• Sweden's news in English

Language-learning bonus 'unfair' to struggling immigrants

David Landes · 13 May 2009, 07:59

Published: 13 May 2009 07:59 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

In March, the Swedish government presented plans to offer bonuses as an incentive for students enrolled in Swedish for Immigrants (Svenska för Invandrare - SFI) courses to complete their studies faster.

Specifically, students who pass the highest level of SFI are eligible to receive up to 12,000 kronor ($1,500).

Initially, fifteen of Sweden’s 290 municipalities are set to pilot the new programme starting January 1st.

Among other municipalities, Stockholm is one hoping to be one of the first to try out the new language-learning bonus programme, according to the Dagens Nyheter (DN),

But the government’s attempt to encourage immigrants to get through their languages studies and out into the workforce more quickly has raised questions from teachers and students who question the rationale behind the proposal.

Annika Wall, an instructor for an intensive SFI course directed at college graduates, said that very few students have the ability to complete all SFI courses within a year, and those who do are motivated by other things than getting a few thousand kronor.

“They only thing they want is to get a job and start a life here,” Wall told DN.

“As I see things, this doesn’t solve any problems. Those who have difficulties and struggle for years aren’t going to be helped by the smartest students getting money.”

According to Wall, a better proposal would be to use the bonus money to arrange traineeships for new immigrants.

Madeleine Edström, a vice principal for SFI in Stockholm, is also concerned the bonus programme will lead to unnecessary divisions among students.

“There is a great risk that this will create an awkward environment and I know that many teachers are feeling pressure and expressing doubts. They have power over who will get money and who won’t, and that’s not a pleasant situation,” she said.

Even the students who are supposed to benefit from the SFI bonus have reservations.

“It won’t be fair. There are those who study as hard as they can, but they still don’t pass,” said SFI student Moshen Kiaei to DN.

Story continues below…

Fellow student Abbas Blash added that money isn’t the key to learning Swedish.

“The only way to really learn Swedish is to go out with Swedes. And that’s something you can’t buy with money,” he said.

Stockholm’s Social Welfare and Labour Division (Socialtjänst- och arbetsmarknadsnämnden) is expected to decide on Thursday whether or not Stockholm should participate in the SFI bonus pilot programme.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

08:33 May 13, 2009 by Nemesis
It will be interesting to see if this gives people the incentive to finish SFI.

I think this idea is worth a try.

Also the point that you need to go out with Swedes is spot on. The only way to leanr Swedish is through interation with Swedish people, not in ghettos of people from outside the country.
09:38 May 13, 2009 by Citrixme
question for the Swedish Gov, why they dont look for an alternative ? take another way with the immigrants ,most of them speaking English ,why they dont except them directly to the job market with the English language ? we are in 2009 ,and still the statistics showing the failer of SIF program and the biggest example we have today is Rösengord ! why we except iligal workers from Poland who dont know any language beside Polish and ignoring the immigrants ,then we are spending Billions in waste !! big question for the Gov??
09:44 May 13, 2009 by antoniolgj
Question for Citrixme... I think you mean "accept illegal" don't you?

Anyway I think Polish can go and live in Sweden legally, am I wrong?


"There are those who study as hard as they can, but they still don't pass"

Than mate you have chosen the wrong place to ask for asylum...
10:08 May 13, 2009 by peropaco
Nemesis, Swedes usually tend to hang with Swedes. Have you asked yourselft how come you dont see many foreigners hangin out in any bars or restaurants at Stureplan? It is simple; they dont allow them in... It doesnt matter how intelligent an immigrant is, he/she will have a hard time competing with the snos filled mouth farmer mentality of the Swedes. Sweden is a RACIST country and i feel sorry for the immigrants who would like to make a change....

Antoiolgj. Poles are here legally, according to the laws of the EU
10:12 May 13, 2009 by Citrixme
my friend am not asking for any thing simply am suggesting an idea plus for your information NO polish cant work here legally till they get permission which is not easy you should use your sixthsence in some thing creative for you and for your country best of luck in your thinking mate !!

plus ,question for you as you sound creative ,since when language is taking as a judgment for humans productivity "keep in mind not to talk about me as we agree you should use your extra thinking power about the topic " .

insted of spending Bilions again it would be better for the Gov and tax payers to use them in health and education ,and as the Gov. except the imigrants as they are so they should use them as they are ! make studies in them and see who WANT to learn ,so instead of Bilions it will be Milions and instead of waste of taxes which is not paid by Polish and others whom working illigaly they could use the imigrant in the labor market ,
10:14 May 13, 2009 by NewinSweden
I am new and I study Swedish at a Folk Universitetet.

