Saturday, 17 January 2009

Languages in Greenland

Street scene, Nuuk. Copyright Margaret Sharrow, 2009

'So what language do they speak in Greenland?' people ask me. The answer is: depends who, and where. Most people speak Greenlandic (Kalaallisut), an Inuit language similar to some of the languages of the northern native people in Canada, which is after all only thirty-odd miles away (if you're up beyond Qaanaaq). As a part of the Kingdom of Denmark, Danish is the other official language, especially of the large number of Danes working in the Danish Home Rule government.

Walking down the street, you will mainly hear Greenlandic spoken. As a visitor you will be addressed in English in the tourist offices, ferry offices and by Air Greenland employees - but not necessarily in the post office or in shops.

A propos of nothing, according to Wikipedia, 'Qaanaaq is the world's most northerly palindrome.'