• Sweden's news in English

Early English learning comes under academic attack

TT/Christine Demsteader · 20 Nov 2009, 07:59

Published: 20 Nov 2009 07:59 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

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.

Story continues below…

”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."

TT/Christine Demsteader (news@thelocal.se)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

09:44 November 20, 2009 by Nemesis
I have a better idea.

Get all children to start school at 4 and drive them in mathmatics, grammer, history, etc. That is where todays kids are severely lacking.

Also the education standard should not be held back due to concerns for any immigrants.

The education standards need to be constantly driven upwards.

Introducing Chinese at a young age, may be an idea to seriously consider.

The reality is, when the present kids are 30 years old, China will be the dominant superpower, economically and most likely militarily.
10:13 November 20, 2009 by Malmoman

My father said the same thing about Japan for most of the 80s until the mid 90s. I think history will prove you wrong. China has a lot of problems to overcome before it can make that claim. I think It is more likely that the EU will become the dominant force or counterbalance to the US with China also playing a significant role.

The ability to memorize math formulas and regurgitate them does not make you innovative. It is nonsense to think it does. Look at the last 40 years of science, math, and economics nobel prizes (especially recently) and it is clear to see that the US is not slipping. Nobel's aside the amount of Innovation from the west is staggering.

I have studied engineering in the US and Europe and I think from where I am looking the We are in good shape (aside from ridiculous consumption rates in the US). But lets not get complacent!

One place we cannot beat them is in the cheap labor department.
10:26 November 20, 2009 by Nemesis
@ Malmoman

China is not Japan.

This is nothing to do with the US, I am talking out Sweden.

My bother teaches electronic engineering. He has noticed the standards in mathmatics are steadily slipping in Students from Western Europe and USA, to the point he now gives special mathmatics class´s to those pupils.

The amount of innovation in China is increasing rapidly.

China is building research facilities everywhere. They are training scientists in the tens of throusands.

China will be the dominant power in the later half of the 21st century.
10:37 November 20, 2009 by Malmoman
Give me an example of this innovation. Name a significant scientific discovery in the last 5 years from China. I am sincerely interested. Innovation is not something that can be taught. I have studied industrial engineering and I know all too well how good the Chinese students are at math. But guess what try doing a project with them based on real world problems. Different story all together. A redesign has a totally different meaning to them.

Read a bit of Chinese history concerning the civil service exam to get a better idea of how ingrained regurgitation is.

I was not necessarily talking about the US but rather the West...In fact the educational systems in Europe and a few US states are superior to China's according to the TIMMS study (Massachusetts and Finland for example).

You assume Europe and the US are not going to respond to these challenges and the systems are stagnant.
10:47 November 20, 2009 by livinginsweden
Academics attack learning ..... is like saying hippies attack marijuana smoking ... or researchers attack research .. or church attack religion and God. ...

Learning English or Mandarin or Spanish or Swedish etc. at an early age is not a reinforcement of any language but the expansion of communication skills. My children are of Swedish and Asian parents and they speak perfect Swedish, English, and Mandarin .... ... if i live by the so-called Swedish Academy and its short sightedness .... we would have to ban our children from speaking other languages at home. ...

Please don't use unfounded excuses to preserve self-interest ahead of the potential development of young children. Its funny how all dialogue ... eventually lead to the 'fear' of Chinese takeover of the world .....

When was the last time China took a gun out to invade another country?

ha ha
10:54 November 20, 2009 by california
I support the idea of children starting school earlier. Age 5 or 6. Children at this age are curious about learning, interested in experiences and capable of learning. Learning at this age should be more through play and activities. Structured learning not just having free play. Too many schools have no planned curriculum for children so many 5-7 year olds are engaged in just free play, outdoors, etc. Free play should also be a part of the day for 5-7 year olds but it should be combined with structured activities where they are learning basic principles. Introducing language (English) at age 5 would be excellent since since young children are able to take in so much early on.

Exposing your child to a second language at a young age allows a child to optimize his or her learning potential, helping to shape the brain at its most flexible stage. Young children are uniquely suited to learning a second language. Learning a second language at a young age is cognitively as easy as learning a first language. Why would you not want to give your child all the tools.

Young children can acquire native-like fluency as easily as they learned to walk. Where adults have to work through an established first-language system, studying explicit grammar rules and practicing rote drills, the young kids learn naturally, absorbing the sounds, structures, intonation patterns and rules of a second language intuitively, as they did their mother tongue. The young brain is inherently flexible, uniquely hard-wired to acquire language naturally.