I am a struggling student cos I am interest in using my professional talents in Sweden, but the programs for learning Swedish are just a waste of time and when you talk to the responsables at the university, they dont listen to you and keep in blaiming students. You can attend the courses for weeks without learning any new thing, The teachers doesnt care and all the efforts you have do end up in frustration. Honestly there is not a serious system. If i could win the Language-learning bonus I will definetly give it entirely to the Authorities with the purpose to improve the learning system and make people really benefit from a really good program, come on Everyone who has attend this courses know that what I am saying is the very other side of the coin that noone wants to see! and is REAL
10:15 May 13, 2009 by Citrixme
and for sure they are many jobs out there which you dont need more than Tack and Varsegood ,plus the Gov should look for the ability of the human to learn not all the humans has this ability and realy its completly waste of Money if we will consider teaching all humans language by force or by wat ever is a good thing ,instead i will use the other languages and i will make studies in the immigrants and reach for accurate statistics about whom able to learn ,hins its not language only we are talking in education in general ,don't convince me that if there are some humans whom dont know 1+1 equal what and his brain not able to simply calculate this how he will learn a language ?? many questions should be there before we go and talk about prizes and finishing programs within a year ,again Mr.antoniolgj,thanks for your comments ,and i believe that you are going to be a big help to the Gov as you have creative way of thinking and getting results by ur self ,
10:36 May 13, 2009 by davidwickstrom
There needs to be a better option. My problem with this program is that it doesn't account for the natural linguistic endowment of the students. When I was on exchange at Lund I took language classes with international students. As far as I could tell, none of us took the class in order to get a job in Sweden and we all had similar levels of motivation. But, it did not matter how hard one worked, the Germans were the best, the Brits/Canadians (anglos) followed, and those with romantic language backgrounds had the hardest time (except maybe the New Zealanders - who were pathetic). A system that rewards only the best is going to be heavily biased in favour or people with germanic backgrounds. Under this system Romantics, South Asians, etc are discriminated against no matter how hard they work in that first year.

I don't pretend to have a better solution. But I can see a waste of money when it is in front of me.
10:38 May 13, 2009 by amiga
I do not see any reason behind this proposal. Money cannot solve anything. I finished the SFI and got gymnasiet svenska B level within 1,5 years since I moved to Sweden. But I cannot even get a traineeship. I went to the course Yrkessvenska which the govt also put lots of investment on it. But again! My coach cannot help me to find a traineeship. Instead I was given classes of language training which is the same thing I have done before in SFI. So I do not see any reason why immigrants have to stuggle so much for the 12,000kr to get an umeployed and hopeless life again after 1-year SFI program.
10:48 May 13, 2009 by amira helenius
I have a bad experience with SFI , the teacher are very bad and they mix two levels together advance with beginners, and I felt lost coz the teacher was only talking to the advanced ones, and we go to hell.

I saw lots of refugee who stay in the SFI the maximum so they don't have to go to work and I knew they get money to study SFI and poor us , we got nothing but struggling hard.

So now they will pay them for 3 years SFI and then trying to get them out by paying them 12,000 kr???? What is this money will do in Sweden any way?? to pay one month rent and a bill??? it is a joke, they get paid much more as refugee while they study 3 years .

and by the way I knew that lots of these refugees work undertable as well , so they gets money from both sides, Do you think this is fair for us ? I mean we are not refugee and we are also sturggling with life , children, and get no help but this funny 1000 kr every month??
11:00 May 13, 2009 by DidiE
Germans have an advantage learning Swedish, as they are already used to three seperate types of noun forms and endings, so the Swedish noun endings seem pretty easy in comparison.

