• Sweden's news in English

Agency slams immigrant language class failings

The Local/dl · 29 Dec 2011, 09:30

Published: 29 Dec 2011 09:30 GMT+01:00

“It's regrettable that municipalities don't prioritize the possibility for new arrivals to start their education as soon as possible,” Erica Sahlin, a project leader with the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen), said in a statement.

“The sooner one can start with Swedish, the easier it is for one to get established both in the labour market and in society in general.”

Around half of the 39 municipalities recently reviewed by the agency suffered from one shortcoming or another when it came to their ability to offer new arrivals a place in Swedish language classes specifically designed for immigrants.

According to Sweden's establishment reform laws, which came into force about a year ago and are designed to help ease immigrants' transition into Swedish society, newly arrived refugees should have the option of beginning Swedish language studies within one month of applying for a spot in Swedish for immigrants (Svenskundervisning för invandrare – SFI) language classes.

Municipalities are also urged to cooperate with local employment offices in order to allow immigrants to combine their studies with work or other measures meant to help them enter the job market more quickly.

In addition, Sweden's school law also stipulates that other immigrants should be able to start languages classes within three months of being registered as a resident in a given municipality.

But the inspectorate found that eight of the 39 municipalities it reviewed failed to offer new arrivals a spot in Swedish language classes within one month.

Eight municipalities also failed to abide by the three month time limit called for by the schools law.

Common reasons for municipalities' failure to abide to the time limits included office closures during the summer holidays or the fact that classes were only started a few times a year.

Swedish language class enrollment could also be delayed because students' children were unable to start preschool due to a lack of available spots.

Story continues below…

The agency also criticized 12 municipalities for haphazard management of their Swedish for immigrants programme and the fact that information about SFI is often only publicized in Swedish.

“Municipalities are obligated to ensure that those who have a right to enroll in SFI quickly get information about it; they should understand that it's a real possibility and that it's not something one should have to struggle to get information about,” Sahlin told Sveriges Radio (SR).

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Your comments about this article

10:16 December 29, 2011 by johan rebel
Oh, for crying out loud! Anybody knows that the best way to learn a language is thorugh immersion. Well, if you have "fled" to Sweden the opportunities for immersion are limitless. If you prefer to lock up your womenfolk 24/7 with only Al Jazeera for company, then no amount of SFI will help.
10:32 December 29, 2011 by AHA
A wise man, in the 4th century, said: "WHEN IN ROME DO AS THE ROMANS DO". That included, be active and learn their language. Otherwise you´ll have only yourself to blame.
10:50 December 29, 2011 by bourgeoisieboheme
As an immigrant, I took it upon myself to learn Swedish, make Swedish friends, etc. Plenty of books, internet resources, etc. to learn the language. Problem is there is lack of economic incentive for immigrants to learn Swedish. The government provides housing, food, money, etc. so why learn a language to enable you to work?
10:56 December 29, 2011 by icedearth
@ johan .........................
11:40 December 29, 2011 by Tamm O'Shanter
I began learning Swedish BEFORE I came over, taking private lessons

I did look at the SFI courses but honestly thought they were amateurish (in my area anyway) - with frequent checks in progress because new arrivals to the class meant we had to re-cover stuff already done. In the end I left and, like bourgeoisieboheme, took it on myself to learn more.

A big help is to take out a subscription to a quality Swedish newspaper, and get a dictionary !!
11:54 December 29, 2011 by eabos
Just about all Swedish websites need work to make them better for non swedish speakers. Most of them if they do have a translated page it is only the home page and that is it, including SFI who cannot even put up a page with there location and a little bit of info on signing up in my local area. This can make traveling thrrough sweden difficult as well so therefore losing out on tourism dollars.

It is true some immigrants do not seem to want to be immersed into the society here which is a shame but there is still plenty of work to do to make it easier for those that do.
12:18 December 29, 2011 by flintis
What a load of old bull, if they wanted to learn the lingo they would, just the same as if they were willing to integrate.
12:54 December 29, 2011 by shinnam
The SFI program needs to be overhauled. Right now it ia a waste tax money. It should be ran through immigration, not through the communes. If one speaks English there is little incentive to learn Swedish.Part of getting one's permanent residency should be to pass a Swedish B test, not just offer 10,000 SEK . One of the other problems with the SFI classes is that it has been privatized to the lowest bidders. Myself and others have experienced an SFI classes with 35+ students, no book and eight different teachers that didn't communicate with other teachers. On the other hand I am now attending SFI ran by Stockholm City, that is pedagogically sound well organized.