Early childhood is the best time for language acquisition. Ease of learning a second language diminishes with age. Between birth and adolescence the brain is hard-wired to acquire language naturally. As a child approaches puberty, the nature of language learning and storage changes, becoming less flexible. The swedish system of waiting till children are so much older before introducing English is a shame because it misses the window of opportunity.
11:00 November 20, 2009 by Malmoman
I don't think China will take over the world. I have a lot of respect for the culture and the people. What they have done is remarkable. I think they have a lot to add to international dialogue and I welcome it. I would love my kids to learn Chinese!

But before we all put fuzzy sweaters on and have a group hug China used guns to destroy Tibetan culture and by some accounts have murdered over a million people...in the last hundred years they have also had troops in Mongolia. Millions died by the hands of its leadership in the last 50 years during reprisals and Taiwan lives under a constant veil of fear.

The US and China both have a lot of ghosts to exorcise...
11:02 November 20, 2009 by livinginsweden
Well put california......

In fact when the old colonialists and the missionaries invade countries in Africa, Asia and elsewhere .... they never hesitate to teach them english or spanish or french and how god the almight is going to give them a place in heaven ... from the day they set foot on the shores of those countries.

But when the power shifts ... foreign languages become an issue in countries in the west ..... who previously destroyed the culture of those foreign countries by imposing their language and culture and beliefs .... how the world has changed.

ha ha
11:02 November 20, 2009 by Malmoman
California I agree 100%
11:05 November 20, 2009 by La
*Age 5 or 6. Children at this age are curious about learning, interested in experiences and capable of learning' -totally agree

So when they're playing they're not learning? or not learning what the governmnet wants them to learn? I think the suitability of attending formal learning situations at young ages depends deeply on the personality of the child.

As a qualified speech therapist I know in most cases the younger the better for language learning and it would be good if it was an option to have English , Chinese or whatever language available.

I think the point of this article however was Sweden's paranoia that people will stop speaking Swedish/ have less respect for it.
11:07 November 20, 2009 by Malmoman
I think the current system works really well. Swede already speak excellent English. They always prefer to speak Swedish though which is a great thing too...
11:08 November 20, 2009 by Rick Methven
I grew up in Wales. My parents did not speak welsh but the children that I played with from a very early age did speak welsh so I became bi-lingual very early in life. That has been a great help in learning other languages both in school and as an adult. I now speak 7 languages.

We brought our son up bi-lingual, English and Swedish from when he was a baby. This help him enormously when we moved to Sweden
11:29 November 20, 2009 by peropaco
Early language education is very important and kids can absorb it much more efficiently. My child is only five and is already adroit in four languages including Swedish and English. People from the academy are a bunch of constipated intellectuals monkeys with no sense of reality. Also believe they are too quick in dismissing English for Chinese; since according to them, China will be the leading economical force. China is playing an important role in the global economy while they hunt for their microeconomic stability; yet, I am still waiting to see any meaningful creation or contributions; besides their current role of factory to the world.
11:54 November 20, 2009 by livinginsweden
Hi peropaco ....

Interesting statement you made: 'yet i am still waiting to see any meaningful creation or contributions' ... The more important question is not what China or all Chinese have created or contributed ... but what you personally have contributed to the world .. something that makes a real difference.

See the trouble or reality is people only know what they already know .. people are ignorant to what they don't know ....part of your statement reflects that.

I rather look at the world as one humanity and one community ... but just to play along with your classification or humanity into different races... .......

Billions of people live their lives from day to day, working to get paid in order to buy food and entertainment etc. and die at 90- years old. Their only claim to 'superiority' is to cite examples of people of the same skin color as them that have done something significant and try to claim credit for it. E.g. A few Americans have traveled to space ... but it is not the millions of average American who have gone to space ... so millions try to use the achievements of a few who share the same skin colour .. as their personal achievement... what a hollow claim.

In fact that is what most racists do ... most racists who bomb or kill people of another skin color are 'losers' themselves ... they have achieve nothing significant in life personally .. but they claim to be 'superior' but citing examples of what other people with the same skin color have achieved. See what I mean?