I would think that the bonus is here to encourage people to learn faster, and to avoid having newly arrived folks spend years in SFI. Those of us who have attended SFI probably all know at least one classmate who has been stuck at the same level for more than year. The money is not meant to be a direct bidrag to pay rent, etc- it's just meant to motivate you to get into Svenska som andra språk, etc. What's wrong with that?
11:17 May 13, 2009 by niunia
For Citrixme, just reading this forum without nerves and sow your low intelligent comment.. For your information - Hallo,Poland is in the EU and Polish can work , live here legally without permission! If Polish or other nation works here illegally there is only fault of Swedes hiring them and not paying taxes. I know a lot of Polish highly educated, very good professionals English, French, German speaking. Maybe you should change your environment, be more open for other people and stop living in your xenophobic hate.
11:36 May 13, 2009 by Citrixme
Thanks for your comments :)
12:51 May 13, 2009 by sealike
Ah! Finally ,I understand why they will not let me test,and we must wait until 6 months and I know the reason why they was angry in Ystad komvux.!!!

Just as "It won't be fair. There are those who study as hard as they can, but they still don't pass," said SFI student Moshen Kiaei to DN.

I also understand why I can not pass!!


13:11 May 13, 2009 by Stewie Griffin
Are they going to improve the teaching and learning conditions?

It sounds like they think the programme is great and the only problem is the student's lack of motivation... ie students don't learn because they don't want to.

Sounds like a great way to solve all the shortcomings of SFI...not.
13:16 May 13, 2009 by VikingHumpingWitch
I reckon it's a good idea except that, as Stewie mentions, it takes no account of the quality of the teacher which we're all aware can vary enormously, if accounts on here are anything to go by.
13:18 May 13, 2009 by tin tin
I currently attend SFI and i think its what you make of it, that will get you through the entire course. I clearly think the money incentive is completely wrong and will be miss used. Even if you're successful at completing the course and recieve the money... what next??? Doesn't assure you a job, or acceptance into swedish society. The money and learning the language does not go hand in hand, it quite obvious. The money should be used as incentive to business owners to hire people with language difficulties, enticing them to learn and integrate into society. The money benefits business owners in return creates jobs, integratiion people!!!! Sometimes it makes me think how things run in this country....????

I'v put my two cents worth in...
13:57 May 13, 2009 by elieli
The money should be use for something else,maybe to open more factories and job opportunities making sure that immigrants gets trainings and jobs after schooling.

The Govt.find other ways to encourage students.If not this will likely corrupt the system in the long run.
14:02 May 13, 2009 by DidiE
Jag har ett förslag- pratar man om SFI, ska man skriva på svenska. Annars är det klart-man har ingen rätt att prata om SFI, eller hur?
14:35 May 13, 2009 by LIndi
Well well well sweden and their langauage programe no one knows when it will end.

Its so sad that even the teacher hardly know when SFI finishes.I dont understand why the

teacher should choose when to write the exams.Can the government do something about

it as it has not been fair for people who have plans to go to university.You have to push the

teacher to have an exam.If you come here becoz of love at the age of 25 and plans to go

to university it takes ages and by the time u realize its too late.I was in a class where I

was not told I cant have the exams when i felt i was ready for it.
15:11 May 13, 2009 by gnhundu
The problem with the Swedish language is putting it into practise! Immigrants normally talk to friends and relatives in their own language and rarely get an opportunity to mix with and speak the Swedish language. My suggestion is, to encourage the immigrants to intergrate, the government must pay this money to local employers who employ immigrants as a way of encouraging employers to employ immigrants and help them assimilate inot the Swedish Society. There are some immigrants that have many skills that could be utilised in Sweden but the immigrants never get a look in because they can only speak basic Svenska. I am one of them and i know what i am talking about!! You could send me an email on gn2008@hotmail.co.uk and i will give you more details!!!
15:23 May 13, 2009 by flipcanuckbrit
I am currently enrolled in SFI and whilst I'm sure I could complete it within 1 year and having 12,000 SEK in my pocket would be grand, I think that the money would be best put to use investing it into better SFI facilities, ensuring that the teachers are up to scratch and that they motivate the students to get out there and integrate. Classes should be more interactive and practical. I worry about money going direct to employers though, then some Swedes may think that they are being discriminated themselves because they lost a job to someone who was less capable because the employer got paid money to do so.

