• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

'More Swedish kids should learn Chinese'

The Local · 4 Dec 2012, 12:13

Published: 04 Dec 2012 12:13 GMT+01:00

"China's political and cultural influence is increasing," Anna Neuman, political advisor to Education Minister Jan Björklund, told The Local.

In unveiling the plan, which tasks the National Education Agency (Skolverket) with developing a curriculum plan for teaching Mandarin, Björklund called Sweden's current focus on teaching European languages "outdated".

The agency is expected to deliver its proposed curriculum for both compulsory and high school students in 2013, in time for it to come into effect for the 2014/15 academic year.

"Because Mandarin uses symbols, we cannot expect students to advance as quickly in their studies as they do in for example French or German," Neuman said to explain the need for a new curriculum.

But it will likely be several more years before Mandarin is as common in Swedish schools as other foreign languages.

"Mandarin won't be available to Swedish students as widely as French, German and Spanish for about 10 to 15 years," Neuman explained.

Neuman added that more teachers will also have to be educated in order to meet future demand.

At present, Swedish sixth graders who chose a third language in addition to compulsory studies in English and Swedish get to chose from French, German or Spanish.

Spanish was introduced about 40 years ago.

The singular focus on Mandarin, rather than languages spoken in other emerging economies like Brazil or India, doesn't worry members of Björklund's staff.

"There are many other languages that one could take into consideration but China is the world's biggest country and the world's second-largest economy. It might soon be the largest economy," Neuman said.

At present, very few Swedish students have access to Mandarin studies, but teachers in the field report of an attitude change towards the language.

"From 2007 all the way up to 2009, parents would call me and say their kids couldn't take Mandarin because it was too hard," Meisang Fredmark, a consultant to principals who want to introduce Mandarin in their schools, told The Local.

"But nowadays, if a student wants to drop out, their parents instead call me to say they have convinced their child to continue."

"It's a clear attitude shift for the parents."

Fredmark was pleased with the government's announcement this week.

"It was expected and welcome. I'm glad they are intending to give Mandarin the same status as other languages," she said.

Story continues below…

In addition to consulting, Fredmark also teaches Mandarin to children as young as three.

She explained the youngsters often have "well-educated" parents who work for multi-national companies and are keen to introduce their kids to Mandarin at a young age.

She added, however, that her teenage pupils are motivated to learn Mandarin for other reasons.

"For the high school students, the motivation is more that they have to make career choices and they understand that knowing Mandarin will make them unique," Fredmark told The Local.

Ann Törnkvist

Follow Ann on Twitter here

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

21:25 December 4, 2012 by Peter1234
And next Swedish students should learn Somali or Persian?

I lived 4 years in China and I did not need Chinese, but I wonder very much how little is known about this country and how much ithe possibilities are overestimated by the Western countries. China is a developing country, nearly bankrupt (yes, bankrupt! believe it or not!), causing the West more headache than help. The education level is very low (also for political reasons), there is no legal security, understanding of quality is not existing and stealing intellectual property is not considered as something bad at all. Moral is very low and egoism is going to be a main characteristic of the people (also thanks to the one child policy) and corruption is everywhere.

Do you not think that learning Mandarin in such environment is wasting time and reources? I would much more like that our young generation learns to understand what is really going on in China. Our politicians, CEOs, etc. do not realise, that they are victim of a Chinese propaganda show when they are going there for there 2 day visits. You need to leave Beijing and Shanghai and stay for a while to realise that, what is happening in China is probably the biggest social disaster in the world.
22:35 December 4, 2012 by weilking
Peter1234, Stay in Europe, this is the planet only for you!
01:53 December 5, 2012 by Carbarrister
I have made many trips to China and agree with most of what Peter1234 says nevertheless China's influence will only increase over the next century. Millions of Chinese children are learning English as fast as they can but there is a billion more who will only speak Mandarin, Cantonese or one of the other dialects. They all share the same character set. I see no problem of teaching Chinese but proficiency will be a challenge.
03:53 December 5, 2012 by JoeSwede
why not learn German.... that's our biggest trading partner.
Today's headlines
Sweden could bring back conscription in 2019
Swedish soldiers during an exercise. Photo: Lars Pehrson/SvD/TT

Sweden could see a return to compulsory military service less than a decade after the policy was scrapped, Swedish media report.