So just to enlighten you a little bit .... China did not contribute towards the financial collapse of the world, or the war in iraq or afganistan or middle east .... to just mention a few of the daily headlines .... sometimes a non-contribution is more important than a contribution .... we can talk about other contributions like paper, etc. later......
12:01 November 20, 2009 by Dr. Dillner
English, like it or not, is the basis of all computer code. From that standpoint, it is world-wide, and, therefore, important *IF* one is going into programming. Although it is arguable that China will become so dominant a power, learning Chinese *may* be important.
12:02 November 20, 2009 by peropaco
Hiya Livinginsweden, I dont understand what skin colour has to do with this? And if you think China hasnt killed people then maybe you should be the one on the wake up call. There are many ways to kill other than bombs.
12:12 November 20, 2009 by Kevin Harris
Poor Peter and Horace of the Swedish Academy. Their picture above says it all. Do they wander around palacial suites dressed in penguin suits and medals all day? They might represent their organisation better if they got out in the real world more often. If they get as far as Brussels they will find that contrary its own EU language policy, English is indeed the common language spoken there, and that the "majority of bilateral contacts" there, and everywhere else, do work best in English. If they continue their journey out into the international business world, they will be suprised to learn that English is widely used there as well. As for learning Chinese, the Chinese themselves, who seem to get out more than Peter and Horace, have a more pragmatic attitude; they are learning English in their millions. If they stopped on their journey to spend some time with the children they claim to represent, they would discover that kids pick up languages like measles. Two, three and even four at a time (quite right California). Could it be poor Peter and Horace see the world how they want it to be and not as it really is. Time to retire chaps, and go travelling perhaps?
12:19 November 20, 2009 by livinginsweden
Hej peropaco ....

I did not say China did not kill people .... I am just giving you an example of China's latest contribution ...... or non-contribution ....

When you compare China or Africa or countries (whose borders are man made) you are basically comparing race ..... ask Obama.

what I am also saying is ..... what are people trying to say when they talk and write about this race and that race.. and comparing them ... etc..... .. when basically human beings are basically animals. ....... one big family ..... as the saying goes ... 'there is an idiot in every family' ... but we don't call the whole family idiot do we?
12:26 November 20, 2009 by Malmoman

Actually going to space was the work of millions of people. Millions of scientists worked on problems through the years, from Russia and Sweden to the USA. Galileo, Copernicus, Newton and others. The collective deeds of these brights scientists make the journey possible. People worked to feed these scientists, other people worked to build the houses and pay taxes to the schools for these thinkers. It is a collective effort of a nation, and humanity in general, and the notion that they could have done it alone on an island is ridiculous.

On the one hand you talk about one humanity and then go on to deny the human collective spirit that create such advances. Of course Americans, Swedes and Chinese have something to be proud of. We could not have done it without each other.
12:32 November 20, 2009 by livinginsweden

Yes you are right on space travel and also apply to many endeavours too ....... many spanish, swedes, australians, english, chinese, korean, japanese scientists work at nasa..... etc or nokia or sonyericcson or volvo or etc....

that is why this talk about race , languages, etc... gets under my skin .....

thanks for pointing me out...
12:52 November 20, 2009 by foxpur
Basing a child's education future on a POTENTIAL future that may not have a basis yet is a waste of educational time and may be a waste of that child future.
12:59 November 20, 2009 by livinginsweden

languages have been around since beginning of man/woman ..... are you afraid of children learning more? or too much?

ha ha
13:04 November 20, 2009 by Rebel
With all the gender free indoctrination in the early years do schools have time to teach English to 5 and 6 year olds?
13:09 November 20, 2009 by Keith #5083
Ah well, back to the topic. I was 4 years old when I started normal school in England. I'm now 65. About 12 years ago I was a vikar teacher at a local school for 15-18 year olds. I was impressed with their standard of written english, though I was puzzled by the desire of some staff to teach Shakespeare - a language somewhat foreign to me as a 14 year old in an english school!. I am still impressed with the standard of english here in Sweden. So it seems the existing methodologies are pretty succesful.

However, the internet age is the driving force behind the linguistic abilities of young people when it comes to english.Teaching english at an earlier age may simply be a recognition of an opportunity to teach something children and young people are motivated to learn vis a vis internet useage. Children are already learning english at an early age irrespective of school curriculums. There is a 'peer group pressure' for them to do so.

Whether we english like it or not, english (mainly I believe because of the PC and internet) has become a significant second language throughout the world even in China!
13:12 November 20, 2009 by nneville
Obviously, anyone that does not understand that the earlier children are exposed and taught a lunguage in a nurturing environment, should not be in a place to decide what is best for children. These opposers probably don't care that learning any language is always better at the earliest and not a convenient time. Image these children reading English, Spanish, and even another language books by age ten.

I think the problem is that it is English. This is very sad because as part of the EU, all EU children will need to be better with more languages, and English is the breaking divide in the EU and globally (fot the moment).

The Swedish language will still be in thier home, their everyday lives, so where is the threat. This is just plain cave-man knee-jerking protectionist bull.
13:46 November 20, 2009 by krrodman
There are two separate issues here: At what age should children be formally taught a second language and Which language should that be?