The money should be used to provide tools so people can help themselves. Otherwise it's like giving charity and people become so used to getting handouts. It only works if people do something with the education that they gain, if they go out into society, integrate, work and pay back into the system. If not, it's just wasted money.
15:31 May 13, 2009 by Puffin
I wouldn't get too excited those of you who are already here - according to the article in yesterday's DN - only those who arrive in Sweden after July 1st will be eligible for the bonus - and you will need to pass a certain number of modules to get the bonus

It does seem a little unfair that only those on the graduate stream will be eligible for 12K - those on the low education/illiterate stream will only get 6K!
17:33 May 13, 2009 by insect
I just cant help thinking why they didnt do this early cos I finished SFI in six months and Svenska som andra språk b in six months. PS: It has nothing to do with where you come from I believe. It depends on the individual because I am not from Europe or America.

Anyway gnhundu,I just wanted to say that there is already incentives for employers who employ immigrants at least where I am. The govt pays 70% of their salary so it is a benefit to employ and immigrant. But either the employers have no idea cos no one has told them, or they know but still prefer not to employ immigrants. What is needed then maybe is to spend this money in educating employers on the benefits of adding immigrants to their workforce. I have noticed also that many people think of all immigrants as refugees which is not the case.
18:58 May 13, 2009 by NewinSweden
If someone believe himself to be something when he is really nothing.. is fooling his own heart!..


PS TO "THE lOCAL" READERS!! Lets FORWARD this page to the reponsables in your SFI Institutions,and to the one who is your coach in your STAD so they may be shame of the bad work thay are doing and starts to do things differently!..
20:26 May 13, 2009 by himilo
The probosal behind this seems to me only encouragment with immigrants.What immigrants needed is to find jobs in the market inorder to support their life. Very fiew wants to get financial aid whom are disables.
06:18 May 14, 2009 by LostInSweden
I am following an SFI INTENSIVE course and I am extremely satisfied with the results. The teachers are amazing and, even if I started in nov 2008, now I am able to have a decent conversation in Swedish and read and write pretty well.

MONEY ARE A STRONG MOTIVATION FACTOR! You can buy with them. Books in Swedish that can help you upgrade your skills. Did you ever think of buying an ´interview techiques´ type of book in Swedish?

Before going out there in the market place - prepare yourself very well! Swedish language is very important, but don´t forget ATTITUDE BEATS THE APTITUDE! It is you attitude that counts (more than anything else) when you are looking for a job!

I WANT THE 12.000kr AS A BONUS! I can use them very well to learn more and more Swedish language and to be able to integrate better in Sweden. Just look on adlibris.com and see how many books and CDs you can buy (all those books will help you to improve your Swedish language skills)
14:09 May 14, 2009 by magic1964
The more you give for free the more they take it for granted....
14:53 May 14, 2009 by rAMIREZ.PBLO
For what I have been reading it seems that the Swedish government is a very generous government and paying immigrants for completing Swedish courses is not the best alternative. As a new immigrant, in any country, is in your best interest to learn the language and become part of the society. The motivation to learn the language should come from your own desire to become a member of the new society not from a monetary incentive. It should not be necessary to offer money for people to do something that for their own benefit and that will allow them to open new doors for a better future.

For what I have learned, the SFI classes are free and this should be a good motivation for people to learn the language. Offering a monetary incentive will only motivate in the short term since people will probably want to have higher incentive in the future or will try and complete the just for the monetary incentive. Not only that, in many cases it will be possible for people to cheat and just put enough effort to be able to pass the class in order to get the money. Immigrants that are really motivated, know what beneficial for them and have a real desire to learn the language and become part of the Swedish culture, will take the classes whether they are paid or not.

The government can do a better job with that money, such as offering more classes, hiring new teachers as well as new materials that will enhance the students overall learning experience.
15:05 May 14, 2009 by Puffin
One thing that I think it unfair is that it is only those that take the "graduate stream" (akademiker) 3 who will get the 12,000 whereas those who take the "illiterate stream" for those who have never been in school will only be eligible for 6,000

I would have thought than the challenge is far greater for those who have never been to school to obtain literacy - learn to read and write - and be able to communicate in spoken and writen Swedish that it is for a graduate to get up to SFI D within 1 year. But they only get half the money...
12:01 May 15, 2009 by FozIber
If people will profit or not from this I am quite sure that this is not the way anyway and like I use to say, Sweden belongs to the Swedish. Now and for sure, we proceed in a ghetto that is with extremely difficulty that we can be free of.

Swedish language, the unique aspect that I am reporting here, depends a lot of Swedish literature that normally is not really known by the Swedish people and I could observe this in a lot of public libraries of Small Land. Any project that I and my family here has proposed for the Swedish Literature to be best known has been categorically denied.

