Dreaming of traveling through picturesque Denmark, breezily ordering smørrebrød and making friends with locals? Or perhaps you’re hooked on gritty Danish TV shows and want to understand what that glowering detective is really saying.
Regardless of why you want to learn Danish, you’re in for a fun and rewarding experience. It won’t take long until you’re humming along with Danish music, coming out with those ironic jokes the Danes are famous for, and making (virtual or real-life) Danish-speaking friends.
Let’s take a look at some of the Danish courses, apps, and other resources available to you. We’ll also talk about how to create your Danish study schedule and whether Danish is really as difficult as it sounds.
Table of Contents
- A Quick Introduction to the Danish Language
- How Difficult Is Danish?
- How to Learn Danish
- Some Extra Danish Study Tips
- Resources for Learning Danish
- Online Danish Classes and Language Exchanges
- Online, App-Based, and Audio Danish Language Courses
- Danish Courses Like Duolingo
- Danish Language Courses You Should (Probably) Avoid
- Danish Vocabulary Builders and Word Games
- Danish Grammar Guides and Exercises
- Danish Textbooks and Reference Books
- Learn Danish on YouTube
- Danish Fiction Books and Poetry
- Danish TV and Movies
- News, Music, and Other Resources for Learning Danish
Love history? Adventurous epics? The Vikings? You’ll love studying Danish. The oldest written examples of it in existence are runic inscriptions. It’s also the closest existing language to Old Scandinavian, the language of the Vikings.
Even today, there’s some degree of mutual intelligibility between Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish (although this can be overstated). This is in part thanks to the powerful fourteenth-century Queen Margaret I of Denmark. She defied gender-based norms for her period to unite most of Scandinavia – although she then had to make herself regent and appoint her male relatives as rulers. After all, it was the Middle Ages.
Danish also boasts some fascinating linguistic features. For example, while it has two grammatical genders, these are called common and neuter. This might come as a relief to language learners exasperated by the idea that a screwdriver is inherently masculine or feminine.
You also count in twenties rather than tens in Danish, something that might sound familiar to speakers of French, Basque, Cornish, and Yoruba. If it seems confusing to you, however, just think of the archaic method of counting in scores, with “three score and ten” adding up to 70. Voilà, you have the vigesimal counting system used in Danish.
Today, Danish is spoken by over 5 million people throughout not only Denmark, but also parts of northern Germany, Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands. And that’s not to mention Danish diaspora communities around the globe.
Although you might assume that everyone speaks Danish in Denmark, don’t be surprised if you also overhear Polish, Syrian, or Turkish. Despite tightening immigration policies, people from all over the world live in Denmark.
Oh, and expect to hear quite a bit of English, too. Danes are impressively good at speaking it.
According to the FSI, Danish is one of the most approachable languages for English speakers to learn. They estimate that it would take 24 weeks of 25-hour-a-week intensive study to achieve “professional working proficiency” (which has been compared to both B2 and C1 on the CEFR scale).
Of course, that still adds up to 600 hours – and besides which, learning a language via intensive courses is different from learning it in evenings and on weekends.
Still, whether you’re a full-time student, a Roskilde-based expat immersed in the Danish language, or a hobbyist learner squeezing your studies in during your commute, one thing’s for certain: Danish has quite a bit in common with English. In fact, even words that don’t look like English often sound like it. Take hej, meaning “hello” and pronounced “hi.” And these similarities could help you out as you learn this Nordic language.
If you speak some German, you’ll also come across words that look pretty familiar to you: gerne, at arbejde, nummer…
However, there is one thing that you might find quite different when learning Danish: the pronunciation. There’s a reason Scandinavians joke that speaking Danish is like talking with a potato in your mouth. For people who aren’t fluent in the language, it can be hard to distinguish the different sounds and work out exactly what word is being said.
What’s more, some phonemes are particularly tricky for Danish learners, such as the soft d. Add some homophones, 20 different vowel sounds, and silent consonants to the mix, and it’s easy to end up tripping over your own tongue.
Even though Danish has a lot of similarities with English, the truth is that no language is “easy.” No matter if your goal is to become fluent or simply to learn survival phrases ahead of a holiday in Copenhagen, you’ll need hard work and some patience to see success.