Video
World's best-ever goal celebration or epic fail?
Screenshot from video by Ettan Play.

You're looking at what may very well be the best and worst moment of this Swedish footballer's life.

Mum's the word for missing Swede
She was in one of these places. Photo: Per Knutsson/TT

She kept mum about her whereabouts, but her secret soon got out.

Why Swedes smashed charity donation record in 2015
Newly arrived asylum seekers stand in line at Malmö's Hyllie staton in November 2015. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Swedes boosted the coffers of charities last year to the tune of 19.4 billion kronor, a massive increase on the previous year.

Karolinska bosses say sorry over Macchiarini transplants
Italian surgeon Paolo Macchiarini. Photo: AP Photo/Journal Star, David Zalaznik

UPDATED: An investigation has looked into how Italian surgeon Paolo Macchiarini was able to carry out trachea operations at Karolinska University Hospital which sparked controversy after patients died.

'Overjoyed' Swedish snapper captures this shooting star
He caught a falling star. Photo: Johan Vilhelm Löfgren

Nice shot!

Video
What happens if you spend the night at Ikea?
Picture this but at night and without all the people. Photo: Heiko Junge/TT

Watch this video and find out. But don't even think about trying it in Sweden.

Cash alert! Last chance to deposit your old notes
Head to the bank if you've got any of these. Photo: Micke Larsson/TT

Bank it!

The Local List
Six tips for learning Swedish without even being in Sweden
A Swedish Midsummer party in New York. Photo: Johan Brunkvist/TT

The Local's intern, Jack Schofield, taught himself Swedish from his home in the UK. Here's how he did it.

Ikea threatens to shelve Russia growth plans
Everything Moscow. Photo: Maxim Murmur/AP

Will the Swedish furniture goliath retract its rubles?

Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
The Local Voices
Is Swedish bosses' ignorance keeping refugees out of jobs?
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
National
How good is Sweden for expat life?
Gallery
Property of the week: Landskrona, Skåne
Blog updates

23 August

A Summer in Sweden (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"For our first year here in Sweden we decided to have all our holidays in Sweden.…" READ »

 

22 July

After the horror, carry on regardless (Globally Local) »

"This time last week, we were just digesting the horror of the Nice killings, in which…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
Malmö to host global skateboard championship
Gallery
People-watching: August 26th-28th
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
Travel
What are Sherpas doing on Sweden's highest mountain?
Gallery
People-watching: August 24th
The Local Voices
'I want to be a businesswoman but I don’t care about money'
Sponsored Article
Five easy ways to travel more often
National
Experts: Gothenburg grenade blast is 'part of a cycle of violence'
Sponsored Article
Why you should learn to trade (and just how easy it is)
Gallery
Property of the week: Karlsborg
National
Why Sweden could change its criticised detention laws
National
Watch this dog's reaction when she tries Swedish fermented herring
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Gallery
People-watching: August 19th-21st
National
How to find student housing in Sweden
Sponsored Article
The mystique of Asia - in the middle of Stockholm
National
VIDEO: Swede films first Northern Lights of the season
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Gallery
People-watching: August 17th
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Society
Swedish population nears ten million
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
The Local Voices
This Syrian artist found love in a Swedish library
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
National
Sex pigs halt traffic after laser attack on Pokémon teens. Only in Sweden.
Gallery
Property of the week: Hammarby Sjöstad, Stockholm
Society
Drunk knight detained in Stockholm
National
Can you solve this Swede's strange Star Wars mystery?
Gallery
People-watching: August 12th-14th
National
Swedes cheer first snow of the season
Gallery
People-watching: August 10th
3,393
jobs available