Early English learning comes under academic attack

TT/Christine Demsteader
TT/Christine Demsteader - [email protected]
Early English learning comes under academic attack

A Liberal Party proposal to make English language learning obligatory in schools from the first grade has been slammed by members of the Swedish Academy who view it as an "unnecessary reinforcement of the status of English.”


The proposal to introduce English early into the classroom has been met with criticism from the Swedish Academy's permanent secretary Peter Englund and his predecessor Horace Engdahl in an article in newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.

The government’s Globalisation Council put forward the proposal in the spring with a suggestion that introducing English at a young age would stimulate interest and knowledge of other foreign languages.

According to Englund and Engdahl, the proposal ”is built on a simplified view of language learning, a false belief over the importance of English and is even an unnecessary reinforcement of the status of English in Sweden.”

They argue there is no scientific evidence to prove that students master the language better if they start learning in the first grade, rather than the third or fourth grade.

In addition they believe language learning is made easier if schoolchildren can read and write in their own language first.

”It could also create problems for many immigrant children in Sweden, who already have to switch between the mother tongue of their parents and Swedish,” they write.

Englund and Engdahl, however, back a further Liberal Party proposal to introduce Chinese to the college curriculum in Sweden, stating that the relative importance of English is diminishing due to economic reasons.

”Schools must focus on many languages,” they add. ”The majority of bilateral contacts work best without having to resort to English, in accordance with the EU language policy."


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