There are some things that can make it easier, though. Let’s take a look at how to learn Danish – without getting too stressed out or demotivated.
We can’t give you a one-size-fits-all Danish study plan, because there are so many factors to consider: where you live, what you want to do with your Danish language skills, how you like to study, how much spare time you have…
However, what we can do is give you some advice for building a study schedule and choosing the right resources for you, so that your Danish studies are more fun, interesting, and effective.
Knowing what you want to achieve won’t just keep you on track. It will also help you decide what to study.
Just travelling through the country? You’ll want to spend extra time on topics like directions, hotels, and numbers.
Want to keep in touch with a Danish exchange student via social media? Reading and writing will be important for you, and you can probably skip the business jargon in favor of slang and hobby-based topics.
Moving to Denmark? You’re going to have a longer list of topics to learn. Don’t forget to study immigration-related vocabulary! On the plus side, your trial-by-fire experience of living in the country will give you lots of opportunities to practice speaking Danish.
Regardless of your individual goals, you’ll probably want to build in time for all the main language skills – reading, writing, listening, and speaking – as well as vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. Let’s be honest: it would be frustrating if, after six months of messaging a friend in Danish, they suddenly rang you and you couldn’t understand a word they said.
You’ll come across blog posts saying that you should study for an hour, 90 minutes, or even three hours a day. That’s not always realistic, though.
Some people have a relatively free schedule and can easily make time for studying. Others have to fit Danish studies in between different jobs, studying, social and family obligations, and more. So, forget the “golden rules” about how many minutes or hours a day you should spend studying.
It might sound counterintuitive, but don’t study too much. By too much, we mean: don’t study so much that you exhaust yourself, feel guilty about being too busy to practice Danish, or start to resent the time spent drilling vocabulary. Be realistic about how much time you have spare.
That said, it’s good to study more days than you don’t. If you’re struggling to find time for Danish, aim to study for shorter periods but more frequently. It will be more effective than one long, weekly study session, especially if your aim is spoken or written fluency.
In this article, we’ll share dozens of Danish courses, apps, textbooks, grammar guides, YouTube channels, podcasts, movies, novels, news sites and more. You might also like to:
- Keep a journal, write short stories, or start a Danish-language blog
- Create an audio diary: record yourself speaking about your day (and remember that nobody has to listen to it – not even you)
- Follow influencers and Danish-language hashtags (and not just #hygge) on social media
- Set your search engine, phone, and social media accounts to Danish
- Find forums, Facebook groups, and hobby-based blogs in Danish
- Take an interest in Danish history, politics, and culture; you’ll soon find yourself reading Danish-language websites and books to find out more than would be possible in English
- Label things in your flat or house with Danish words
- Start doing Danish crosswords
- Write your shopping or to-do list in Danish
- Try to create Danish puns and rhymes
Bear in mind that someone else’s ideal study method might not work for you. Maybe they love Duolingo and you hate it. Or perhaps they love watching movies and you get bored 20 minutes in. We all have our preferred study methods (and interests!), so try a few things out to see what works best for you.
And remember: the best resources for you could change over time. You might eventually need to drop your once-favorite course, or perhaps you’ll find you get on better with a resource once you’ve reached a conversational level of Danish.
- Learn Fillers: Since most Danes have a high level of English, you might find one of your biggest challenges is getting people to speak Danish with you. While they think they’re doing you a favor by switching to English, you should try to talk in Danish as frequently as possible. To subtly signal that you don’t need them to change languages, try brushing up on Danish fillers. They will help you exude linguistic confidence, even while you’re searching for the right word.
- Do Pronunciation Drills: Given how tricky Danish pronunciation can be, it’s worth spending some time on this. Even though you don’t need a perfect Danish accent, learning correct pronunciation early on will save you time later and perhaps help convince Danes that you don’t need them to switch to English.
- Be Patient and Celebrate Successes: Learning a language is hard and takes time. Instead of fixating on what you can’t do, focus on your successes – whether that’s successfully purchasing a train ticket, having an hour-long conversation in Danish, or navigating the Danish healthcare system.
Textbooks, courses, podcasts, and classes: there are plenty of ways to learn Danish, even if you’re thousands of miles away from Copenhagen.
