Initiative helps residents ‘know their council’, regardless of language
New website offers practical information in seven foreign languages; opponents say money could have been better spent From CPR-numbers to daycare placements, from how to register a new business to leisure opportunities, many resident services are administered through Denmark’s 98...
From CPR-numbers to daycare placements, from how to register a new business to leisure opportunities, many resident services are administered through Denmark’s 98 local councils.
But for a newcomer to the country, navigating all the information can be difficult if not downright impossible, because the details about these vital services are generally found only in Danish, with limited information in English – if you’re lucky.
But thanks to a new initiative by Copenhagen Council, non-Danish speakers now have access to the trove of practical information on resident services.
The council has spent 100,000 kroner to develop the website ‘Kend Din Kommune’ (Know Your Council) a guide to resident services made available in Urdu, Arabic, Farsi, French, Bosnian, Turkish and Somali.
The council hopes the initiative will open up possibilities for all residents, regardless of their ability to read or speak Danish.
“Ethnic minority citizens can, because of language barriers and unfamiliarity with the Danish system, have difficulty navigating the council’s many services,” Jacob Eberholst, head of the council’s integration and employment administration division, told The Copenhagen Post.
“[The website] builds a bridge between the council’s services and the citizens' individual needs and ensures the best communication possible for those citizens who have difficulties with the Danish language.”
Coming at a time when the political debate around immigration has once again reached a fevered pitch, and amid calls for tougher language requirements, the initiative appears to be a fresh of breath air.
Not everyone, however, is impressed. The Danish People’s Party’s (DF) Carl Christian Ebbesen, a Copenhagen city councilor , told Urban newspaper that the council is “once again wasting money on projects that don’t integrate”.
If you make a website in the mother tongue, you don’t encourage people to learn Danish,” he told Urban. “And to only make it in seven languages discriminates against those who don’t speak those languages, so there isn’t equal access.”
Ebbesen said that the money spent on the website would have been better used by applying it to free language courses.
But for Eberholst, ‘Know Your Council’ is an important aspect of the council’s new policy of inclusion.
“This website represents the basic attitude of the new Copenhagen inclusion policy, ‘Engage in the City’”, he said. “Copenhageners must be treated equally, but not necessarily identically. If someone needs extra help to get involved, we have to make sure they are helped.”
“[We are] often criticized for not delivering services that are tailored to a specific group of citizens or individual needs, but instead providing services to 'all' that benefit 'nobody',” he continued.
“The truth is that Copenhagen is bursting with special services, special initiatives and tailored interventions. The challenge is therefore not always new services, initiatives or interventions – it is that the council often fails to inform citizens about these services.”
While the ‘Know Your Council’ website is currently not available in English, the entirety of Copenhagen Council’s website has been translated to English. The council indicated, however, that if there was a demand for an English version of the ‘Know Your Council’ service, they would consider adding it.
“The council’s ambition is to increase opportunities for non-Danish-speaking residents - including English-speaking,” Eberholst said.
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