Language school for refugees
Learn more about the three Danish courses and their significance
At language centres, there are three different Danish courses available, and you may not decide yourself which one you will take. You are invited to a meeting with an advisor and will be enrolled in the Danish course that the advisor deems most appropriate. If you have almost no schooling, you start on Danskuddanelse 1 (lit. trans. Danish Education 1, hereafter referred to as DU1), if you have some educational background on DU2 and if you have a longer education, on DU3.
This isn’t always the case, however. A teacher from Afghanistan, should for example have gone to DU3, but went to DU1. She had many problems, she was ill and her medication caused problems with her memory. She often spoke with her teachers about transferring to DU2, but she did not want to.
A smart girl from Morocco, who had never gone to school and who couldn’t read or write should have gone to DU1, but she was young and sharp and she ended up taking DU2. It is possible to transfer to a different Danish course than the one you begin on, but your teachers, and the local council – who pay for the education – must agree to this.
The three Danish courses are based on different content and difficulty. They also give the participant access to different entitlements. If you pass DU2, you can get a bonus on top of your integration allowance. DU3 is a requirement when applying for Danish citizenship. Currently, in order to get a permanent residency visa, you must pass Prøve i dansk 1 (the final test of DU1), but the government have presented a proposal to raise the requirement to passing DU2.
As the placement in one of the three courses depends of your educational background from your home country, the system provides limited options of rising above the level you arrive with. Even a vocational education in Denmark requires DU3, which you will only be enrolled in if you have an education from your home country. Roughly said: to become a mechanic or a SOSU assistant in Denmark, you need to be an engineer or a professor from Syria.
– is for participants who are not familiar with the Latin alphabet, or who are unfamiliar with any alphabet. On DU1, you learn how to read and write, and are taught a practical Danish, that can be used in daily life, for example, at the doctor, in kindergarten or at the workplace. It is not sufficient to allow access to further study. If you wish to continue learning after the course, you have to enrol at FVU (Improvers Adult Education), where Danish courses at a higher level are on offer.
Yasmeen is a refugee from Syria. She didn’t have much schooling in Syria and is also deeply affected by her flight to refuge. In her homeland, she helped on the family’s farm. Yasmeen was placed on DU1 and has been attending the course for almost 3 years. She works hard to learn the Danish language – to read, write, listen and speak. She has twelve hours Danish lessons a week. Since starting the course, she has also taken various work experience positions. Her final work experience position ended with her being offered regular work as a cleaner.
If Yasmeen wishes to take an education, she will have to take all four levels at FVU and 9th grade in VUC. Under the rules which are likely to be implemented soon, she is not entitled to permanent residency even if she passes the exam from DU1, and she will not be entitled to apply for Danish citizenship either.
– is the Danish course for participants with a limited educational background and whose goal is to be active on the labour market. You learn a language that can be used for the majority of jobs, but of course also in daily life. DU2 focuses on the four areas of proficiency: reading, writing, listening and spoken language. The course material is based on information concerning Danish culture and society, including labour market. DU2 gives, like DU1, no access to Danish educations, not even vocational schools. Here you need to take FVU and pass step 4 first.
Anastasie has been reunified with a refugee from Congo. In her own country, she worked as an office clerk. She goes to Danish four times a week, twelve hours in all. Anastasie has no job, but twice a week she works as a volunteer in a second-hand shop. Anastasie will soon have been taking DU2 for 3 years, and expects to pass the final exam soon.
When Anastasie has been in Denmark for long enough, and been financially independent, she will be able to apply for permanent residency. She will not be eligible for Danish citizenship.
– is aimed towards giving access to further education, or providing sufficient proficiency in Danish to use an education you already have from another country. You learn a Danish with a good foundation in grammar, and are trained to construct long sentences, both written and orally. DU3 concludes with Prøve i Dansk 3 after module 5, and if you get high marks you can continue to Studieprøven (The Higher Danish Education Exam) after module 6. Studieprøven is required in order to study further at university, technical and vocational college, or a university college, if you can also fulfil the other requirements.
Roger is a refugee here in Denmark. He is the husband of Anastasie. He has a BA in Public Administration from his own country. He worked for various NGOs before he came to Denmark. In Denmark, he was placed on DU3. He goes to Danish lessons four times a week, twelve hours in total. Roger has no job, but is supplementing his Danish education with FVU Danish at the local VUC (Adult Education Centre).
When he has passed Prøve i Dansk 3, he hopes to take the Studieprøve, as he would like to continue his academic studies here in Denmark. This is possible, if he gets an average of 10 in Prøve i Dansk 3. Studieprøven teaches Danish on an academic level, as well as providing general study skills.
When Roger has been in Denmark for long enough, and been financially independent, he can apply for permanent residency, and later for Danish citizenship, so long as he meets the other criteria.
Choice of school and lessons
Language education for refugees is financed by the local council, under the Programme for Integration, and they typically have 3 x 4 hours of lessons per week. They cannot choose which language school they attend – and some local councils have agreements with language schools located outside of their own districts. There is great disparity in terms of the finances of the various language schools and therefore also a difference in terms of how many hours teaching you can be offered and how many other participants there are in a class. Sometimes, language teaching will be combined with work experience placements.
The majority will complete their Danish education within three years, but there is a possibility to continue for up to five years. Some refugees wish to have more lessons and learn Danish faster, but this is rarely possible. Not all students will actually have all the modules they should have, and quite a few have to wait for several months after arrival to the municipality before they can start.
The Danish Association for Education (Uddannelsesforbundet) has recently released recommendations for a better integration effort, recommending more intensive teaching with 18 hours per week during the first 6 months before refugees enter the labour market, and after this a combination of school and job training.
You can see examples of previous exam materials for all three educations here.
You must have passed Prøve i Dansk 3 (or a similar level exam) in order to apply for Danish citizenship. You can take the exam, without attending the lessons, if you pay for it yourself. However, the majority who take the exam without attending the lessons fail the exam, as it is very difficult. You can also apply for citizenship with Prøve i Dansk 2, if you have lived in Denmark for many years and have had employment for the majority of that time. Finally, you can also apply for a dispensation if serious illness or handicap prevents you from completing the Danish course.
Exam A1 and A2
Foreigners, who have been reunified with their spouse, must take an exam known as A1, after their come to Denmark. This exam can be taken at two places in Denmark – Vestegnens Sprogcenter in Glostrup and Vejle Sprogcenter in Vejle.
The exam has three parts. Firstly, you must answer some questions concerning yourself, e.g. what is your name? You must then answer some further questions with either yes or no, and finally, some questions based on finding the correct image.
You can see the test here.
You must take the test within 6 months. You may take the test again, if you make mistakes the first time.
Within 15 months, you must have taken exam A2. If you take this, you can be paid back some of the money that was paid as a guarantee, when applying for reunification.