There’s no better way to learn a language than to put it into practice. And since actually speaking Danish might be one of the most challenging parts of learning the language, classes and language exchanges can be invaluable.
italki is one of the oldest and most well-known language-learning marketplace, which gives it a significant advantage: it has the most teachers. It also tends to be slightly cheaper than competitor companies. And while quality isn’t its selling point, if you search enough, you’re bound to find a teacher you get on with.
Plus, we’re a fan of its community features, which you can access via the app. These include a forum and the chance to publish your writing or audio recordings for community corrections.
Alternatively, you might like Verbling. Although it has fewer teachers, we like its payment processing options as well as its online classroom. Teachers are also vetted before they’re allowed to join the platform.
Verbal Planet also has a handful of reasonably priced and well reviewed Danish teachers. If you’re looking for plenty of feedback, it might be a good choice for you: the teachers will evaluate your speaking, listening, reading, and writing after each class. If that sounds stressful, though, you might be better off skipping this platform.
Preply also has several Danish teachers. However, we feel that teachers aren’t always fairly compensated for their time or work and, when you purchase classes, you have to commit to at least five with the same teacher. While we liked their classroom technology, it’s not our favorite platform for finding teachers.
You can book online private and group classes with Danskbureauet. It doesn’t give you the flexibility and range of choice that websites like italki and Verbling offer; in fact, after your free trial, you have to sign up for a minimum of 12 weeks. However, you’ll benefit from a structured syllabus, and the teachers have many years of experience.
With Copenhagen Language Center, you won’t have to make quite such a long commitment. Their group courses last for 7–8 weeks and go from complete beginner up to B2/“pre-advanced.” As well as the video classes, you’ll be expected to do two to five hours of private study every week.
Laerdansk Online/Netdansk is also designed for long-term, online learning, although you only have to commit to four weeks at a time. They estimate that it will take you 12 weeks to reach A1, 16 to reach A2, and so on. Their courses should take you up to C1.
Sometimes, you don’t want an hour-long class or Danish pronunciation drills. You just want feedback about whether or not you’re saying something right or an answer to a quick question. You can turn to forums and community-feedback apps for this.
The HiNative app will let you ask questions and also answer other people’s queries. We think it offers a lot of value for any language learner, even if not all questions or answers are entirely useful.
On Langcorrect, you can share Danish writing and essays in order to receive feedback from other learners. Don’t forget to help out the community by correcting someone else’s writing, too.
Ready to not just study Danish but actually use it? It’s time for a language exchange.
There are plenty of apps you can use, such as HelloTalk (reviewed here), Speaky (reviewed here), and Tandem (reviewed here). While they all work in a fairly similar way, there are some differences, so make sure to check out the reviews as well as our HelloTalk vs Tandem showdown.
If you want to move from app-based to real-world exchanges, MeetUp has 25 different Danish-language groups around the world. Can’t find one near you? Try a general language exchange to see if any Danes come along, or start your own group. Alternatively, you could browse local Facebook groups for options.
If meeting up with strangers, however, remember to stay safe: meet up in public spaces, don’t feel pressured to give out your contact details, and leave if you feel uncomfortable.
Taking a language course, whether you go at your own pace or follow a fixed schedule, can add structure to your studies. They can also be motivating, since you can measure your progress in modules and levels. And even though you won’t find Danish on Rosetta Stone or Busuu, you’ve got plenty of language courses to choose from.
Depending on your learning style, you might find you prefer an audio course (great for improving your listening and keeping your hands free for other tasks), an app (easy to squeeze in a few minutes here and there), or one with a wide mixture of activities. We’ve included a variety of course styles to help you pick the right one for you.
Mango Languages has a heavy focus on speaking Danish and will quickly get you to build your own sentences. We think it’s best for beginner-level learners, and we like how you can compare recordings of yourself speaking Danish to native speakers. It helps you see where your pronunciation isn’t quite right, and you can pause the lesson to practice it as many (or few) times as you wish.
If you’re an aural learner, or simply like to learn on the go, Pimsleur might be a good fit for you. We find it fairly effective, and it gives you lots of listening and speaking practice, although we would have liked more grammar explanations. Bear in mind that each lesson is 30 minutes long.
