How does Danish differ from other languages?

Denmark: Insight into cultural similarities and the Danish language

Hundred years of peaceful demarcation: In 2020, Denmark and Germany will celebrate the referendum of 1920 when southern Jutland was reunited with Denmark. For the German-Danish year of cultural friendship, we explain the differences and similarities between the neighboring countries and give first insights into the Danish language.

The German-Danish friendship year 2020

Exhibitions, concerts, debates: Denmark and Germany celebrate the democratic solution to the border question exactly 100 years ago with more than a hundred individual events and twelve lighthouse projects. The relationship in the border region, which is so exemplary today, is the result of a changeable and stressed past.

South Schleswig, an area down to the Eider, was Danish for a long time, while North Schleswig, with its area well north of the current border, is still home to a German minority.

Currently around 15,000 Germans and almost 60,000 Danes live in the border area outside of their home country. Cultural exchange, the promotion of minority interests and active political participation make today's life in the region a global model for cross-border, friendly international understanding.

Cultural similarities

Danish design and German thoroughness, Scandinavian attitude to life and engineering made in Germany: At first glance, the differences between the two nations seem greater than their similarities. It starts with the greeting, which in Denmark is basically “Du”, while the German politeness form “Sie” is common in this country. But the long neighborhood has led to a friendly coexistence based on mutual respect and understanding for each other's peculiarities.

And the cooperation pays off: The Danewerk, a medieval fortification and one of the most important Danish national monuments, is located on the German side of the border, but both countries worked together successfully to be included in the list of UNESCO World Heritages.

Danish daycare centers in Flensburg are also part of everyday life and the political interest group for the Danish minority (Südschleswigsche Voters' Association SSW) is exempt from the five percent threshold in state elections. Despite all the differences, the common goodwill can be felt in many details - and makes you want to go to the events of the cultural friendship year 2020.

Basics of the Danish language

Danish and German both belong to the Germanic language family. While Danish, along with Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Faroese, is one of the North Germanic languages, German is derived from West Germanic. Due to the close proximity there are many similarities today. Danish has many loan words from German and both languages ​​use identical terms for the same things.

But the crux is in the details and many similar-sounding words have completely different meanings in the respective language. When a Dane speaks of "smuk", he thinks something is "beautiful" but does not necessarily mean "jewelry". And “Dyne” means, for example, “bed linen” instead of “dune”.

Then there is the pronunciation of Danish, which is a topic of its own: even in comparison with other Scandinavian languages, it is relatively difficult to understand. Mute or differently pronounced consonants, swallowed endings and the Stød (shock sound or larynx closure) ensure a peculiar pronunciation that is remotely reminiscent of Dutch or Frisian. If you want to learn Danish, in addition to the clear grammar, you will face a small challenge in accenting the new words.

The following vocabulary provides a first glimpse into the language to get to know our Danish neighbors:

  • Hello - Hey
  • Bye - Vi ses
  • Thanks - tak
  • Please - velbekom
  • Cheers - Skål (Skool)
  • My name is ... - Jeg hedder ...
  • How are you? - Hvordan do you have that?
  • Where is the train station)? - Hvor he (stations)?

One of the most popular toys in the world comes from Denmark: LEGO! Here you can hear how the little men would sound in Danish:


A Danish term has also become known as a trend in Germany in recent years: the almost untranslatable word "hygge", which describes the Danish way of life very well. We have put together in our Hygge Guide what defines the word and how you can breathe a little more Scandinavian cosiness into your life.