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Government reported for English email use

TT/The Local · 29 Jul 2009, 14:02

Published: 29 Jul 2009 14:02 GMT+02:00

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The government has incurred the wrath of the former head of the Language Council of Sweden (Språkrådet), Olle Josephson, who has reported the Government Offices (Regeringskansliet) to JO for contravention of the recently adopted language law.

Josephson, who is a professor in the Nordic languages at Stockholm University, considers the use of English in the government's email addresses as a political problem.

"It is a statement that Sweden can not be governed in Swedish, but in English instead. One should contact the Government Offices in English - a very strong symbolic statement, which is against the law."

The new language law, the first of its kind in Sweden, came into force on July 1st.

The new law stipulates that Swedish is the main language of Sweden and establishes that public bodies have a particular responsibility to ensure that Swedish is used and developed.

"The purpose of the language law is to preserve a multilingual Sweden with Swedish as the main language, and the purpose of my report to JO is to put to the test just how strong that tool is," Josephson says.

"If JO does not instruct the government to change this, and if the government does not change this, then we have to pretty much draw the conclusion that it is sham legislation."

In his report Josephson concedes that there may be grounds to use English language email addresses but at the same time questions why it would be harder to understand socialdepartmentet.se instead of social.ministry.se.

Mari Ternbo, head of information at the Government Offices, explains that when the email addresses were introduced ten years ago it was presumed that they would be used primarily in contact with foreigners.

Story continues below…

Within Sweden it was expected that more traditional means of communication would be used.

"Since then the development has shown to have been quite different," Ternbo concluded, stating that the issue will be reviewed later in the autumn.

TT/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

15:28 July 29, 2009 by byke
I am going to have to send a complaint in also I think.

As this law goes against the human rights laws, and EU directives that sweden has contractually agreed to.

I think we also need to file a complaint against "Olle Josephson" for breaching the human rights second chapter laid out by Sweden.

"Basic rights and freedoms

The second chapter includes regulations on basic rights and freedoms, such as, for example, positive and negative freedoms of opinion, and physical integrity. The same chapter makes it clear that laws and other regulations may not lead to any citizen being disadvantaged because he/she belongs to a minority, in terms of race, skin colour or ethnic origin."
15:42 July 29, 2009 by farnoxo
Oh Olle, Olle, Olle

Stop your pettifogging and go back to your little wooden cabin in the forest, next to a lake, nibble on a tasty bit of dried reindeer or dance like a little frog - you are clearly way out of touch with the modern realities of what it means to be a member of the global economy.

To the rest of Swedes, with your fluent English, your desire for your country to be seen as a major player in the global community - please ignore Olle, he clearly has nothing better to do with his time (and sadly waste your tax).

Goodness, could you imagine poor Olle's response once we have to start gearing up to deal with China as the world's dominant economic power. "Let them eat surstömming" he would say!
16:03 July 29, 2009 by Kaethar
The English-speakers are getting pissed off, I see. :) Well done Olle!

"The same chapter makes it clear that laws and other regulations may not lead to any citizen being disadvantaged because he/she belongs to a minority, in terms of race, skin colour or ethnic origin."

... And why would it? Everyone in Sweden speaks Swedish. Nearly-arrived non-educated refugees often don't speak English either, so what should we do about them? This is an example of trying to conjure up an argument out of nowhere. Most countries have national languages and laws protecting it. The US, however, does not. Are any of you Americans, by any chance?
16:03 July 29, 2009 by bettan1
Hmmmmmmmm, this does'nt bode well for TheLocal.se , Looks like they'll have to be good patriotic citizens, dig their brown shirts out of the laundry and strap on their jack boots and start practicing their goose-step before someone reports them for breaking the new July 1st Swedish Only Law.

Oh Brother!!! (I could really use some emoticons here)

Sorry, what's the Swedidh word for Emoticon ???
16:34 July 29, 2009 by byke
@ Kaethar

"Everyone in Sweden speaks Swedish"

If this was the case, why do you think Sweden is so paranoid its citizens

are loosing their cultural identity (enforcing national assimilation & language through law)?

I think Sweden's starting to arrive to the reality that it needs more citizens to help maintain Sweden's worth, economically.

However the trade off is and will have to be a more diverse multicultural group of citizens unless we can teach more swedish women they need to be loose slags on no birth control.

In regards to your understanding of human rights , I am afraid you are heavily mistaken. What you need to understand that regardless where a TAX payer comes from in terms of cultural identity they have the same rights as any other national. Otherwise we would have cultural based TAX systems in place.
16:46 July 29, 2009 by bocale1
byke, I cannot agree more with your words.