For something more bite-sized and with more grammatical explanations, try Babbel. We also like its speech-recognition technology that gives you feedback on your pronunciation, although we found it occasionally didn’t work as we had hoped.
While we wouldn’t use DanishClass101 as a standalone course, we think it makes for an excellent supplementary resource. It has a huge range of audio and video lessons on Danish vocabulary, grammar, and culture.
Dansk Her&Nu/Dansk her og nu is a free online course supported by the Danish government. If you already know some basic Danish, it’s a great resource. However, we wouldn’t recommend it for complete beginners studying alone. Not only does it not use any English, but you start off with some fairly long texts.
Strokes International’s Danish course might seem a little old-fashioned – and we’re not talking about the vocabulary. You’ll need to download it onto your computer before you can use it. Despite that, it seems to be a fairly thorough and effective course.
Bluebird Languages has several short, free video clips you can watch. It has a strong focus on speaking and listening, but we found some mistranslations and the occasional grammatical error.
Sundhedsdansk is designed to help people new to Denmark understand the healthcare system and learn extremely basic medical vocabulary and phrases. It seems too superficial and is all in Danish, so we’d recommend pairing it with further word lists, a dictionary, and flash cards. Be warned that at times it seems more concerned with teaching you to wash your hands and use a handkerchief than with how to communicate with a medical professional.
You’ll also find some Danish courses on Udemy. Since Udemy is just a marketplace, the depth, teaching style, and quality of the courses can vary greatly. Make sure to read the syllabus and reviews before you sign up for one.
That being said, if you’re looking for a quick, fun, gamified language app, you’ve got a lot to choose from – and some of these Duolingo competitors, while less well-known, might be a better choice for you.
When we compared Memrise and Duolingo, we felt Memrise was slightly better for more serious students while still being fun for beginners. It also has community-made Danish courses on everything from numbers to grammar. In fact, you’ll even find a couple on Duolingo’s Danish course.
Looking for another Duolingo-esque option, but with a few more features? Try Ling. We’re a fan of the native audio (unlike Duolingo’s text-to-speech automated audio), as well as its slightly more well-rounded approach to learning a language. Even so, we think it’s probably best suited to beginners.
Once upon a time, DanskABC was probably a great resource. It’s reasonably priced, designed for students with some basic Danish knowledge, and has a wide range of materials. However, it relies completely on Adobe Flash Player. If you’ve already got some basic Danish knowledge, we think you’ll be better off trying out some of the other upper-beginner courses we’ve mentioned, such as Danish Her&Nu or DanishClass101.
The same goes for Online Dansk. It looks fairly promising, and despite being Danish-only, it’s still beginner-appropriate. Hopefully, they’ll redo the course without Adobe Flash Player in the near future. Until that happens, we’d choose one of the other courses on our list.
Moving on from courses that are just technologically outdated, there are some that we can’t recommend because they have a poor educational foundation, contain numerous errors, and in our opinion, are more likely to leave you frustrated and demotivated than speaking Danish.
As for Language101, it’s eye-wateringly expensive and left us frustrated and overwhelmed. It’s also set up in such a way that beginners have to start off by constantly marking their attempts to speak Danish as “wrong” – something that seems masochistic and extremely demotivating to us.
Ever found yourself ordering toast for breakfast, even though you don’t really like toast, just because it’s the only word on the menu that you understand?
That’s where flash cards, world lists, and vocabulary games can come in handy. They’ll soon get you saying grød (porridge), blødkogte æg (soft-boiled egg), and appelsinjuice (orange juice, not apple) instead.
You might also like the Simply Learn app from Simya Solutions. We think it’s a pretty good app, but it probably wouldn’t be our first choice. Firstly, it only has half as many words as Drops for you to learn. Secondly, it’s from the same team who built Ling, which we mentioned above. Since Ling also teaches some basic grammar, reading, and writing, we’d probably pick that above Simply Learn.
Looking to also test your reading comprehension and word recall? Try Clozemaster. It will show you a series of Danish sentences, and you’ll have to fill in the gap with the correct word. If you understand Danish pretty well but can’t remember words when speaking, this could be helpful. Bear in mind that there’s no structure, so the sentence difficulty will vary. We’ve reviewed it in detail here.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re learning Danish through English, Somalian, or Vietnamese: Lexin Billedtema has themed vocabulary for you. The only requirement is that you know the name of your language in Danish, as the initial page is Danish only.