LivinginSweden has a hate on for the USA, so he, on basic principles, wants to minimize the impact of American culture on Sweden. Everything he says and thinks stems from that premise. In fact, it is clear to me that nothing would Livinginsweden happier than to watch America fail.

Big mistake, Livinginsweden, unless you do not believe that constitutional liberties are a core part of any modern society. I remind you that even while Palme was excoriating the USA over Vietnam, there were very close military ties between the two countries. Why? Palme needed the USA to protect it from the Soviet Union. Palme knew that without the USA, the Soviet Union could have invaded Sweden on Monday and declared victory on Tuesday.

I ask you this, Livinginsweden. Is there anything that you care about? Freedom of speech and thought, perhaps? An independent judiciary? Freedom of religion? Freedom to protest? Do you really want China to supersede the USA? China, the land of forced abortions. China, the land of Tienenman Square. Oh, by the way, China does not have a Muslim problem. They imprison, or kill, all Muslims who protest too loudly.

Back to language. Teach English. Teach Chinese. Teach them all. All knowledge is good knowledge. And isn't that the very core of western civilization. Isn't that something worth protecting? Isn't that something worth fighting for?
13:58 November 20, 2009 by dsclimb
The Chinese will learn English, in order to steal business off the West.

How any years before English is the global language?
14:00 November 20, 2009 by Argentina84
I once read that China is the biggest market of English diccionaries...and that more people study English in China than there are people in the States. So I believe that improving our children's language skills, basically in English, is paramount.
14:17 November 20, 2009 by Rick Methven

Just as a side point, the English taught in Swedish schools is 'The Queens English'. And yes Sweden, The Uk and the rest of Europe wants minimize the impact of American 'culture' because it is in the main very poor culture.
14:42 November 20, 2009 by PrivateEye
These two gentlemen are quite right. The status of English could not be higher.

Clearly, Swedish should no longer be taught in schools at any level. It may of course be spoken at home by the elderly Swedes who were in their youth, er, oriented towards Germany.
14:50 November 20, 2009 by crocadoodledoo
china is going to collapse just as soviet union did in a few years time. they are champions of human right violations, and yet the world including the so called superpowers USA and EU suck their ba&%s just because of ill gotten exploitation driven wealth. The ends dont justify the means and the country will be a mockery in the years to come. i second kroddman though, learning everything possible is the best option.
16:06 November 20, 2009 by Malmoman
Rick Methven,

Poor culture? What has Europe got that comes close to Jazz, Blues, Rock and Rock and Roll, Rockabilly, and Bluegrass! Music...gosh that techno is awesome turn it up Gunther!

I even prefer the Americans take on classical (Copeland anyone?).

That lousy culture you speak of is made for the Europeans who buy it by the cartload.
17:06 November 20, 2009 by spy

Regarding your dig at Europe - Let's face it America used to be a great country but it is now wildly out of touch with the rest of the world and that also includes Europe.

Bil Mather recently described why America mourned Michael Jackson so much and that is beacause he was America "fragile, over-indulgent, childish, in debt, on drugs, and over the hill." So before you slight Europe think how your country is perceived.
17:34 November 20, 2009 by mkvgtired
Malmoman, "That lousy culture you speak of is made for the Europeans who buy it by the cartload." I agree. The only American TV programs I have seen in Europe are awful. The worst US TV shows seem to be exported/imported and then subtitles are added. The worst "pop" music too.

Spy, pretty sure he was mourned in places other than America.


I guess everyone is "fragile, over-indulgent, childish, in debt, on drugs, and over the hill" according to that logic.
18:46 November 20, 2009 by Malmoman
Sure Methven America is not without its problems (nor is Sweden for that matter). I have had the privilege to travel back and forth from the US for work reasons and I have seen these problems firsthand. Your original comment was regarding the culture so I was responding as such. Later you dumped the entire populous under the bus as we like to say (although I am a Swedish citizen). It was a disconnected retort at best.

My guess is you have never spent a lot of time in the US aside from a few weeks vacation. Most of what you learn comes from the Swedish media and you have a very shallow understanding of the complexities of America and its people. In my travels I have learned this: Americans are the hardest working and among the most innovative people in the world. If they manage to achieve this while being over-indulgent childish drug addicts then kudos!
19:18 November 20, 2009 by spy
Yeah right! And I suppose you also think the US:

Care for the poor

Provide great healthcare

Have responsible banks

Build great cars

That being obesce is normal

Are environmentally asatute

Love Arabs
19:28 November 20, 2009 by texasgubbar
"LivinginSweden has a hate on for the USA, so he, on basic principles, wants to minimize the impact of American culture on Sweden."