What Kaethar seems to do not understand is that prohibiting the use of English in institutional communication will not change anything for refugees or immigrants coming from the poor areas of the world.

They can live with that as they would do in Italy, France, Spain and so on... and, since some of them will also get refugee allowances, they will have time to study Swedish.

Who is more damaged by such stupid laws are professionals that come to Sweden just because it is a very English speakers friendly country but that could decide to go somewhere else in case of such complications. The result is that Sweden will loose international reputation, high skilled immigration, and good high tax payers. If you are happy with this, good luck!
16:52 July 29, 2009 by AussieAndy
Is this guy for real, computers communicate and operate in binary and display ASCII text.

Does he not know there are strict rules on how email addresses are formed and why English is used.
17:04 July 29, 2009 by Kaethar

It's irrelevant how much English is spoken in Sweden. But we have 6 national languages we need to protect and make use of. Everyone in Sweden does not speak English. Having official emails in English makes it difficult for Swedes who do not speak English to contact the right institution. And as has been stated in the article, it's mostly Swedes and not foreigners who make use of these emails.

"being disadvantaged because he/she belongs to a minority, in terms of race, skin colour or ethnic origin."

The Swedish citizens who do not speak English belong to this minority. And it is their human right to be able to access information in Swedish. That's how you want to twist it, right? Certain languages are used in certain nation-states. People of varying ethnic backgrounds in Sweden ALL SPEAK SWEDISH. Whilst not all speak English. Methinks the rantings on this board is from anglo-phone expats who like to imagine their rights are being infringed upon.
17:11 July 29, 2009 by Somebody17
Byke...You are right, Sweden definitely needs more good professional people, honest and willing to work, but I think one problem is that they took refugees or immigrants without checking their history in their countries! From here a lot of strange people all round Sweden.They took without limit people with no education and poor behaviour.

An example: the immigrants kids are behaving very bad on the street or metro:they screem, push, kick or whatever in public which is not at all in line with old swedish etiquete model. I always had the opinion that the basic behaviour guidelines should be learned from parents. BUT, if your parents don't have education and are coming from a non-developed country then, you can expect that the children are the same. Do you know that in Rinkeby the swedish language is changing because of the imigrants??? Because they used the language totally wrong? That's not good also.
17:33 July 29, 2009 by bocale1
@Somebody17, have you never heard about languages as living systems that change and adapt themselves to the social conditions? never heard about neologism, contamination and so on? do you think that current language is the same as 100 or 200 years ago?

And, yes, it may be that some refugees may have some poor behavior... it is not that easy to learn good etiquette rules under the bombs!

@Kaethar, may I know what are those famous e-mail only in English that create so many troubles for Swedish people? do you mean that a Swedish person do not understand social.ministry.se. but only socialdepartmentet.se? well, then this country has bigger problems than the language, I am afraid.
17:42 July 29, 2009 by tigger007

this fool is leading sweden in the wrong direction,won't he just say it out load! SWEDEN IS FOR THE SWEDES OR LEARN SWEDISH OR MOVE! people like this dude must live under a f"#%cking rock or hole in the ground! sweden needs to be english friendly to promote business and tourisum. i don't think swedes feel that their language is dying and some swedes love to practice their english. the new law is turning out NUT JOBS that has nothing else better to do with their time. if this dude gets his way i bet he will try to make all people living in sweden pass a swedish language test. this law scares me and i think it will open alot of discussions.
17:51 July 29, 2009 by farnoxo
Ho Hum.

Around 10-15 million people in the world understand Swedish

A couple of billion understand English, it is the global language of business and one of the six official languages of the United Nations.

Statistically speaking, which of the two languages is a new immigrant to Sweden more likely to understand (this is rhetorical)? I would in fact say that by NOT using more English, the Swedish government is actually actively discriminating against the majority of new immigrants arriving in Sweden.
18:10 July 29, 2009 by bocale1
Ridiculous matter: discussing about the use of social.ministry.se instead of socialdepartmentet.se. (even if probably should be something like socialdepartmentet.departmentet.se)...

I mean mail addresses are like phone numbers, you are not supposed to understand their meaning, just remember, save in your outlook agenda and use. what is the problem, then?
18:51 July 29, 2009 by Rebel
Excellent point farnoxo. Even in China people in government and business who have to deal with matters beyond a neighborhood level use English language e-mails and even take on an English first name for communication purposes. And there are 150 Chinese for every one Swede. Time to enter the 21st. Century Sweden.
19:28 July 29, 2009 by byke
@ Kaethar

I am by no means saying that Swedish should not be used in day to day communication etc if wanted or needed.