But Sweden belongs to the Swedish so and this way, we will proceed with our turistic time.
13:08 May 15, 2009 by Oskarsmamma
A bad idea.

People on the whole move by their own choice to Sweden.

It is therefore up to them personally to take a vested interest in their language education.

The SFI is free and like another poster has said, you only get out of it what you put into it.

I passed SFI in six months and skipped over SAS going direct to Svenska B (för svenskarna inte invandrare) and passed that in just under a year.

I didn't receive a bean for going to SFI (the Kommun didn't have the money) BUT I knew that the other immigrants (Non.EU) were getting 3K a month to study.

This proposal is a waste of time and money. Money that could be spent on making sure that Companies hire from the pool of immigrants jobhunting. Where is the reward for working hard to integrate yourself into a society that doesn't seem to want you to? (well, as long as you want to work in a pizza restaurant or pick strawberries you are welcome of course...) but try getting a job inside say, Advertising, Media, local councils, etc.

Still not accepted into Swedish society however, nor do I have a job but at least I KNOW I have done all I can to integrate myself into my new home - just a shame that the indiginous peoples cannot open up society to immigrants so that we can get rid of the "ghetto-ising" that has been occurring and is now so prevalent.

It has taken me six years of living here to find ONE Swedish friend who really is a friend and who rings, txts, visits etc. For the most part, my friends are all other immigrants.

Spend the money on educating society - opening up their minds and cultivating the "Multicultural" feeling we are supposed to have here. Right now its just a word, as the minute you try to introduce anything non-Swedish into society the immediate response is "Aaah, vi brukar inte göra det här"!!

I need not have bothered trying hard to learn Swedish and trying to fit into Swedish society because the bottom line is simple - WE ARE NOT WANTED.
Today's headlines
Presented by Invest Stockholm
How Stockholm's cold climate boosts creativity
Photo: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se

Do long, dark winters actually make Swedes more creative and more productive? We spoke to Stockholm startups to find out.

Meet Sweden's lonely Donald Trump voter
A Donald Trump campaign button. Photo: Rogelio V Solis/AP

The Local talks to an American Donald Trump supporter on what it is like living in progressive stronghold Sweden.

Sweden to keep record-low interest rate in 2017
Sweden's landmark negative interest rate will continue towards 2018. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

The Swedish central bank said that it will take longer than expected to reach its inflation target.

Presented by Stockholm University
9 unexpected study programmes at Stockholm University
Photo: Niklas Björling

Did you know Stockholm University offers 75 master's programmes taught in English? And some of them are programmes you won't find anywhere else...

Creepy clown messes with the wrong dog walker in Sweden
Not the clown in the story. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

A dog helped its owner fight off a creepy clown chasing the pair in southern Sweden.

A million Swedes are digitally excluded: report
How should Sweden bridge the digital divide? Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Tech-savvy Swedes? Perhaps not. A new study suggests that at least a million of its residents feel the pain of the digital divide.

Malmö's 19th Swedish title sets Champions hopes alight
Malmö fans celebrating after the match. Photo: Björn Lindgren/TT

Malmö FF have their eyes set on the Champions League after winning the Swedish league for the 19th time.

What's on in Sweden
Five great autumn events in Sweden this week
Jazz in northern Sweden. Photo: Umeå Jazz Festival

Food, music, movies and more food. What better way of helping yourself forget that the days are getting shorter and colder?

Here's how slow Sweden's high-speed trains are getting
A Swedish SJX2000 high speed train. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

The high-speed rail journey between the three biggest Swedish cities is about to get longer.

The Local List
12 Swedish words with just awesome literal translations
A filthy-minded lobster, i.e. a snuskhummer. Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB scanpix/TT

One of our favourite things about the Swedish language is its wonderful compound words, which range from being utterly bizarre to making perfect sense.

Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
People-watching: October 26th
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
Sweden cuts 2016 refugee forecast
Is Game of Thrones coming to Sweden?
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Property of the week: Kungsholmen, Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Will Swedes soon be looking for fairtrade porn?
The Local Voices
'I simply don’t believe in nationality'
Why we're convinced Game of Thrones is based on Sweden
Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
People-watching: October 21st-23rd
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
People-watching: October 20th
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
People-watching: October 12th
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
jobs available