Once you’ve clicked on the right language, you’ll be taken to a table of contents in your own language. Click on a theme to see labeled illustrations. You can then switch the labels between Danish and your own language, and listen to audio recordings. There’s no inbuilt way to practice output or drill the language, so you’re best off making your own flash cards.
If you’re vacationing in Denmark or going on a business trip, and not actually looking to master the language, uTalk could be a good option. It contains phrases on topics ranging from shopping and directions to military peace and going skiing. We like that all the phrases have been recorded by native speakers. However, if you’re the type of person who gets frustrated at not scoring 100%, this might not be the app for you – some of the memory games are pretty hard.
Loecsen contains 17 themed word lists. We like how much control it gives you over how you drill them, not to mention the way it tracks which words you struggle with.
LingQ might appeal to you if you’ve already mastered a lot of the basic vocabulary, or you’re regularly reading a lot in Danish. You can look up words while reading texts, and the app will automatically add them to a list and nudge you to review them. While we think it’s a helpful reading tool, we find the review system slightly disorganized.
Sometimes the best flash cards and word games, however, are the ones you’ve made yourself. And while some people might find pen-and-paper versions are the most effective ones, more aural learners – or people who simply don’t want to carry a large pack of flash cards around with them – might prefer to use an app.
Anki will let you create your own flash cards or download someone else’s shared deck. For example, this one is well rated and has over 8,000 cards. We like that you can add audio and pictures to the flash cards, as well as how Anki adjusts to how difficult you find a particular word or phrase.
For many students, grammar is the most frustrating, confusing, and fiddly part of studying a language. And while studying just grammar can be a boring way to learn a language, sometimes, you need to review a grammatical concept or do some exercises to check that you’ve understood it correctly.
Try Basby. Whether it’s word order, declension, or any other aspect of grammar, this website contains English-language explanations along with some brief exercises.
Still struggling? Vores Fællessprog is more superficial than Basby. However, we found the explanations to be more accessible. Click the buttons at the bottom of the screen to be quizzed on the content in a pop-up window.
A textbook can give structure to your studies and will normally include plenty of exercises. Whether you study alone or with a teacher, it can also help you measure your progress and stay motivated. We would recommend getting some additional speaking practice, however, and it’s worth bearing in mind that most textbooks teach slightly formal language.
If you like a lot of exercises, Complete Danish: Beginner to Intermediate might be a good starting place for you. The audio files are available from their website.Colloquial Danish is another decent option if you’re just looking to learn the basics. Don’t forget to download the audio recordings.
Despite its name, Beginner’s Danish can be a bit challenging if you’re starting from zero. This might be a better option if you’ve been studying Danish for a little while, perhaps with apps and podcasts, and are now looking for something to give you structure.
For upper beginner and intermediate students, Danish Tutor: Grammar and Vocabulary Workbook is a highly praised textbook with plenty of exercises.
The Ultimate Danish Phrasebook is designed to teach you more natural Danish than most phrasebooks, with lines like “it was fashionable when my mother was young” and “let’s take it easy.” Whether you find it useful or a gimmick will likely depend on your level of Danish.
When it comes to learning Danish, YouTube has one very big advantage: you’ll get plenty of practice at listening to how words are pronounced. Here are some of the ones that most impressed us.
On Danish Mastery, you’ll find over 300 videos. A lot of them are members-only content, but there are still enough free ones that it’s worth checking out. Besides, the premium packages are affordably priced, so if you really like these videos, it could be worth the investment.
David Jørgensen has a wide range of videos teaching you Danish. Bear in mind that almost no English is used, not even for the video names.
You’ll also find some of the courses and apps we’ve already mentioned have their own YouTube channels. DanishClass101, for example, has playlists dedicated to level-appropriate listening comprehension exercises, as well as themed playlists and their quick-and-simple Danish in Three Minutes series.
What’s the first Danish author you can think of? If you said anyone other than Hans Christian Andersen, we’re impressed. Yet while Den lille havfrue (The Little Mermaid) isn’t a bad choice for your first book, there’s plenty more to Danish literature than this sad little love story.