I am saying that since Sweden has been forced by the EU to maintain support for the 6 other minority languages (which Sweden has been heavily criticized and accused of forcing assimilation to mainstream Swedish) doesnt mean that it can now only focus on its so called "national dialects" in the face of so much immigration in Sweden.

English, while a language first penned by the british is not a language confined to a few countries, but the most common form of language used wordwide.

Statistically I am sure you will find more people in Sweden able to understand English compared to say yiddish (which I cant see or understand how it needs to be protected in since its not really a regional dialect as such)

passing laws to "protect" the Swedish dialects and outlawing other languages is a very dangerous and un-swedish.
22:36 July 29, 2009 by insect
Where I come from everyone speaks at least three languages. Their mothertongue, the national language and english. English is used even in govt institutions and all forms are in two languages. Plus they should join this century and have their answering services give options of languages like other developed countries.

Sweden should find a way of translating all their paperwork into english too. It is so disheartening when you come here and receive a letter inviting you to join SFI in Swedish.

Somebody17: Being a refugee has nothing to do with your educational background. A country cannot pick refugees based on how learned they are.
00:45 July 30, 2009 by SaltWater
LOL, what about Portuguese or Mandarim, there's plenty more people talking those language in the world than English! As I remember, in Sweden is spoken Swedish and other local dialects, That's the official language!
08:56 July 30, 2009 by Jasoncarter
I think this is disgusting. I am intending to write to the British ambassador in Stockholm to complain in the strongest possible terms about this offensive word 'Ombudsman' and intend to prosecute all government departments and councils in the UK that refer to their Ombudsmen as such. What will happen to the English language if we don't protect it from such horrors as this Swedish word being adopted? I tell you what - it'll lead to a whole smorgasbord of pain.
10:11 July 30, 2009 by lungfish
There is a constant tension in Europe between having a national identity and being part of a global community/economy. Interesting though how the national identity tends to be regarded as something frozen. E.g. for Sweden take the viking period and the culture of the 1700-1800s, and the language as it is in, when, 2006? Many people working in international networks have their work community as their primary community and their country of residence as a secondary issue supporting the work. In this case English is the natural language to use. My Swedish is not good, which I feel very sorry about, but I have not had time while working to bring 20 million sek of EU money into Sweden to take time out for language courses. Ironically, foreigners who arrive in Sweden and hit the ground running in terms of working to bring money into the country are the least likely to have time for language courses, while those who immediately arrive on social security have time to study the language.
12:45 July 30, 2009 by fikatid
Enough with all the arguments. We should all move to Skansen, get the Vasa ship out and re-live the old Swedish lives. Who cares about the rest of the world? Swedish has IKEA and Absolut Vodka. That's self-sufficient.

I'm sure Olle would agree.
16:47 July 30, 2009 by lensart
Actually if one reads carefully it also says: "Josephson, who is a professor in the Nordic languages at Stockholm University, considers the use of English in the government's _email addresses_ as a political problem."

Email addresses... getting all of the email servers up to standard in Sweden... That'll raise taxes and slow down the economy even more... Actually, I think JO is trying to overthrow the government by causing total email chaos and draining the treasury... he's an e-terrorist.

Stone him! Stone him! He said Jehovah!
13:38 July 31, 2009 by Hedley
Ok In my view, Swedish language must be spoken at least BY THE GOVERNMENT. Outside government, it is another matter!

Of course, the most languages you learn (like Spanish, Chinese or Japanese), the best since it means the grade of culture you have!
15:38 July 31, 2009 by 4xxxx
Swedes do have a hang up with there language. As it is a dying language may be they should make English the national language.

Not every one can speak perfect Swedish as expected here. I can play the piano but I will never be a concert pianist!

Most refuges would rather not be here, I mean wouldn't you rather be in your (warm) homeland than be in a country where you will always be a second class citizen. They are forced to come here as they would at least like to live!
21:09 July 31, 2009 by bobnbri
Anglophobes are isolationists and navel gazors!

The global economy operates mainly in english. It's the language of international trade and finance. It'll be that way at least until the Chinese start taking over. Try imagining Americans and Europeans taking Cantonese & Mandarin lessons anytime soon.
06:09 August 1, 2009 by rattyrain
Would it be wrong to request that Swedish be used rather of English?

"The same chapter makes it clear that laws and other regulations may not lead to any citizen being disadvantaged because he/she belongs to a minority, in terms of race, skin colour or ethnic origin."

