On a recent trip to Denmark I visited the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde. This museum houses five Viking ships recovered from the bottom of the fjord; a pretty impressive display of Viking ship building and seafaring expertise. Possibly even more impressive is that the visit to the museum begins with a short film about the technological aspects of recovering the ships from the seabed.
Why so impressive? The film is entirely in English, with no Danish subtitles, and entirely filmed, produced and edited by a UK company, courtesy of BBC archive material. The visitors to the museum appeared to be exclusively Danish, apart from myself and my two companions, yet they obviously found it completely unremarkable that the introductory film should make no concessions whatsoever to native Danes who do not speak English. Do such people exist?
It was yet another example of the extraordinary influence of the language of the United Kingdom. It is standard across Europe to find English in use as the universal language for all foreign visitors. This was the first time I have seen it used to the total exclusion of the native language. How lucky are we to be native speakers of English? I have seen adverts in the Glasgow Underground asserting that learning Gaelic could be the route to improved job prospects. With the world domination of English I find this assertion hard to believe.
But it isn’t just our language which has conquered the world. Our culture is very dominant, too. The introductory film was a completely UK production, based on BBC excerpts. I am not convinced that a similar museum in the UK would turn to another country to make such a documentary. Our creative skills are widely admired and the BBC is viewed as a reliable source of information. Presumably the Danes disagree with Nicola Sturgeon on the merits of the BBC?
By Carole Ford