Bet you didn’t realise you’d be moving to the ghetto when you arrived in Denmark.
No, we’re not talking about the Mjølnerparken housing estate in Nørrebro or any other of Denmark’s 28 vulnerable neighbourhoods – and besides the minister for housing, Kaare Dybvad, recently said he would not be referring to the areas as ‘ghettos’ in the future.
According to Kenn Hoeg Christensen, who teaches Danish as a second language at Language Center Aalborg, the biggest such area in Denmark is the ‘English Ghetto’.
And if we primarily use English to communicate in Denmark, we are part of it.
Excuse me, I am speaking Danish in Denmark!
In his opinion piece in Weekendavisen, Christensen recalls a recent experience on Refshaleøn when he asked for a glass of water (and an IPA of course!) and got the response: “Excuse me, what?” followed by: “Oh, water – is that ‘vand’ in Danish?”
He contends that the size of the English-speaking contingent is 325,000.
The number is primarily made up of countries that have joined the EU since 2004, long-term EU members like the UK, Western countries such as the US, Australia and Canada, and non-western countries such as China, Ukraine and India – from where many came to live here following the introduction of the (since disbanded) Green Card scheme in 2007.
Christensen lambasts the recent decision of Copenhagen Municipality to start charging such people for language classes, citing surveys that claim 50 percent fewer are learning Danish as a result.
And he also blames Danish companies for not requiring foreign, highly-skilled workers to learn Danish and integrate.
What’s the real cost of language tuition fees?
“The fees for Danish tuition reportedly save the Treasury around 150 million kroner a year,” he argued.
“But what will the real cost be when the savings bring about increased growth in the English Ghetto?”
Not learning Danish, he contends, is perilous. English-language graduates don’t hang around afterwards, eastern European workers don’t understand the labour laws, and highly-skilled workers leave once their perks end after three or so years, he points out.
“Right now, the English Ghetto is growing at a quick rate as many of them leave us after draining our resources: either by taking a higher education or training them at the companies,” he warned.
“Then new ones come, and go, and so on – an endless spiral of resource consumption and chronic ghetto conditions caused by a widespread lack of Danish.”