You can legally download free children’s books in Danish from Children’s Books Forever. Alternatively, if you’re looking for something accessible yet still designed for adults, try bilingual readers.Learn Danish with Starter Stories: Interlinear Danish to English contains literal word-by-word translations of six different stories. The authors have also published Learn Danish with Beginner Stories, Learn Danish with Short Stories, and Learn Danish with The Little Mermaid. Short Stories in Danish for Beginners is a slicker option than Interlinear Books. You won’t get the literal word-by-word translation, but rather a short story, summary (in Danish), word list, and set of comprehension-based questions.
Ready to challenge yourself with books designed for fluent, adult speakers?
Fans of Nordic noir and detective novels will probably like Jussi Adler-Olsen. Plus, you’ll find reading his novels gives you a good conversation-starter – he was voted “Favorite Author of the Danes” three years running, after all.
For a more literary (and slightly spooky) novel, try Celestine by Olga Ravn. This unsettling novel about a woman obsessed with a ghost has been praised for its beautiful metaphors and language.
Jakob Ejersbo is considered one of Denmark’s modern literary giants, known for his gritty and realistic novels. Try Eksil, which explores the relation between European expats and locals in Tanzania, or Nordkraft.
If you’d like something a little more escapist, it’s worth giving the historical novel Vi, de druknede by Carsten Jensen a read.
Podcasts are a win-win option: you get to practice your listening with material that you find interesting. And you can do it while you’re jogging, commuting, cooking, or doing whatever you want to.
If you’re a foodie, Så længe det kan spises might be a good choice for you. Each episode is short – or “bite-sized,” as the podcast’s creators like to say – and takes place in a different Danish restaurant.
Third Ear is a Danish podcast so popular that one of its episodes was signed up for a cinema adaptation. Its serialised stories and cliffhangers make it an entertaining option. Bear in mind that even though the podcast is in Danish, one of the co-hosts is famous for his British accent.
Love debates, ethics, and philosophy? Try Mads & Monopolet. Since they cover a wide variety of topics, you’re bound to find something interesting.
Harddisken is no longer updated, but techies might find its back catalogue of episodes interesting.
If none of these podcasts appeal to you (or you’ve already binge-listened to them all), try searching for something more to your tastes on DR. There are plenty of podcasts to choose from.
From natural phrasing to Danish culture, there’s a lot you can pick up from watching a TV show or movie. Plus, it will simultaneously challenge your listening skills and give you a chance to unwind.
You can watch Danish-language TV shows via DR or, of course, Netflix. If you’re using Netflix, try combining it with the Chrome plugin Language Learning With Netflix. It gives you greater control over the subtitles, which we think is particularly helpful when you’re ready for Danish-language ones.
If you’re a fan of the crime genre, try Broen or Forbrydelsen. The political drama Borgen has great characterization and a gripping plot. Applaus explores an actress’ relationship with addiction and her children. Looking for something more lighthearted? Watch the romantic comedy Italiensk for begyndere.
Listening to Danish-language music will get you spending more time immersed in Danish and introduce you to additional vocabulary. Plus, whether you’re into electronic music or metal, you’ll find something you like in Denmark’s eclectic music scene.
The quickest way to find artists you’ll like is probably to listen to playlists. Try this Danish Hits playlist on Spotify. Alternatively, search for a genre-specific one, such as Danish Rap or The Sounds of Danish Pop.
Reading the news in Danish will also get you learning new vocabulary. Perhaps even more importantly, it will help you make small talk, stay up to date on current affairs in Denmark, and understand how new policies affect you.
DR Ligetil intentionally uses easy-to-understand Danish, so it’s a great place to start. As you become more confident with Danish, you can then try other news sites, such as Berlingske, Ekstra Bladet, Politiken, BT, News, and SN. You can also listen to Danish radio.
Danish might sound challenging. The pronunciation can seem incomprehensible. And the lack of Danish learning resources could be off-putting. Yet once you get started learning Danish, you’ll discover that not only are there many opportunities to practice it, but it’s a surprisingly rewarding language to learn.
Nothing beats the feeling of making a new Danish-speaking friend, reading a Danish-language book, or making Danes laugh with your witty jokes for the very first time.
Held og lykke! Best of luck.
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