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Chinese should be taught in schools: education minister

TT/The Local · 17 Oct 2009, 09:44

Published: 17 Oct 2009 09:44 GMT+02:00

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Liberal Party leader Björklund adds that children in Sweden should start learning English at a earlier age, in the first grade rather than the third or fourth grade as it is today.

Speaking to Sveriges Radio news, he proposes a language learning reform to be introduced in the next election period and points towards bringing Chinese into the classroom.

“Economic relations with this huge country are going to become more and more important,” he said. “I think it would be advantageous if we have a number of young people who learned Chinese.”

A lack of Chinese teachers means it could take up to 15 years before the language is as widespread as French, German and Spanish in the education system.

The proposal has yet to be approved by parties in the coalition government but Björklund does not foresee any opposition on the matter.

Story continues below…

TT/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

11:06 October 17, 2009 by Ayesha07
Excellent idea to take up Chinesee in the schools. I think that English should be introduced in the Kindergartens (swedish Dagis)more "for fun", not proper teaching with books. By listening to english songs, loud reading of english kids books, watching video with some english kids program. Learning few daily sentences and small words and counting. I feel that kids as they are young, don´t think

in terms "learning", but the languages just enter in their minds in a natural way. I feel that the more languages you know, the better it is both ín your working life as for private traveling. You get more out of your traveling if you can communicate with the people in their own language. Myself love languages and have picked up some 10 languages up to now. Still wish to learn Chinese and Japanese. And to learn more Arabic. And why not refresh my Turkish and more than my now 80 words of Thai.
11:32 October 17, 2009 by kerry777
A lack of chinese teachers is not a problem if the government really want to support this proposal.China is developing fast if you can not catch their steps as soon as possible, sweden will be behide other EU countries. In china, there are hundred thousands graduated students whose major are teaching Chinese laguage to foriegner. The easyest way is bring some of them to come just like South Korea and Singapore.
11:59 October 17, 2009 by staffan
Very good initiative! But, let's hope teachers are not sent by Chinese gov't...
12:48 October 17, 2009 by barryberry
As a Chinese in Hong Kong, I'm glad to hear Swedish government is trying to introduce Chinese to schools in Sweden. China and Europe have many finanical and economic cooperation and therefore more and more people in Europe want to learn Chinese.

I'm a native speaker of Cantonese, which is an important dialect in Southern China. I hope Swedish government will not only promote Mandarin, but also Cantonese in Sweden. It would be great if Swedish government introduced both Mandarin and Cantonese. I've been learning Swedish for a year. I hope to have an exchange programme to Sweden!
14:44 October 17, 2009 by Gwrhyr
I spent time living in Taiwan where I learned Chinese. It's a fun language to learn, but then again I was in Taiwan, not China, where the political situation is different, and most people will probably be making their contacts in China.

I agree with Staffan, it wouldn't be the best situation for Sweden to open up so-called "Confucius Institutes" to promote Chinese culture from the view of the mainland Chinese government, a government that spent 60 years trying to wipe-out Chinese culture, and only now tries to use Chinese culture to sell its political message abroad.

And Barryberry, I think Cantonese is a wonderful dialect as well, but I don't think Cantonese will be promoted anywhere these days. Beijing is trying to promote Mandarin in the Cantonese-speaking regions, not the other way around, so I think their goal is to eliminate Cantonese altogether, sadly.
17:43 October 17, 2009 by Kaethar
Yeah, that would be cool. I would have chosen to study Mandarin as a third language in school instead of Spanish, French or German. They should have a choice for Arabic too, if the demand is high enough, so all the world's/Europe's main languages are covered. That gives students more possibilities. :)
00:58 October 18, 2009 by steven wang
支持中文,i think swedish gov has quite long view about the development. hope the people can love chinese, even it is very difficult for the learner. keep going , i support you guys!!
01:00 October 18, 2009 by 2394040
Doesn't make sense to me. In Sweden, people are being told that they need to learn Chinese. In China, people are being told they need to learn English.

Hass anyone given any thought to what language will be required of everybody once the New World Order has achieved its goal; the creation of a one-world economic and political state?

It's hard to say. The New World Order could be several generations in the future.

But I would wager that the official language of the New World Order will be English.

So stick to learning Swedish and English. To require a third language is just a waste of time and money. It's difficult enough for most people to learn one language.
06:14 October 18, 2009 by DaTraveler
For some reason I read the title as though Swedish kids would be forced to read Chinese, wasn't their a politician years back mentioning them to have Arabic taught as well? It's not a problem learning languages, but sucks if people in your own country can't speak the dominant language.

so in say 10-15 years Swedish kids will have the choice of Spanish, French, German, Italian and Chinese. Man, will they ever get to use their own language haha
14:34 October 18, 2009 by bettan1

Won't the Swedish Only Polizei invoke the Law July 1st (Swedish Only) against just such a move ??? Seems like the rule moves for things to go back to be as homogeneous as they were in the good ol'days of racial purity times past.
19:49 October 18, 2009 by DamnImmigrant
Why not wait for them to come to us?

