Make it compulsory to learn Danish, argues the language school’s interest organisation

De Danske Sprogcentre, the Danish language school’s interest organization, has prepared a list of suggestions for how the government can encourage more foreigners to learn the language.

Among them is a recommendation to abolish the rule that prohibits international players from receiving free tuition after they have been here for five years.

The number of foreign nationals working in Denmark has doubled in the past 12 years, but only a third end up taking classes, and De Danske Sprogcentre fears that this could lead to foreigners being ill-equipped to take up another job , if they change careers.

Moreover, in its strongly worded announcement in Jyllands-Postenit warns that “Denmark is on its way to repeating the failed integration of guest workers in the 70s.”

Cool recommendations
The recommendations suggest the following:

– Send a clear signal that Denmark expects foreign employees to learn Danish. Consider making the voluntary requirement mandatory.

– Set up a working group at government level to consider how to achieve the goal.

– Instruct the municipalities to increase efforts to follow up on students who do not accept the education offer or otherwise allow the state to take over.

– Give the language centers the opportunity to follow up on students who have slipped through the net.

– Call for employers to increase the focus on Danish teaching in the workplace in order to increase employee motivation.

– Make teaching more work-oriented, flexible and adapted to the needs of the individual.

– Abolish the rule that the right to participate in Danish education disappears after five years of residence in Denmark.

Lesson from history
Op-eden came out fighting in its call to the state, municipalities, employers and international organizations to increase efforts in the arena.

“Everyone who lives and works in Denmark must learn Danish,” it said, referring to the case in the 1970s, where no pressure was put on guest workers to learn the language – primarily people from Turkey.

“There is a huge risk that we are about to repeat the failed labor market policy from the 1960s and 70s, when we as a society did not demand that new colleagues learn Danish,” it reads.

“The consequences are well known. Guest workers who had difficulty keeping up with and adapting to the changing needs of the labor market. Family members, especially women, who never entered the Danish labor market, parallel communities in the Vestegnen, etc. We shall not repeat that.”

Fear for the class of 2021
The Danish Language Centers fear that history will repeat itself. Only 31 percent of the foreign nationals who moved to Denmark in 2021 started teaching, it is claimed.

“The large number of new foreign workers is necessary to compensate for the large cohorts that are retiring,” the op-ed argued.

“Denmark and the workplaces have a common incentive to ensure that the foreign workforce is not just guest workers, but that they settle in Denmark with their families. The prerequisite for this to happen is that the employees and their families are integrated both at the workplace and in the local community.”

Stuck in the labor market
The Danish Language Centers put forward a strong argument for why learning Danish is beneficial for internationals who tend to “get stuck in one function on the labor market”, unless (worst case scenario) they choose to leave Denmark altogether.

“You can quickly learn the 25 phrases you need to drive a taxi or put goods in place in Føtex. But it is an extremely context-dependent Danish that cannot be translated. In a new job, you therefore have to start all over again. Danish, which is learned systematically, can be translated. That is why it is more effective to learn the language at school,’ explained Professor Anne Holmen from the University of Copenhagen.

“Some may think that it is enough that the foreign employees speak English. This may also be the case in some workplaces, but there will also be many workplaces where it is not enough – for example in the entire elderly sector. At the same time, the lack of Danish language makes foreign employees less flexible.”

Harmful for integration
And there is also integration to consider.

“Lack of knowledge of Danish hampers cooperation with daycare services, schools and healthcare, and this will limit participation in association life and the local community. It is already felt in several smaller communities in West Jutland, where the share of Eastern European labor in agriculture is high,” argued the co-ed.

“It has consequences for integration, both here and now and in the longer term. According to figures from Dansk Industri, one in eight employees has a foreign background – the lack of knowledge of Danish is therefore also of great importance for Danish colleagues and social life in the workplace.”

Source: The Nordic Page

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