U.S. English Foundation Research




Language Research

4. Minority groups: To what extent are minority groups in this country disadvantaged by their language?

Updated (October 2003)


In Denmark regions and municipalities enjoy far-reaching autonomy. They are responsible for education, healthcare and they, though only to a certain extent, support regional business.

In the historical region of Northern Slesvig (the Danish region of Sønderjylland) the German minority constitutes about 6-8 percent of the overall population (253,000).

Currently, with a planned enlargement of municipalities and regions that will join the three southern regions together, it is very unlikely that the German minority will gain any political influence since it will represent only 2.0-2.5 percent of the region’s overall population.

According to Gösta Toft, a secretary general of the Slesvigsk Party, in the best case, they will have two representatives at a municipality level; in the worst case, they will have none. At present the party has seven representatives in municipalities and one at a regional level.

The German minority representatives are afraid that their political influence will vanish so they have recently approached the Commission of Structure that is responsible for drafting the plan.1

The situation is different on the other side of the Danish-German border for the Danish minority living in Germany in the province of Schleswig-Holstein. Here the minority party needs only two percent of votes to obtain a seat in the parliament of the province, while German parties have to obtain at least five percent.

Source: Eurolang News, Copenhagen, October 17, 2003, by Brigitte Alfter,

1 The plan will be presented in early January but a political decision is expected only at the end of next 2004. The next local and regional elections are to be held in autumn 2005.

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