What I have een of Sweden the impact of American culture is really rather sad, fast food like McDonalds, and bad entertainmenst like Jackass and Southpark.

As for China, say what you want but like someone said go to the top of the Empire State building and take a panaramic photo, to the same in Shanghai. Also take transportation from NYC to JFK and do the same in Shanghai to its airport.

The experiences and photos will show you the future of each country.

Also "What has Europe got that comes close to Jazz, Blues, Rock and Rock and Roll, Rockabilly, and Bluegrass! Music...gosh that techno is awesome turn it up Gunther!"

I think it was called the 'British Invasion' back in the 60's.

Rockabily and Bluegrass, country are just versions of regional folk music. Just because its great to you doesnt mean its great to everyone (americans seem to think that about many things)

no less than reggae in the Carribean, not to mention all the musical varieties in South America.
19:43 November 20, 2009 by EtoileBrilliant
"Get all children to start school at 4 and drive them in mathmatics, grammer, history, etc. That is where todays kids are severely lacking."

@Nemesis. Hear, hear!

While they're studying "mathmatics" & "grammer", can we put spelling on the syllabus right after the correct use of apostrophes for possessive nouns such as "today's".
20:08 November 20, 2009 by serbianbelle
Holland wanted at one time to teach school children English exclusively. Fortunately it was eventually dropped. It had been suggested young children should learn Chinese languages because unlike European languages it requires a different part of the brain. Whatever is done children should first learn their mother tongue. Let's be clear about one thing not all Americans speak English well. I recall being in United States in 1995 or "96 in Chicago and speaking several other languages beside English I spoke something not in English and the look on the faces of people around me was of utter dismay. Of course when I saw their reaction I asked if they haven't heard of anyone speaking something other then English. If everyone learns to speak English we are in danger of losing other languages. It is important to preserve different languages, If we lose them,a whole way of thinking and expression will disappear. American culture is pushing boundaries but there is no reason to accommodate that. French used to be language of diplomacy and it was displaced by English. However, French never displaced other languages unlike English.
20:12 November 20, 2009 by Malmoman

I would agree that all countries like to overstate the importance of their culture. This happens in Sweden as well (where some regard Carola as a national treasure). My response was to someone stating that America was a culture-less land. Culture is a matter of taste and I think it is a bit like arguing over which side of the egg is better to eat from. But to call it cultureless.

Of course your British invasion "AKA the Beatles" have said on numerous occasions that it was the jazz and blues from America that inspired them. An art form that hardly developed in a Vaacum. We have Africa to thank as well.

As for your Shanghai analogy I bet you could have said the same about Paris and New York 60 years ago. Everything is beautiful when its new. China is doing some amazing things though and I think there future is bright.
20:40 November 20, 2009 by texasgubbar
I would say on a worldwide basis that a example of Swedish and American culture is illustrated by Walmart and Ikea. One is loved in all countries its in and is percieved to bring unique value, style, innovation without threat to local retailer and one definately doesnt.
20:54 November 20, 2009 by Malmoman
My wife is Swedish and loves Walmart...I hate it....

Damn economies of scale.....
21:04 November 20, 2009 by Querist
Let's do the math! Shall we?

English alphabet = 26 letters.

Mandarin Chinese = thousands upon thousands of characters.

.good luck with that.

21:07 November 20, 2009 by Malmoman
A veritable boom for tattoo artists around the world!
00:09 November 21, 2009 by Göran Eklund
Chinese anyone?

01:09 November 21, 2009 by dizzymoe33
Here in the US we start school at the age of 5 until 18 years old. I am going to be 41 next month, had I been taught a foreign language at the early age of 5 years old I would have found that learning that language would be easier than if I would try to learn a new language at age 10 and on. Children are like sponges they absorb so much information in vast quantities at an early age why not advance your child's knowledge and teach them a foreign language at an early age.
02:09 November 21, 2009 by 2394040
It's pointless to talk about the rising power of China. Have you stopped to consider that all the great powers of the past have come to an end? Nations rise and fall because of the decisions of its leaders. China is flush with cash right now. Money equals power. And power always leads to corruption. Just when a nation in power thinks it is untouchable, it has always collapsed, and always will. China already has too many people, and too many of them are poor. The wealthy Chinese will eventually become corrupted by their great wealth. Some day the poor will turn on their leaders, and the great, powerul China that is currently being worshipped by so many will be no more. That is the lessson of history: all great powers come to an inevitable end.
04:23 November 21, 2009 by Greg in Canada
After scrolling through these posts here is my less than humble opinion. Challenge me on these facts if you dare.:-):

1) English is and will be the main world language in our and our grandkids lifetime, even more so for them and possibly for many generations after.

