Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Danish Language Council offers the term 'new Dane' instead of 'bilingual' to describe Danish residents with immigrant backgrounds

Copenhagen Post:

Calling a spade a spade can be difficult when no one agrees what it is. Linguists, scholars, and politicians are currently racking their brains to come up with a handy term to describe the country's inhabitants with immigrant backgrounds, without sounding either offensive or politically correct to the point of ambiguity.

Four experts in the Danish language have urged the country's journalists and politicians to stop using the word 'bilingual' to term people of foreign origins, as its correct meaning is something completely different.

Daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten reported that one of the professors even suggested that the word 'perker', the Danish equivalent of 'darkie', should replace 'bilingual'. It encompassed the racial, cultural, and linguistic differences between the country's immigrant population and born and bred Danes, the professor said.

Niels Davidsen-Nielsen, chairman of the Danish Language Council, a government organ surveying and directing the development of the language, agreed that 'bilingual' was a silly term in this context.

''Bilingual' is a strange, indirect term, which focuses on linguistic aspects. I could claim to be 'bilingual' because I've worked with English my entire life, and some of the people described as 'bilingual' really only speak one language,' he said, adding that real 'bilinguals' where to be found among Canada's English-French speakers and Belgium's Flemish-French speakers.

Nielsen said one of the best terms he had come across was 'new Dane', as it was neutral and actually described the group in question.

Among other terms suggested by scholars for the Ministry of Education are 'migrant children', 'minority children', and the controversial 'perker', while others have suggested the term 'linguistically disadvantaged'.

Nielsen said the last term sounded too problematic, and 'perker' was a derogatory term.

Professor Henrik Galberg Jacobsen of the University of Odense said he agreed that 'new Danes' was probably the most acceptable word.

'Some people, however, may say that the people in question aren't Danes, while others might say that they are just regular Danes. It can be criticised from both sides,' he said.

The newspaper said it would not use the term, as it was too politically correct. It would continue to describe people as being of 'Turkish or Pakistani origin', as it had up until now.

Unfortunately, many of these "new Danes" continue to engage in old customs such as rape and honor killings.

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