Do you speak "pizza-Danish"?
If so, Danish politician Alex Ahrendtsen would like you to stop. According to the Local, "pizza-Danish" – or rather, "pizza-Dansk" in Danish – is a phrase used to describe the language spoken in pizzerias. Specifically, it refers to a mixture of Danish and other languages often used by immigrants in the country.
"It's pizza-Danish," Ahrendtsen explained to Danish broadcaster DR this week. "It's just because they can not figure out how to properly talk Danish."
Ahrendtsen, a member of parliament for the Danish People's Party (DF), proposes that the government needs to step in to both prevent "pizza-Danish" from spreading and preserve the future of regular Danish. "Without the Danish language we are no longer Danes," Ahrendtsen told the daily Berlingske, explaining that he hopes the Danish Language Council, a body that monitors the development of the Danish language, can step in to regulate the Danish language.
For Ahrendtsen, the future of the Danish language appears to be of particular concern. Earlier this summer, he made a proposal to tax the use of English words in advertising. "If you use English in an advertisement, it should cost a little more," Ahrendtsen told political Web site Altinget in June. "We can not forbid them to advertise in English, but we can get them to think about it by hitting them in the wallet." While the proposal made headlines, another senior DF party member quickly stepped in to suggest this was not the party's proposed policy.
Anxiety about the future of your language is not unique to Denmark, of course, nor are government measures designed to preserve the purity of the language. France has long fought to prevent the spread of the dreaded "Franglais" – a mixture of English and French that can often be nonsensical in both languages – and promote the use of the French language both domestically and abroad, with sometimes mixed results. Famously, the "Toubon Law" required that 40 percent of songs played on French radio should be French language.
The situation is a little more stark in Denmark. Unlike Britain or France, Denmark's colonial legacy did not spread its language. Presently, estimates suggest that less than six million people around the world speak Danish. The vast majority of these people live in Denmark, but there are Danish speakers in some other parts of the world, including Southern Schleswig in northern Germany where the language has minority status.
Given the relatively small audience, foreigners might wonder why they should bother to learn Danish at all – especially given that Danes are considered among the best non-native speakers of English in the entire world. One recent study by the Academic Cooperation Association (ACA) found that 38 percent of courses in Danish universities were taught in English, the most of any non-English speaking European country in the survey.
The debate about "pizza-Danish" touches on something more than simple linguistic nostalgia, however. The word refers to the languages and Danish spoken by Middle Eastern immigrants to the country ("but what about afternoon tea-Danish, croissant-Danish, and all the others?" one Twitter user pondered). The party Ahrendtsen belongs to, the DF, promotes a number of anti-immigration policies and has been called hard right populist by its critics. Since becoming the second largest party in the country after elections in June, it has pushed for border controls with the rest of Europe to be reinstated.
For now, the Danish Language Council has pushed back against Ahrendtsen's suggestion. "We who have worked with language for many years know that it is very very difficult to change language habits," Jørn Lund, chairman of the Danish Language Council, told DR. "We fight the battles that can be won."
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