Should Greenlandic pupils learn English or Danish as their primary foreign language in the future? The questions stirs debate and causes worry. (Photo: Kitte Witting, Norden.org)
Should Greenlandic pupils learn English or Danish as their primary foreign language in the future? The questions stirs debate and causes worry. (Photo: Kitte Witting, Norden.org)

Language Choice Raises Concern in Greenland


The new government in Greenland wants to replace Danish with English as primary foreign language for school children. – A major challenge, teachers say.

The newly established government coalition in Greenland wants English to be the primary foreign language in Greenlandic schools, and thus push Danish back in the line.


Worried teacher’s union

This has stirred reactions both in Denmark and Greenland. The last one to issue a warning against the government declaration’s goal is the chairperson of the teacher’s union (IMAK) in Greenland, Birthe Møller Therkildsen.

Therkildsen says to Greenland’s radio KNR that lack of teachers and teaching materials are just some of the issues that will emerge if English were to be introduced as primary foreign language.


Does English kill smaller languages?

Another one of the IMAK chairperson’s concerns is the reputation of English being a language that ‘kills’ smaller languages.

– We do not know what English would mean for the Greenlandic language, the chairperson of IMAK says and refers to experts who claim that English carries a tendency to consume smaller languages.

Danish politicians have also raised their voices and expressed concerns about the goals of the Greenlandic government.


Danish is a prerequisite

During a Q&A session in the Danish parliament yesterday, Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said that Denmark is wide open for all Greenlandic youth who want to get an education.

– Mastering the Danish language is a prerequisite for doing so, Rasmussen said, according to the Sermitsiaq newspaper.

His fellow Liberal party member Marcus Knuth, who is the party’s spokesperson on Greenlandic issues, also warns against removing Danish from its position as primary foreign language in school.


Not fair on the youth

– Placing less priority on Danish in Greenland equals placing less of a priority on many Greenlandic youth’s dreams and hopes of higher education. We should always respect the desires from Greenland’s parliament, however, it is not fair to detach Greenland from education opportunities in Denmark in the name of populism and independence, Knuth writes in an op-ed in the Danish daily Berlingske.

The background for the coalition government’s desire about English replacing Danish is the belief that skills in English will strengthen the internationalization of Greenland.





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