Engrish IS the official business language and China knows it!

Right now in China, there are MORE people learning Engrish than actually speak Enrgish in the rest of the world!

The other problem is - WHICH Chinese language?
03:05 October 19, 2009 by Greg in Canada
Just another clueless politician babbling on. The Chinese are scrambling to learn English. Sure it's nice to learn as many languages as possible, but let's get real. India is also going to be a major super power to rival China, so should Swedish kids also learn all 600+ Indian dialects. English will be the major language of the world for a long time to come.
03:12 October 19, 2009 by Gwrhyr
Wow, a lot of people seem to miss the point...
07:42 October 19, 2009 by Marc the Texan
This is just Beijing pushing Mandarin for a multitude of political reasons. As was pointed out above, they are trying to devalue Cantonese as well as about a dozen other languages spoken in China.

I think young Swedes would benefit much more by learning traditional foreign languages like German, etc. since they are much more relevant to history and culture of Sweden.

Don't kid yourself about learning Chinese. The world is not gong to be speaking Chinese. The language of the world is English. France lost that battle in the 20th century. English is not only the language of business, but it is also the language of science. That won't change.

Just as an aside. In the 1980s, Americans were being told to learn Japanese because of Japan's rapidly rising economy. Japan has had the second largest economy in the world for decades and the idea of learning Japanese doesn't appear to be any more advantageous than learning Swedish.
15:32 October 19, 2009 by Osokin
An example of the dismal education, common sense and capacity level of the politicians
16:34 October 19, 2009 by wenddiver
Let the children learn whatever they want, so there is a good mix. English is still spoken evertwhere and is pretty much universal. America's founding fathers didn't stick with English out of love of the British Government, it was all about trafe and access to knowledge.

China like all totalitarian countries will be a fizzle in the end, their political system pre-ordains them to fail as much as the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany or Czarist Russia, Muslim Iran. In the end countries where thought, speech and expression are free always win the waar of ideas.

So even though English wasn't invented in the US, and is in fact and structure a European language we will probably keep it.
21:28 October 19, 2009 by mkvgtired
Others have mentioned, which Chinese language? This is very true. I know Chinese people that know a certain dialect and they say the others are like whole new languages. Even though Mandarin is the "official" language of the Chinese government, it can not be used to communicate effectively with much of the Chinese population. Also, most multinational companies (regardless of country of origin) require their contracts in English. For example it is not rare to see contracts between a company in Japan and South Korea to sign a contract in English.
23:28 October 19, 2009 by I Love it when ...
why wouldn't you want to teach chinese in schools, it can be very useful in life
00:39 October 20, 2009 by kaze
Not such a great idea, even the Chinese themselves admit Chinese is HARD.

They are amongst the biggest pushers in the world of English as the international language.

Swedes should stick to learning German or French as their third language, the historical and cultural connections are stronger and even if China were to become the new USA tomorrow these local relations would remain just as important if not moreso.
09:30 October 20, 2009 by linjiechou
the biggest task is not the actual language. it is the actual way of thinking and logic are totally different from the Swedish way.

honestly, it won't be such a great idea.
14:19 October 20, 2009 by DaTraveler
Have swedes ever cared about foreigners learning Swedish? You'd think with all their hands in multinational this or foreign aid agency that, they'd make an effort to encourage their culture/language to be spread at least through schools educationally
15:06 October 20, 2009 by trinaican
sadly as usual people miss the point of these articles
16:56 October 22, 2009 by Hailan
Well I don't think there is any acute shortage of Chinese teachers in Sweden, at least not if looking into the ads for available jobs. My wife is from China and a qualified Chinese teacher, but so far the only jobs we have found in Sweden are a few hours a week here and there as a mother tongue teacher for Chinese children.

I'm quite sure that Chinese will never compete with English as the number one foreign language in Sweden or become the number one world language, but I'm also quite sure it can provide good career opportunities for many persons in Sweden, for those who learn it well.

I'm trying to become one, but I fear I still have a long way to go ;-)
18:06 October 23, 2009 by Iftikhar_Ahmad
The miracle of human variety is in danger of disappearing, if all of us speak alike, dress alike, eat the same food, read the same fiction and enjoy the same music. It would be a great loss to our colourful planet. Public sector needs a multilingual work force. Teachers and police officers can help with race relations in the classroom and in the community. Public sector is seeking multilingual recruits to serve multicultural Britain. The ability to speak languages from Arabic to Urdu is considered to be an asset. Linguistic skills, in addition to the usual entry criteria, will boost the number of recruits in teaching, police, medicine, nursing and the civil service. Bilingual teachers, police officers, doctors and nurses are in a better position to serve the bilingual Muslim community. The language system has been used successfully in the United States. Mary Doherty at TTA, points out those bilingual teachers can be particularly welcome in state schools for bilingual pupils. Various studies show that bilingualism increases overall intelligence. Monolingualism leads to isolationist and inward thinking.