For those who commented that immersion being the best way to learn a language, that is a myth that has been well researched. Just goggle it. Yes, one does learn phrases and a good deal of slang, but grammar pronunciation mistakes become fossilized when in immersion. To this day, I have to stop my self from ordering Ja-Chi bimbim bap verses Jam-chi bimbim bap at a Korean restaurant ( penis rice verses tuna rice) as this mistake went uncorrected for the first 3 months of a ten year stay in Korea. I didn't learn the difference until I formally studied the language. Here, when ever I try to speak Swedish I don't corrected, the cashier at 7-11 just wants to take care of the next customer.

If the government of Sweden wants to encourage immigrants to learn Swedish they must re-vamp a system that has not done well with privatization and provide

real incentives to learn Swedish.
13:01 December 29, 2011 by bourgeoisieboheme
In response to eabos, I think it might be better if the swedish websites were NOT translated as it would force people to learn Swedish which is obviously what needs to be done. When I lived in France I HAD to learn French as there was no translations and people didn't speak english so it helped push me to learn quickly.
13:56 December 29, 2011 by godnatt
Many can't spell their name in their own language. Why would you expect them to learn this one?
14:05 December 29, 2011 by pb01
I must say that the system is flawed.

I came to Sweden with a job, and my partner has now been looking for work for over 4 months. All expect you to speak fluent Swedish.

We started in one kommun where it took around 2 months for the staff to finally offer a place. We moved to a rental in the next kommun 2 weeks later, and they will not start a new course until January 9th. So in total the kommuns have held up the SFI classes by over 4 months = no job, no wages, weeks of frustration.

The aim is to obtain a job and contribute to the local society, and unless businesses have intentions to hire non Swedish speaking nationals, then the language system requires a serious revamp. Perhaps some serious textbooks might be a good start instead of leaving it to commercial publishers with few takers.
14:35 December 29, 2011 by bourgeoisieboheme
Rosetta Stone has Swedish language program that is excellent, same program the US dept. of State uses to train foreign officers.
18:29 December 29, 2011 by Grokh
in sfi it was almost easier to learn arabic since it was the language i heard most.

no such thing as immersion or assimilation there, just a basic integration.
18:30 December 29, 2011 by fikatid
SFI should separate students according to their educational background. When you mix highly educated students with people with less education, it makes the learning so difficult. Not everyone has the same learning speed. Placement test doesn't do too much either as most new immigrants do not have any Swedish language background. Separating students by their education level would be better in that sense. It doesn't fix all issues but at least, it would be an improvement. Just imagine putting a student with university degree with someone who works in a farm all their lives in the same class. It won't help anyone.
20:10 December 29, 2011 by L.A.
The web offer a lot of free language courses EN-to-SE... is just the matter of looking for them instead waiting to be served on a silver plate... God Jul!
20:21 December 29, 2011 by Douglas Garner
I really like Shinnan's comments and ditto most of them.

Our SFI program in Gävle is pretty well staffed and managed, but there are so many things that COULD be done to make it better. More integration with native speakers, mentoring sessions, conseling in native language regarding study and work options, more work study opportunities, more extracurricular activities using the Swedish language... bl.a.

A lot of information and help was posted in Arabic while I attended, but nothing in English... so remained fairly clueless as to what was going on.
20:54 December 29, 2011 by jvtx3232
I just thought of a great idea. Now this might seem too "logical" but actually I like logical solutions.

One way to significantly reduce the burden of needing to teach new immigrants the Swedish language is to significantly curtail, if not eliminate altogether, the masses of refugees that are imported into the country.

Problem solved!
22:44 December 29, 2011 by Dimukas
Hello to all,

I am a two-years Master Student in Lund.

Just imagine they do not provide me with a Swedish course here!!!

I am shocked!!! My residence permit is for 10 months, that is meant I am not eligible for immigrant courses, and university provided me with courses only for money. And it is 3500 SEK per month!!! This is enough to buy monthly plane ticket to my home country and take courses here!!!

How it is possible!!! Spending two years in Sweden and learn only Tack så mycket. !!!
03:14 January 9, 2012 by dunce
Has it occurred to anyone that not learning the language gives them an excuse to stay on the dole forever.
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