Danish vs German: Which Language Should You Learn?
Determine whether you should learn German or Danish in this detailed language guide
Whether you’re just curious about the similarities and differences between Danish and German, or actually trying to pick one to learn, we’ve got you covered. We dive deep into both languages, breaking down the key differentiators and discussing which one would be easier to learn and more useful.
Similarities Between The German & Danish Languages
The biggest common thread between these two languages is that German and Danish are both Germanic languages. They get their roots from the same ancestry (as many Northern European languages do), so they sound similar with harsh consonant sounds and words that seem to be formed from the throat.
They also share another smaller ancestral root: Proto-Germanic. They both use the basic Latin alphabet, too, but both German and Danish have a few extra letters that require close study.
When it comes to grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary, German and Danish are very closely related. In fact, Danish and German are more closely related than either one is to English. Both languages have gendered nouns, but German has three and Danish has two.
These nouns share a very common ancestry, but over the past centuries, they’ve evolved in their own style, spelling, and pronunciation.
Differences Between The Danish & German Languages
Although Danish and German share quite a few similarities, they have plenty that sets them apart, as well. Danish, for example, has many letters and diphthongs (combinations of letters) that have several pronunciations.
Although both languages separate their nouns based on gender, German has a masculine, feminine, and neutral set and Danish has a common (which combines masculine and feminine) and neutral.
Of course, German is also famous for capitalizing all nouns, as well as its four cases, which affect the meaning of the nouns in sentence structure.
Both languages also conjugate their verbs differently. In German, the verb structure depends on the person who is performing the action, but in Danish, the verb stays the same no matter who the subject is.
As far as current pronunciation goes compared to the ancient forms of the language, German underwent a great shift with its consonants during the 3rd and 8th centuries (called the High German consonant shift).
Most other Germanic languages still share the same consonant pronunciation, but German is famous for its new letters that make completely different sounds than they still do in other Germanic languages. However, many nouns and verbs still look like they share common roots when you put them next to each other.
For reference, language apps such as Rosetta Stone or Babbel are often an easy way to improve your pronunciation of the German and Danish languages.
Which Language Is Easier To Learn: Danish or German?
Both languages have components that make them easier to learn, as well as elements that make them difficult to learn. For example, the Danish pronunciation of words isn’t always exact, and there are many ways you can say or enunciate words that can be quite confusing.
German, on the other hand, has a complicated grammatical structure that can be hard to get a handle on. As such, for people learning this language, it may be helpful to purchase a German language course from Busuu or Duolingo. These type of language learning companies often include grammar lessons that break down the need-to-know information into easily understandable sections.
The US Foreign Service Institute ranks languages based on how difficult they are to learn. Danish is ranked at Category 1, making it one of the easiest. German is the next level up, Category 2, making it slightly more difficult.
If you ever go back to learn German after Danish (or vice versa) be careful of the “false friends.” Linguistically, this term refers to pairs of words that are the same or similar, which one would assume to be cognates (meaning the same thing).
However, German and Danish have several cognates that mean completely different things. For example, in German, Gift means poison, while in Danish gift means married. Respectively, Dom and dom mean cathedral and judgment. Big differences.
Reasons To Learn German Rather Than Danish
German is a language that is spoken over a great portion of Europe. There are 100 million people throughout the continent that speak fluent German.
Additionally, Germany is one of the most influential powers in the European Union. So, if you think you’ll pursue a career in business, international diplomacy, or European economics, then German will be incredibly beneficial.
Learning German will also open you up to a world of cultural treasure troves, with Germany being a significant contributor to literature, science, art, and academia.
For people who are interested in becoming fluent in German, our team recommends the German language courses from Rocket and Pimsleur. The lessons from these two companies are very comprehensive and will get you to a basic fluency level in a short amount of time.
On other other hand, if you just wanted to learn a few words or phrases before your upcoming vacation abroad, you may want to check out the German program from Babbel since their lessons are much shorter (and more fun).
Reasons To Learn Danish Rather Than German
Many linguists will tell you that the German grammatical structure is one of the hardest to learn. If grammar isn’t your strong suit, then choosing Danish might be your best bet.
If you have ancestral or cultural roots in Denmark, then Danish will be beneficial to communicate with older or extended family members. It will connect you with your past, which is often a great motivator.
Plus, learning Danish will make it easier for you to pick up other Scandinavian languages, such as Icelandic or Norwegian, thus making it easier to travel throughout that area of Europe.
Danish is quite simple, especially for a fluent English speaker. If you’ve never learned a second language before and are looking for something easy to get your linguistic feet wet, then Danish is a great choice. Many people who dedicate themselves to studying Danish can master it in as little as six months.
In the end, the decision of whether to learn Dutch or German is yours alone. Think about the benefits of each, as well as which structure of language might be easier for you. If you still can’t decide, think about taking a short intro course in each one to give you more of a real-world idea of the one that fits the best.
Know, too, that learning a second language makes it even easier for your brain to pick up more down the road. So, once you get a handle on either Dutch or German, you’ll be primed to come back for the other.
Which language is easier to learn, Danish or German?
According to most linguists, Danish is easier to learn than German. Danish grammar is much simpler, and it uses fewer gendered nouns as well (two vs three).
Which language is more useful, German or Danish?
Although this largely depends on your personal preference and interests, German is likely the more useful language considering well over 100 million people speak the language.