of Aarhus has been named a European Cultural Capital for the year 2017, and it abounds with cultural events, beaches, and The Old Town where ancient and more modern houses have been re-erected to form a living outdoor museum. The rest of the country, consisting of the peninsula of Jutland and 446 islands, offers a variety of sights and cultural as well as historical opportunities for exploration. Bridges between the island and from Denmark to Sweden make traveling very easy, and the collective means of transportation are functional, punctual, and clean.  The Danish flag was the first flag ever made and initiated the trend of a cross on a background of a different color – the Danish colors are red and white – just like the Badgers!

Although Denmark can boast of no mountains, it is pleased with its friendly and gentle landscape. As a student of Danish, opportunities abound for study trips, not forgetting the original Legoland and the island of Bornholm in the middle of the Baltic Sea.

Danish Language Classes at UW-Madison

The Danish language classes are usually fairly small and intimate classes taught by faculty members (professors) and a few experienced TAs in a relaxed learning environment.  We emphasize communicative abilities such as speaking, reading, listening, and writing, and we use technology extensively to give students an authentic experience of contemporary Danish language and culture. Many Danish movies and actors have made their mark on the contemporary cultural landscape, and they are included in the classes to provide variation and extended engagement.

Danish is regularly taught from 1st through 5th semester and fulfills the language requirements. A 6th semester class is also offered in which Norwegian and Swedish are included as well as linguistics. You can benefit from learning the language whether or not you are a Scandinavian Major or Certificate, and many heritage speakers enjoy the opportunity to reconnect with their ancestors and families.

Students usually reach a high conversational and reading ability within the first 2 semesters, and students who have previously studied the language and / or spent a period in the country can test into higher levels of language instruction and / or get retro credits by talking to the departmental advisor.

The Danish word “hygge” is hard to translate as it comprises more than just the meaning “cozy.” It is also a frame of mind that you will experience if you choose to study abroad in Denmark.  There are wonderful opportunities for studies in both Copenhagen and Aarhus, in cooperation with IAP at UW Madison, and you can apply for both a Scan Design Scholarship and a Gudrun Gytel Scholarship if you choose to study abroad for a semester or a year.

For more information, please contact Faculty Associate Nete Schmidt.