2)The Chinese will learn English. If you want Chinese speakers do what Canada did - import them as immigrants from Hong Kong. Did the world learn Japanese in droves when they became the world's #2 economy. No. The Japanese learned English. Eventually India could and probably will pass China. As Chinese living standards rise they can not maintain their cheap labour and Victorian era child worker conditions forever. Also India already has a much stronger ties to the English language.

3) North American English will be more predominant than UK English, despite the fact that English came from the motherland. The Brits have already adapted N.A . slang over the past 40 yrs. The belief the Brits speak the best English is a myth. There are more Cockney speakers in the UK than Oxford/BBC speakers, not to mention the many other dialects..

4) The English language is constantly evolving. That's why it has been so successful by historically adapting to change.

5) Swedes already speak damn good English. Probably better than most other non native English speaking countries. So you're doing just fine already.
11:08 November 21, 2009 by StockholmSam
The Swedish language is of little use beyond the borders of Sweden. English will continue to be the dominant global language for the foreseeable future. Chinese, Arabic, and Russian will grow in importance and many westerners are studying these languages in order to make them competitive in this ever-tightening, transitional, more globalized job market. But to think that the Chinese, the Russians, and the Arabs are not studying English as fast as they can is ignorant. They know that, in the short-term, the fastest way to become competitive is to learn English. The Chinese, also, know that English is easier to learn than Chinese and that they can dominate the global economy more quickly by learning English faster than westerners can learn Chinese. English is still, and will remain, the language of choice for business.

By impeding the fluency of English in Swedish students, Sweden reduces its competitiveness in the global village. As Sweden is a mid-level player in the world economy, Swedish leaders are obligated to strive to make Swedes as competitive as possible. Improved English would do this. If English raises too many hackles, then perhaps we ought to offer kids Latin in the first three years of school. This would greatly enhance students' ability to learn English later on. The disappearance of Latin in western education is the primary reason for the deterioration of language skills in the west.
12:23 November 21, 2009 by texasgubbar
"That is the lessson of history: all great powers come to an inevitable end. " You must be referring to the US? China isnt a 'great power'.... yet...

As far as english in Sweden, I am amazed that there are stand up comedy places here with english speaking comics, so not only do you need to know the language but the slang, cultural references and other nuances of that language. I was suprised and impressed.
13:52 November 21, 2009 by ramazama
This narrow minded grossly inflated false ego from these insignificant countries ,with these unimportant , insignificant languages, whether you like it or not the world has evolved that English is the world language , I am not English . Its a no brainer, that English should be the first language in every country. Get over it , and drop your unimportant, insigniicant little language. Hello , move on ,its the global village , duh !!!
14:12 November 21, 2009 by kmbr
When was the last time China took a gun out to invade another country?

FAR more telling about a government: when is the last time China took up arms against it's own citizens?
04:00 November 22, 2009 by bobnbri
I think the Swedes are smart enough to know english through the internet, and all other media. Satelite etc....Maybe too much anglo input.... But I believe this is the easiest of all the western laguages to speak. Which is why this very web address exists. we use this site to communicate with you , Sweden! In plain dumb english!.

Sweden is one of the smartest counrties western civililization has ever known. Part of that smartness comes from knowing when some language hawk idealist ameriphobe, or anglophobe stands in the way of socioeconomic growth and expansion.

I don't mean to say that I believe America is the greatest, 'cause I don't.

I'm Canadian. But I have American and Swedish and Danish relatives and ancestry. You are very important to me. You are my identity!

You are a beautiful and a super country, Sweden, and a deservedly proud one too.

Je vous aimes,

Good for you!!!

From Montreal, XXOX
10:21 November 22, 2009 by Oskarsmamma
Language learning, whichever one, is crucial if we are to learn and understand one another and break down barriers, mistrust etc. that exist currently between certain nations. Learning a persons language will then help to understand them as people, their culture etc.

Children learn new languages, indeed learn things in general, very quickly and are far more adaptable to new ideas than to adolescents and adults.

So long as Swedish remains the main language taught/used in schools, work, etc. then learning other languages will not threaten it.

English is used widely all over the world for two reasons - the countries learning it see it as an international business language and secondly, and this will probably irritate other native English speakers here, but we English are for the most part (not all I hasten to add) very lazy when it comes to learning other languages.

The curriculum in the UK doesn't place much importance on learning new languages and when we travel abroad whether we admit it or not there is an underlying feeling of "people can speak English so why should I learn their language?" - how many English people do you see/hear asking "do you speak English" often accompanied by their trusty little collins phrase books?!

