Sweden criticized for lack of effort on minority languages

Sweden has been taken to task by the Council of Europe for a lack of progress in raising social awareness about and promoting educational programs in the country’s five national minority languages.

Nine years ago, Sweden signed on to the Council’s Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the Charter for Regional and Minority Languages.

Since then, Jews, Roma, Sami, Swedish Finns and residents of the Torne Valley (Tornedalers) were granted status as national minorities.

In addition, Finnish, all Sami dialects, Torne Valley Finnish (meänkieli), Romani, and Yiddish are recognized as national minority languages in Sweden.

According to the Council of Europe charter, Sweden is thus obliged to ensure proper instruction in the languages, as well as the ability for those who speak the language to participation in society.

For nearly a decade, the Council, Sweden’s National Schools Administration (Skolverket), and the Obmudsman against ethnic discrimination (DO) have criticized Sweden’s adoption of the convention’s and charter’s requirements.

Now an expert group from the Council of Europe has issued a new report pointing out remaining shortcomings in Sweden’s treatment of minority languages.

In the report, Sweden is “strongly” encouraged to find “innovative solutions” to train more instructors to each Romani.

In addition, there ought to be more instruction in Yiddish, especially in Malmö, Gothenburg, and Stockholm, according to the report.

The Council also wants to see more preschool-level instruction in Sami, Torne Valley Finnish, and Finnish, as well as a more highly developed teacher training programme for instructors in Sami and Torne Valley Finnish.

Public sector employees ought to also be encouraged to attain higher proficiency in Sami, and to use it on the job.

Sweden is also criticized for not having the country’s laws and important societal information translated into each of the minority languages.

Also important, according to the Council, is an increased effort on the part of Swedish authorities to ensure that Sami and Torne Valley Finnish newspapers are established.

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