Languages are a hit at Studieskolen

December 15, 2023

In recent years, there has been a trend of declining interest in languages in Denmark. However, we are experiencing the opposite here at Studieskolen.

In Denmark, there has been a prevailing narrative for several years that there is a diminishing interest in languages. And there are – sadly – plenty of examples to support this claim.

Trend in Denmark: Fewer language students, fewer language programmes

Now, fewer than one-fifth of Danish municipal schools ('folkeskoler') offer French. In high schools ('gymnasier'), the number of students graduating with a linguistic diploma has almost halved in the last 10 years. Additionally, the enrollment of students in major language degrees at Danish universities this year was significantly lower than in 2022 – which, in turn, was lower than in 2021.

In 2005, there were 97 different language degrees in Denmark. Today, that number has halved to 48. This is a complex problem with various consequences. One consequence is that Denmark, set to take over the EU presidency in 2025, is already facing challenges in finding interpreters. Currently, there is only one self-funded interpreter training programme left in Denmark, resulting in a shortage of interpreters.

One might be tempted to conclude that Danes have lost interest in languages. However, this is not the case at Studieskolen – quite the opposite.

Over the past year, we have seen significant interest in languages and, in many places, even growth.

High interest in foreign languages at Studieskolen

For many years, we have offered courses in various languages. While interest in a particular language may fluctuate with trends, we observe a consistently high number of people coming to Studieskolen to learn languages.

Year after year, many people wish to learn or improve their proficiency in European languages such as French, Italian and Spanish. Recently, there has also been a surge in interest in English, particularly among those with a non-Danish background looking to learn more English in order to do better in Denmark.

At Studieskolen, not only can one learn many different languages, one can also learn them at various proficiency levels. For instance, we offer an advanced Arabic course where students read and watch news in Arabic. In Korean, we have classes at six different levels, and in Greek, we have seven levels!

It's intriguing to observe which languages attract the most interest. Recently, there has been an increased desire to learn languages like Greenlandic and Icelandic, while others experience a slight decline.

But overall, the trend is clear. Thousands of adults have learnt foreign languages at Studieskolen this year – a number now comparable to the levels in 2019 before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Huge progress for Danish

The situation for Danish as a second language is unique. Since August 2022, we have been one of the providers of the Danish Education programme for the City of Copenhagen. This has gained considerable momentum this year, with nearly 10,000 international residents in Copenhagen having learnt Danish at Studieskolen.

The majority – over 7,000 – are enrolled in the Danish Education programme. This means that more than half of newcomers to Copenhagen who are offered free Danish classes choose to study with us. We are pleased to note that once an individual begins their Danish Education with us, they typically stay with us as they continue on to the next levels.

We have implemented various measures, including a Study Centre offering free assistance and guidance, ensuring that those learning Danish with us continue to enjoy the experience.

Simultaneously, there are still many – over 2,000 – who choose to pay for Danish lessons at Studieskolen. Uniquely, we also offer self-funded Danish classes. This can be for residents who have lived in Denmark so long that they no longer qualify for free Danish Education, or for those who have other reasons such as wanting to focus on conversational Danish.

SOSU trainees, Ukrainian refugees and FVU students learn languages at Studieskolen

At Studieskolen, we reach out to diverse target groups. For a year and a half now, in collaboration with Aid Ukraine, we have been offering free English courses for Ukrainian refugees. This initiative has already helped many Ukrainians secure jobs or internships.

Since April 2021, in cooperation with the City of Copenhagen, we have been providing language support to SOSU (social and health care assistant) students with Danish as a second language. This has significantly increased retention – among the students who made use of language support, only 7.5% have discontinued their SOSU education, compared to an average discontinuation rate of 37%.

Over the last five years, Studieskolen has also built a large and robust FVU (preparatory adult education) department. FVU is a free service for people with some prior knowledge of Danish. Many take FVU courses to improve their Danish, English or mathematics skills, aiming to secure employment or pursue further education. Our many FVU students are part of an exciting and international environment and get to meet and interact with many other people also learning Danish or English.

Our teaching also extends wide physically: We teach university students on campus, provide lessons to employees at their workplaces and deliver education to SOSU students on location. Since taking over two other language schools in 2020 and 2022, we can now offer FVU and Danish classes at several locations in Copenhagen, close to those who need it.

Happy to be learning languages at Studieskolen

We conduct ongoing surveys among both our foreign language and Danish students. We are pleased to report that in the latest survey, 94% of our Danish language students said they were happy to be learning Danish at Studieskolen.

98% of our foreign language students said they would recommend us to others, a figure that has remained stable for many years.

Our students often highlight their satisfaction with the relevance and practicality of our courses, praising our teachers for their expertise and ability to create a pleasant atmosphere in the classroom.

In summary, we at Studieskolen do not recognise the picture of a decline in interest in languages.

This year, just like in previous years, there are many who are happy to be learning languages at Studieskolen.

Here are some articles and opinion pieces about the language situation in Denmark that mention the statistics quoted at the beginning. They are all in Danish:

Politikpapir: Strategi for sprogfagene
(Danske Gymnasier)

Danske Gymnasier: Sprogfagenes negative udvikling skal stoppes, før det er for sent

Professor: Udenrigsminister søger tolke til intenst EU-formandskab – grundet reformer er der ingen ledige

Here you can read about English courses for Ukrainian refugees (in English): English courses give Ukrainian refugees new opportunities (Aid Ukraine Denmark)

Here is the link to DR's article about the success of language support for SOSU students (in Danish): Særlig ordning får flere sosu-elever til at gennemføre studiet (DR)