My son is bi-lingual and I want him to learn more languages at a young age where it is easy for him to do so. Chinese, Japanese, Arabic,Russian - it doesn't matter which - but why not capitalise on a young childs ability to learn a language while they can, rather than wait several years?

If secondary languages are kept to home environments, travel and interaction with the native speakers of that language, then Swedish will not be threatened.

Languages are constantly evolving anyway - a fact that language purists flip out about, but any language that stays the same stagnates and dies (latin for one).

Ending up with just one language would be a real shame - firstly which would we pick and secondly, imagine not hearing the beauty and melody of the Italian langauge, the sombre tones of Russian? .

Teach children as young as possible - open their minds to new languages, cultures etc. education is never wrong.
14:32 November 22, 2009 by Marc the Texan
I have to agree that pushing English at increasingly younger ages seems a bit unnecessary. I really worry about the Swedish language and culture being sidelined and weakened because of a decreasing reliance upon it. At this rate, Swedish will eventually become impractical and abandoned. If Swedish kids become too facile with English at such a young age, then become inundated with English language media; what's to stop them giving it up altogether? I think it would be a great loss and history shows its happened before. Sweden will not lose out any opportunities for lack of English.

On a side note, it seems Chinese always pops up in these threads. People are not going to be using Chinese to as in international lingua franca. Get used to it. It ain't gonna happen.

p.s. - Look for the Chinese economy to crater next year.
15:30 November 22, 2009 by texasgubbar
"FAR more telling about a government: when is the last time China took up arms against it's own citizens? "

You referring to Tiananmen Square in 1989, yup that was 4 year before the US government took up arms against David Koresh in Waco in 1993.
19:10 November 22, 2009 by spy
Well actually China is brutal in its control of Tibet where it denies even the most basic human rights.
19:35 November 22, 2009 by aneleH
Personally I think second grade is a good time. Seriously, don't they think the kids can write and read when they're seven years old? Jeesh. My english education started when I was seven, and I'm way better than other people of my own age. I suggest that all the kids in Sweden should learn english as fast as possible.
10:17 November 23, 2009 by krigeren
Petey and Horace seem like a couple of people who are out of touch with reality. I think they should go in their Tuxedos and move into some flats in immigrant areas of Sweden and see how well it works out preaching their message there.

Immigrants coming to Sweden who learn Swedish are able to receive immigrant level jobs for the most part. There is little or no benefit for immigrants to learn Swedish in terms of their future economic potential....There will always be a Swede who speaks better Swedish.

I find it odd that many continental Europeans beleive that if they speak English the world is all of a sudden their oyster. Americans and Brits tend to be xenophobic to similar degrees as Scandinavians in their business decisions. Send a native speaker to do the job..someone who really understands the culture. I love to sell but don't sell in Scandinavia...the same goes for those speaking English with an accent..its harder to gain trust and close a deal.

Most immigrants I know and their kids really dont feel they fit in to Swedish society. On the other hand, being a member of the club does not provide that many incentives or benefits as opposed what can be found amongst other immigrant/expat families.

I know of many successful companies in Sweden run by people who do not speak Swedish. Often times their mother tongue is their competitive advantage allowing Swedes to reach out to many parts of the world and market and sell their goods or services.

I suppose what is bothersome for me...is Sweden is dictating how our children "should" learn as if they know how to raise our children better than we the parents do. On the other hand, they are not showing any benefits to me from the outcomes of the ideals they are trying to present.

Rather, give my kids choice, within this world there are bi-lingual schools, there are IB schools, their are options...when the options come from a state I am very suspicious....charter schools in America are an example of parameters that give schools the chance to excel...as an alternative.

A few hundred years ago what is known as Germany was some 300 little principalities and fiefdoms. The course of history is for people to come closer together. We may lose some diversity but it makes getting the job done easier. The likelihood that Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian will be around in 10 years is very strong, in 100 years moderate, and in 200 years its anybody's guess...the point is languages die out, states aggregate, and people move on. I find sticking with tradition for tradition's sake short sighted. Better the nation picks up the lingua franca of business, English, and another mainstream language if it wants to compete in the long run.

I suppose Sweden could go the other way.....start dubbing all TV shows and broadcasts and reinforcing the Swedish language...I wonder how that would go over?
15:24 November 23, 2009 by SamQam
I agree with some of the talkbacks.

I love the Chinese culture but I had lots of Chinese colleagues in the US and they were excellent students but they somehow lacked the imagination!!!Thinking oustside th box is not a vertue there or this is my impression. Which is what innovation needs.