How does this law disadvantage minorities? If enforcing the national language to be using in the government is ethnocentric, then according to this "pretzel logic" requires that hundreds of languages be used just not to upset people who don't know Swedish. Having English as a secondary language would be fine, but saying that to forcing a nation's language is wrong to someone's rights is insanity. Crack is bad.
12:34 August 1, 2009 by byke
@ rattyrain

The quote you made is from the swedish human rights charter, which in reality has no value to the majority of laws passed in sweden effecting culturally diverse citizens or residents.

For example, Skolverket have many laws passed that clearly breach and do not allow for cultural diversity. "International" schools are no longer in existence in sweden apart from 2 (in stockholm) which are private so they don't have to penalized by Skolverket racist laws. The sad truth is most of these laws if contested would be won, however the time and costs to do such make it enviable and the swedish law is set up exactly to ensure that.

Sweden's laws clearly make a mockery of its human rights laws and show they have absolutely no value.
13:10 August 1, 2009 by Miss Kitten
Slightly off topic but I just wanted to clarify that there are many more international schools in Sweden besides the two in Stockholm that you mentioned.

There are at least two upper-secondary international schools in Gothenburg:

International School of the Gothenburg Region (ISGR) http://www.isgr.se/

International IT College of Sweden (INIT College), where I work: http://www.initcollege.com/

There is also the English School for students between the ages of 3 and 16:


There are two municipal (that is, not private) international schools in Malmö:



And there is an independent compulsory and upper-secondary school in Malmö:


There are of course many more international and English schools in Sweden, which you can read about here:

13:57 August 1, 2009 by harrylatour
As a 69 year old english person who has lots of Swede friends let me tell you this.....way back in the late 60s a good mate of mine went against all the usual trends of emigration and instead of going to Canada,NZ,Austlalia et al....he went ''horror'' to Sweden!! He'll be back we,(his cicle of mates)said,but no,he learned SWEDISH married a local Swede girl and I got lots of Swedish friends too by always going on my hols at his home and meeting all his friends.So,,my comment is learn the language of your host country and don't lug all that other baggage with you either!! You go for the life....live the life!

Harry L
14:28 August 1, 2009 by byke
@Miss Kitten

http://www.isgr.se/ Has an English "profile".

Under swedish law from Skolverket, any school must teach at least 50% of the curriculum in Swedish (grades 0-9). Further more skolverket does not make allowances nor does it recognize education for non swedish primary languages subjects in terms of education. So for instance, an English speaking child will only get the same level of English language education as that in which is taught to a Swedish child and thus not covering grammar, comprehension etc etc ... while an English speaking child may take either swedish language subject "A" or "B" which is usually A as sweden pushes for assimilation at the cost of other subjects (maths etc)
14:36 August 1, 2009 by Miss Kitten
The school at which I work is the only international school in Sweden that teaches English up through E level. In fact, they are often criticized by other schools for this because it's so very un-lagom of them to offer ENGD and ENGE. This is because any student who took those courses would have an advantage over those who didn't, and we wouldn't want that, now would we?
19:26 August 1, 2009 by byke
@ Miss Kitten

I take it that the school you work for is part of the higher education?

The level you refer to, is that GCE level?

And do you have a good success rate of 15/16 year olds passing their GCSE exams?
22:57 August 2, 2009 by Crocs
IMO i think he was right. I come from an island where my government can't even say 2 words in our native tongue, (let alone the rest of the nation). It is a shame as it is one of the oldest languages in the world. Their preservation efforts fell on deaf ears and the language is all but dead except in a small remote area.

Swedish is a beautiful language and if preservation of the language means that government officials should only speak the offiial language then good! Well done I say!
09:09 August 3, 2009 by graze
Hello everyone. I'm graze. I live in America. The state I live in is Montana.

This article is quite interesting. I can appreciate Sweden wanting to hold on to their traditions and keeping the Sweidsh language alive. In the United States - depending in which part of the country you live in, there are signs in English and Spanish as there are many hispanics living here so Spanish is becoming a second language.

This is a real sore spot for many people and they want English to be legislated as the national language but I see that debate going nowhere.

As you are probably aware, the United States is known as the melting pot and with all of that political correctness "we" promote - we don't want to offend anyone elses language.
23:13 August 3, 2009 by BrianAndSudha
Has it not occurred to anyone that it's possible for every government agency to have two or more email addresses that resolve to the same department? The could have addresses in all the languages that they are involved with.

Problem solved.
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