Exposure to different languages and cultures can increase tolerance. Language learning in childhood lays the foundations for developing real fluency in that language. Every child should have the opportunity to study a foreign language and develop their interest in the culture of other nations. Languages can be seen as an important way of putting more fun into primary learning and of broadening the children experience. Learning a second language boosts your intellectual powers by physically increasing the number of nerve cells in the language centres of the brain. A study at University College London shows that the brains of bilingual people are structurally enhanced compared to the brains of people who can only speak one language. The effect is even more marked in people who learnt a second language before they were five. Speaking a second language is like having access to another world. No other subject expands mental horizons in the same way. In an ordinary inner city school in England, nearly 100 languages are spoken, yet still essentially this is still a monolingual nation. London is the most multicultural city in the world with over 300 languages spoken everyday.

Bilingual Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with bilingual teachers as role models during their developmental periods. All state schools where Muslim pupils are the majority should be designated as Muslim community schools. They are in a better position to provide balanced education by teaching the National Curriculum along with Arabic, Islamic studies, Urdu and other community languages. An Islamic atmosphere will help to develop Islamic Identity crucial for mental, emotional and personality development.

Iftikhar Ahmad

01:31 October 24, 2009 by sw09
it's always good to know more languages except mother tongue. Here doesn't say that English is not important, everyone can see that English has been as an international language for years. Of course, should let kids choose it by themself.

This issue, i think, does nothing with any politics. But still some guys always wish the world would be chaos. Does that make so much sense for u guys??? So just because the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany or Czarist Russia, Muslim Iran etc. they failed, China should fail in the end as well??? Oh, my god! I really wonder whether u guys are using ur brains???? Every countries has their own set problems, just like every famlies. Why don't you let them do their own business??? U guys really like war???

Please do not make any excuse as defencing the peace to arouse any unnecessary dispute/war!!!
14:02 October 25, 2009 by pareidoliac
As a Chinese, I find this interesting as I was racially assaulted by Jonkoping Police just recently after calling 112 to get police help against mafia in Jonkoping sexually harassing and assaulting my girlfriend. Let me say, every Swede I have related this story to have said to me not to expect help from the Police and many have similar stories of police brutality.

This is not a good start to building relations with the rest of the world.
12:45 October 26, 2009 by Puffin
This reminds me of the fashion in the 1970s in some countries to teach children Russian
03:15 November 1, 2009 by Philthurber
2394040, DamnImmigrant, GreginCanada and Hailan-- you all are clueless if you think that English is somehow guaranteed as "the" global language, and I say this as an American. Our economy is a shambles right now, we're deep in hock to China (as well as other countries), and we're gutting our key industries like engineering and computers with outsourcing, while China is picking them up and becoming a leader. We've got maybe about 10 years left of being the world's main superpower, and after that, there's trouble ahead. China is NOTHING LIKE Japan of the 1980's-- it's much, much bigger, with far greater human resources and a history as the world's wealthiest and most advanced nation at many points in the past.

Yes, many Chinese learn English but that's a foolish reason to discount the importance of the language. I've worked in China and Taiwan and they never, ever use English with each other-- virtually international communication is in Chinese. For that matter, they also study other languages in big numbers-- Japanese and Hindi also popular, but especially German. So does that mean that Germans should write off learning Chinese too, since so many Chinese use German? And yes, there are other Chinese dialects, but Mandarin is universal throughout the Chinese-speaking world-- yes, even in Hong Kong (where I've worked), Mandarin is a common tongue even if it's not the main language spoken at home. Besides, the USA has a similar situation, with Spanish the main business language of much of the country. In South Florida where I grow up, Spanish was absolutely mandatory-- and that's not even a dialect of English, but a totally different language.

If you don't think that Chinese would displace English, I hate to burst your bubble but it's already happened. 20 years ago, my international contracts were done chiefly (and often exclusively) in English. Now, the South Koreans in particular prefer Chinese and even the Japanese are moving in that direction. The South Americans are also rejecting English increasingly, and (outside of Spanish and Portuguese) choosing standards like German or Chinese for their communications.

Obviously, German will remain important and become even more so, considering Germany's advances in the envirotech field. But Chinese will be growing fast as well, while English will continue to slip as the US and UK economies continue to unravel. Even we Americans are scrambling to learn Chinese these days.
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