Or maybe I am dead wrong.
04:27 November 24, 2009 by steeleweed
Studied Chinese, 1 hour/day 5 days a week for 9 months, recall very little of it.

Studied German 3 hours/day 5 days a week for 3 months, limited vocabulary and understanding but passable speech.

Same number of hours on Chinese and German, but different results.

Live 2+ years in Japan, no formal teaching, know enough to travel with - hotels, food, transportation, etc. Practical knowledge.

Studied Russian 8 hour/day for six months. Gradually lost much vocabulary over 40 years of non-use, but grammar, syntax, accent, declensions & conjugation are still automatic.

If you want to learn a language, study it intensely - total immersion if possible, and for children, life is intense immersion. Whatever you want then

to learn, teach them early, language or anything else.
23:30 November 25, 2009 by xykat

History has proven that in Sweden language trends are not always correct.

My Swedish boyfriends grandparents learned German during the war so I guess they thought the Nazi's would be a world power. Hmmmmmm

It didn't turn out that way.

I think it might be a good idea to maybe learn the languages that are mostly commonly used in the world. Chinese, Spanish and English are the top 3 so I think we should teach these in school.

The Summer Institute for Linguistics (SIL) Ethnologue Survey (1999) lists the following as the top languages by population:

(number of native speakers in parentheses)

1. Chinese* (937,132,000)

2. Spanish (332,000,000)

3. English (322,000,000)

4. Bengali (189,000,000)

5. Hindi/Urdu (182,000,000)

6. Arabic* (174,950,000)

7. Portuguese (170,000,000)

8. Russian (170,000,000)

9. Japanese (125,000,000)

10. German (98,000,000)

11. French* (79,572,000)
03:27 December 10, 2009 by Davey-jo
I wish we'd had Swedish at an early age; perhaps then I could understand those who live in Hull and the northeast coast of England. ;)
14:43 June 25, 2010 by Jagalskaremil
The thing is, it's not like you're ever going to regret learning a language. I've never thought to myself, "Gee, I wish I'd never learned French, what a mistake knowing another language was!" Although English-speaking countries may not dominate in the future, there's no denying that when travelling abroad, you're more likely to be understood speaking English than you're going to be understood speaking Chinese.
Today's headlines
Löfven: 'Sweden will double its number of troops in Iraq'
Stefan Löfven and Haider al-Abadi during the visit on Monday. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has promised to double his country's number of troops in Iraq following a meeting with Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi on Monday.

Will Swedes soon be looking for fairtrade porn?
Should Swedes think fairtrade with porn? Photo: Karin Malmhav/SvD/TT

A fairtrade attitude to pornography would be beneficial, Sweden's health minister told The Local.

Presented by Stockholm University
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

Nordic fashion took centre stage in the Swedish capital last week as Stockholm University hosted the “first-ever” academic conference looking at luxury and sustainability in the fashion industry.

Referee, coach and parents in Swedish youth football fight
File photo of a referee holding a red card not related to the story. Photo: Stefan Jerrevång/TT

A football dad broke his leg in the brawl in front of 11-year-old kids after a Hammarby youth football game.

Illicit abattoir kept more than 100 bulls' penises
A couple of young bulls not related to the story. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Dried cattle genitalia, goats' heads and hundreds of litres of lard were just a few of the many strange finds discovered when police raided a property in Sweden.

This is officially Sweden's most beautiful beard
The most beautiful beard in Sweden. Photo: Memo Göcek

According to a jury of barbers and 'well known bearded profiles', that is.

Presented by Invest Stockholm
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm

You might think it’s hard to make friends in a new city. But if at first you don’t succeed – try something else!

Injured Swedish photographer protected by 'guardian angel'
Swedish photographer Paul Hansen on another occasion. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Photographer Paul Hansen thanked his lucky stars for surviving sniper fire while covering the battle for the Isis-held city of Mosul in Iraq.

How Sweden is trying to smooth relations with Saudis
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven meeting Saudi Arabia's Trade Minister Majid bin Abdullah Al Qasabi. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has visited Saudi Arabia a year and a half after relations turned frosty in a major diplomatic row.

My Swedish Career
'Swedish people love it, but they find it quite odd'
Scottish entrepreneur William Macdonald. Photo: Michael Campanella

Meet the web developer and entrepreneur using traditional Scottish ceilidh dancing to break the ice with Swedes.

Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
People-watching: October 21st-23rd
Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
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
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
People-watching: October 20th
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
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?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
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
Missing rune stone turns up in Sweden
Nobel Prize 2016: Chemistry
jobs available